Jamaica Day 2: Exploring Sea Glass & Tryall Resort

So much for sleeping in – a 5:30 wakeup call from #1BabySister started my morning as per usual. Fortunately the house staff had already prepared the morning coffee.

For context I should explain that our Villa, Sea Glass, has its own staff of 4 – a chef, a gardener, a laundress and a housekeeper. I’m in heaven. I don’t have to cook, clean or wash anything.

Outside looking in to Sea Glass Villa

Ahead of our arrival, we each selected our first morning breakfast. I opted for poached eggs on toast, while others enjoyed pancakes, omelettes and of course the freshest of fresh fruit.

Our breakfast table under the hanging bengal trumpet vines

A 5:30 wakeup allows for much productivity before breakfast. I logged 2 hours of swimming with #1BigSister, 2 delicious cups of coffee, 2 blueberry muffins and 2 gecko sightings. Nana and Grandma joined us around 8:00am, showered, dressed, makeup on and ready for a day of exploring.

Me and my mini, #1BabySister

After breakfast we grabbed a golf cart to take down the hillside to the beach to explore the shore. In retrospect, our Villa had 2 golf carts for our use, but we so wisely opted to stuff all eight of us into one.

Our golf carts are marked “Sea Glass”

While we didn’t have to “rent it” per se, I’m pretty sure this counts as the extreme vehicular rental for this trip (see prior travel posts for reference). Amir drove it like he stole it, much to the dismay of Nana and Grandma who were riding backwards in the back in the trip down. There were multiple comments from the wayyyy back about Amir’s driving, but I’ll just leave it at that.

Infinity pool at the Tryall Clubhouse

The Tryall Club Villas each have a pool, but there’s also a large beachfront pool for access by all members of the resort. There’s a pretty delicious pizza shack on site, and you can have your pizza delivered poolside, take it to go, or have it delivered to your Villa if you are headed back. We opted to eat beachside.

Missing from photo: #1BigBrother, asleep on the ground under the table

We declared basecamp on the pool deck because it offered the most options for shade and kid-friendly swimming. A resort staffer supplied the towels and positioned giant pink and white umbrellas for us to optimize the shade.

Before

After

Only Amir and Egem wore their swimsuits on this outing (we’d only planned to go exploring, not to do a whole swimming adventure), so they took the kids in the pool to practice their swimming technique. And by swimming technique, I mean anything to not drown. As an Emergency Physician with three kids who can’t swim, I have nightmares about this stuff. Big time.

To infinity and beyond!
Some swam, some napped

While the others played in the pool, I walked down to the beach to check out the sand, seashells and wave situation. I met a little friend, a hermit crab, who I was sure #1BigBrother would love (or toss across the pool deck).

Mr. Crab was a tad nervous

It didn’t take long for #1BigSister to want to join me on the beach. She’s always loved looking for seashells and throwing rocks into water… so this was her heaven.

Sand castles on the beach
Waves!

Egem joined us at the beach and took the kiddos swimming while I looked for shells and small natural treasures along the shore.

Coral and seaweed

Back poolside, the troops were dropping like flies. Exhaustion from traveling yesterday set in, and many comfortable naps were had by all.

It’s a rough life

Back at Sea Glass, #1BigSister was of course ready to go straight back into the pool. I was game since I hadn’t had a bathing suit on down at the beach and was a sweaty mess desperate for a dip. Unfortunately she demanded we swim in the “hot pool” (hot tub) which is a refreshing 95 degrees.

Hanging in the “hot pool”

Today is Sunday, so most tours and activities on the island are closed. Tomorrow is also a holiday in Jamaica, Labor Day, so tours won’t be running. That’s ok though – we’re finding plenty to keep us busy at Sea Glass.

~Steph

Jamaica Day 1: Louka, Party of 8

This is our first trip since COVID-19. For our handful of loyal readers, you may recall our last trip to Argentina, where when we returned home the first week of February 2020, they were still only asking if you’d visited China.

All his vehicular dreams come true

A lot can happen in two and a half years. when COVID-19 let loose, I was 22 weeks pregnant with Oliver. With healthcare up in the air, I had fears that I wouldn’t have access to the hospital for my high-risk pregnancy. With our city in flames from protest, I wasn’t even sure I would have a safe route to the hospital to get care. Everything was in flux. Everything was in question.

Flash forward to May 2022, and not only did we make it through our pandemic pregnancy, but we had a second pandemic pregnancy which lead us to move from the city to the suburbs, uprooting everything we’d established in our 7 years in the city.

So now as we embark on our first vacation since COVID (not after COVID), I realize the greatest thing it stole from us was indeed the joy of travel – meeting new people, tasting different foods, learning new things, photographing new sights.

So here I am – ready to blog about our trip, which in some ways feels like a final victory in a 100 year war. In the saddle, guns a blazin’, our anthem in the background on repeat.

Traveling is rough

So I warn you ahead of time, unapologetically, that this trip is done deliberately in excess. With the goal of going somewhere new, exploring new experiences with our family, and really at the end of the day creating an experience that just might allow me to sleep in for the first time in 6 months, get lost in a good book, and for once get tipsy from a few too many fruity drinks. I think we’ve all earned it.

~Steph

Clinton Corners Day 9: Leaving The Willows

Yesterday I finally managed to locate and read the book that recounts the history of this great home. Built in 1914, the Ben Tousey House, or “The Willows” as it’s known by locals, holds New York State Historical Landmark Designation.

The Willows, 1915

Benjamin C. Tousey (1868-1955) built the house from 1914-1915. He was born in Clinton Corners, but reportedly moved to Florida and hit it big in the railway business. With his new wealth, he came back to Dutchess County and began construction on his family home.

Top: Porte Cochere 1915 and 2021; Bottom: West Veranda 1915 and 2021

While the architect remains unknown, the style of the home is Arts & Crafts. According to architecture.org: “The Arts and Crafts movement originated in England in the mid-19th century as an antidote to the dehumanizing effects of the industrial revolution. It looked back to a time before craftspeople were replaced by machines. Its roots were philosophical rather than architectural and it encompassed many art forms.”

Two features of the home distinct to the Arts and Crafts style are the Porte Cochere (seen above) and the sleeping porches.

Porte Cochere

A porte cochere is an architectural feature that dates back to French palaces. It’s a covered area designed for offloading horse drawn carriages and later cars. Many early 20th century homes featured them as a sign of luxury.

Sleeping porch (now enclosed)

Sleeping porches are also a hallmark of the Arts and Crafts movement. According to Bob Villa, “The sleeping porches often built into Queen Anne Victorians and Arts & Crafts-style homes provide just the space for all ages to enjoy nature’s version of a cooling system and white noise machine. These rooms were, in effect, screened decks and balconies adjacent to second- or third-story bedrooms, located on a corner to receive breezes from all directions… The house feature was extremely popular at the turn of the 20th century, when health professionals advocated sleeping outdoors as a way to bolster the immune system.”

The sleeping porch at The Willows is now enclosed with plexiglass windows, but one can imagine the appeal way back when.

The Willows, circa 1915-1925
The Willows, September 8, 2021

On the drive home I polled the crowd to ask everyone’s favorite thing from our Clinton Corners vacation.

Amir: Going to Innisfree and sitting in the rock gardens and playing on the fuzzy moss.

#1BigSis: The swing!

#1LilBrother: Collecting sticks and rocks (inferred)

Me: The slow pace, the views at sunset, three meals a day together and sleeping in.

Back pasture at The Willows

As I mentioned we’d entertained the idea of Hawaii or a tropical island, but abandoned it when Delta began to surge and timely passport renewals became impossible. I think it’s good things played out the way they did. There’s something about a family road trip in a car packed to the gills, pillows, stuffies and bags crammed in every possible nook and cranny… it’s not picturesque – but it’s perfectly messy.

Clinton Corners Day 8: Trevor Zoo & Dinner in Germantown

Today was an intentionally low key day. I had a suspicion that after the camping adventure last night, (not usually known for restful sleep) half our crew might be a little tired today.

We hung around the house until about noon then made our way towards Trevor Zoo at The Millbrook School, only to find we needed reservations. Only issue with that was we had no cell service there to make said reservations, so we drove into Millbrook with two goals: lunch at the Millbrook Diner (delicious) and use the wifi to make zoo reservations. Done and done.

Fishy friends

Trevor Zoo is a unique landscape tucked into the woods of the school surrounding a fast-moving stream. As you enter, river otters greet you as they splash and play below a wooden bridge that spans the stream.

Bridge from the parking lot to the walkway up to the zoo

The zoo is small and intimate, with attendance limited to less that 50 people at any time. Unlike many zoos, it had zero overlap with an amusement park and was more the character of a nature conservancy and place of learning (logical given its affiliation with the school).

Snowy Owl

There were lots of water fowl, three species of lemur and a host of birds of prey. The indoor exhibits feature reptile and fish tanks, a little bit of everything.

Alpaca
Balance jumps

#1BigSis found an area with stumps all aligned in a circle. Another little girl was jumping from stump to stump, but initially #1BigSis said she was too little to do the same. With a little encouragement from both of us, she gave it a try, and without a misstep was going round and round all her own.

After Trevor Zoo, we took a short drive to Germantown, NY to eat dinner with our friends, Chris and Adri. Chris and Amir were freshman hallmates at William & Mary. They bought a house about a year ago and moved out of the city to the countryside, complete with backyard mountain views, an enclosed garden and 5 chickens. We enjoyed pizza, salad and ice cream, but had to skip an evening stroll to get #1LilBrother back home and to bed.

No big plans tomorrow for the day as we plan to drive back to Virginia tomorrow evening. I have some laundry to tend to, a propane tank to refill (we did some good grilling), and bags to pack. It’s sad to see this trip coming to a close, but with so much in store for our team these next few months (new house, new baby, new car and then the holidays), I’m excited for things to move forward and to find our new normal.

Clinton Corners Day 7: Innisfree Garden

Today we returned to a place we’ve visited many times before that seems to get more peaceful and more beautiful with age – Innisfree Garden in Millbrook, NY.

Entrance trail to Innisfree Garden

The brainchild of landscape architect Lester Collins (1914-1993), Innisfree opened over 50 years ago with the goal of creating an immersive, individual experience in nature, inviting exploration and contemplation.

The lake is surrounded by banks of varying elevation

The garden pathways wrap around a large lake filled with lily pads and other aquatic plants. The terrain is mixed, with gravel pathways, moss and grass leading you around the bends of the crystal clear lake.

Many varieties of mushrooms

The plants are all native to the area, many of which we recognize from the land at The Willows. It’s tempting to fixate outward on the tranquil lake, but looking down at your feet reveals mixed mushrooms and wild flowers and insects in colors spanning the rainbow.

Admittedly, the place isn’t the most stroller friendly, but it was no where near as difficult a trek as our Argentinian hike to Tacul Beach. Our CitiMini stroller has seen much more difficult terrain.

I took advantage of the frequent seats

After the first uphill climb, we rounded the corner and spotted a vertical water stream which didn’t take long for #1BigSis to decide to explore. We hadn’t come prepared with bathing suits, but that’s never stopped her from good water play before.

With no towels either, I just grabbed an extra fleece jacket from the diaper bag and viola – dry and happy again. I would have let #1LilBrother play in the water too, but eventually someone would need to fish him out – and I didn’t want that someone to be me.

Rock balancing

Around the bend from the water feature we encountered an open area with 5 large boulders, each covered in stacks of smaller rocks. Innisfree borrows from Chinese and Japanese garden design, and the rocks are a reminder.

Continuing past the rock balancing to the larger rock gardens ahead

The pathway then takes a turn to the left, and as you round the corner, you are met with the sound of a waterfall off a cliff up above that empties into the lake to the right.

The base of the waterfall features broken slate slabs, some large enough to serve as bridges over the streams of water as it flows into the lake.

Just past the waterfall you’ll find a rock garden with deliberately placed boulders creating terraces and retaining walls perfect for resting. Wikipedia tells me that the rocks all come from the local forest.

Dude you are missing the view!
Crossing the bridge

At this point we’d been walking about 2 hours and the troops were a little tired and hungry. We’d made it roughly 300 degrees around the lake and were almost back at the entrance. With the promise of Mexican food for lunch, everyone rallied.

Back at the house, Amir wanted to throw his pole in the water again, and this time his efforts were VERY fruitful. The pond is so clear you can actually aim your cast towards where the fish are (which I feel like is a little bit cheating), but the crowd was happy to get to see some fish up close.

The great thing about The Willows and two kids under 4 is there are tons of outdoor spots to explore. #1LilBrother seems fascinated by the moss entryway at the formal front of the house, while #1BigSis as expected takes every opportunity to swing.

When the water isn’t reflecting, you can see every fish

Tonight Amir and #1BigSis are doing something special (and adventurous) – sleeping in a camping tent out under the star-filled sky. I’m hoping for a positive report in the morning from both explorers.