What remains of Fort George Photo: Purabi Das, Georgetown, Grand Cayman

These days when my mind wanders there inevitably rise glorious pictures of Grand Cayman. Can’t believe we were there just a few weeks ago. To return form tropical heat to the cold north what I call home is a drastic change. Instead of sun and surf, we battle against freezing temperatures, snow and fierce winds. Fascinating how travel brings different experiences adding spice to life.

Bodden Town took my heart and won’t let it go. Does that mean I’ll have to return to this place which can only be described as God’s own, paradise on earth? A sleepy little town, fairytale of a place, beautiful, and gentle, perfect for a getaway from the city, it is situated on the southern coast of the Cayman Islands. It was our home away from home for seven enchanted days and nights. With early morning wakeup call of waves crashing on the shoreline and evenings under nature’s canopy painted pink, orange, violet and whispers of blue from a setting sun. What’s not to love? The dock became our trysting place, starfish, and on one occasion a stingray in the azure depths of the Caribbean, silent companions.

Bodden Town used to be the capital of the Cayman Islands. Not anymore. George Town is the capital now possibly due to its natural harbour offering deep water close to shore making it possible for vessels for safe anchorage. Favourable winds brought in their wake ships from Jamaica, Europe or other islands in the eastern Caribbean. It used to be called “Hogsties.” It is presumed there were enclosures for pigs around the waterfront area and to this day carries the name Hog Sty Bay.

Archaeologists uncovered numerous fresh water wells called Step wells which could have been of great use to vessels plying their trade around the Caribbean. It is presumed they filled up here; naturally, commerce thrived. One story that has been bandied around is that of Christopher Columbus when he stopped at the bay on May 10, 1503, his eyes fell on masses of sea turtles. He must have been ecstatic. Not only had he found land but also victuals. I can imagine him peering over the ship’s rail, eyes widening in wonder then excitement and he would have yelled, “las Tortuga.” Now you will find almost every second shop has a Tortuga in its name. The sea turtle was so edible it was almost fished out of extinction. Two other islands, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, make up the Cayman Islands.

Although ships are no longer being built here which is a shame, the Caymanians were great shipbuilders building schooners renowned for their beauty and speed out of the local mahogany. The townspeople took great pride in their domestic industry and came out in droves to watch and cheer when a vessel was rolled out on logs into the water for its first launch. Now, the main industry is of a financial nature and it is a tax-free destination. I was intrigued by the number of expatriates living in and around George Town – Jamaicans, Indians, Filipinos, Australians and New Zealanders.

One of the oldest structures in George Town is the remains of a couple of walls from Fort George. The origin of the structure is uncertain much to my disappointment but I walked around taking pictures, and reading what little they have about its history. This fort was built specifically to protect the island from Spanish pirates. A three-piece mural painted by John Broad shows scenes throughout the lifetime of Fort George. So, at least we have that to take in.

Wherever we travel we look for a church and even here we found one which is part of the history of this place. Elmslie church is named after its first priest-in-charge the Rev. James Elmslie and dates back to the 1840’s. He used to minister to his parish on horseback, on foot and by boat which tells me the parishioners lived far and wide.

The present church which we visited was built during the 1920’s by Capt. Rayal Bodden. Sitting in one of the pews I began to relax for it had been a hot walk. We found the church empty although welcomingly open so it was extra special to have the place to ourselves. I couldn’t take my eyes off one particular window to my left. Made of coloured glass they were so reminiscent of what I remember of one of the rooms in my grandfather’s house in Calcutta, that I caught my breath at the same time giving free rein to a jumble of memories of my childhood spent in that house. Seemed like I had found the perfect place to take a breather.

A walk around Heroes Square is a must. Monuments to the national heroes of Cayman Islands give us an idea of its past. Some maintenance work was in progress around the fountain but it did not stop me from taking some interesting pictures. Exactly opposite and close to the Legislative building is the library built in 1939. It was hard not to visit here, but I know myself, give me books and historical memorabilia, and you won’t see me surface until eternity. The camera clicked and I turned away.

I would return here in a heartbeat.

A quick note before I end – Certain chemicals used in sunscreen lotions seriously harm coral reefs. Always check with your local pharmacy to get the ones without it.

Keep well…keep smiling.

Purabi Das
#caymanstories #lovetotravel #amwriting #myjourney #paradiseonearth

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