A Travellerspoint blog

Tally Ho! A Vacation Within a Vacation.

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We enjoyed our side trip to Eleuthera during a previous visit to Abaco so much that we decided to repeat it on our most recent trip in August.

With 3 couples, Ocean Tally was the perfect place to sneak away for a night. With only 3 private cottages, our group would basically have the place to ourselves.

When I contacted Annette at Ocean Tally, I was delighted to find that all 3 cottages were available for our stay, but was heartbroken when she told me that the bar and restaurant would not be open.

No matter - it was still worth the trip!

It was a beautiful morning as we flew high over the famed “Glass Window Bridge” on the north end of Eleuthera. The deep blue ocean was separated from the incredible turquoise sea by only a few feet of rock and earth. It was as magnificent as I remembered.

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Landing at the North Eleuthera airport, I was reminded how relaxed and laid back this island was. The airport was empty and quiet. “Customs and immigration” consisted of a nod and a wave and a “have a nice time.”

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Within minutes, we were loaded into a dusty, old minivan – our proud car rental for the next two days. No paperwork, no credit cards, just a cash exchange and a reminder to park it at the airport and leave the keys under the mat when we headed home.

Not wanting to lose any time, we made a quick dash through the liquor store across the street from the airport. We planned to spend the day at the beach before heading to Ocean Tally so we needed beach libations. There was also that business about Tally Bar being closed. Sobriety was not a viable vacation option.

The next stop was the North Eleuthera Shopping Center, on the way to the beach. I had found the description online, “One of the largest grocery stores on Eleuthera, located just outside the Bluff Settlement. They have a good selection of deli meats, frozen food and produce.”

That description was slightly misleading.

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They had a large selection of crocs, flip flops, scrunchies, miscellaneous household goods, artificial flower arrangements, and industrial sized foods. What they did not have a large selection of was chips, dips, and sandwich items. The “good selection of deli meats” was dominated by various types of bologna and a few very suspicious looking packages of ham. We finally found a deli counter, sighing in relief as we realized we would not be forced to buy the 3 lb. jumbo package of chicken bologna we had in our hands.

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Unfortunately, the “oven roasted turkey” left something to be desired.

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I am 99% sure this came out of a can.

It was like a giant naked chicken nugget that had been sliced.

I wasn’t sure it was real meat. It looked like a "meat product."

But, we bought it along with an industrial sized bag of tortilla chips and were on our way.

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We were headed to Ben Bay beach and I couldn’t wait for our friends to see how beautiful it was.

I found myself having a little trouble with the directions.

The directions from Discover-Eleuthera-Bahamas.com: “From the highway turn right, then left-right-left. And there you'll be, at a really pretty beach.”

It should not have surprised anyone in that dusty minivan when we drove past the airport for the fourth time.

I was just about to give up on the beach and start eating the gray-turkeylike-meat-product in the minivan when we finally found the right turn, wound our way through several narrow dirt roads, and found ourselves at the parking area for Ben Bay.

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Unfortunately, we had wasted a lot of time looking for edible items in the grocery store and had wasted even more time driving up and down the same road four times looking for the turn to the beach. We reached the beach shelter just as it started raining.

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Let me rephrase that.

Just as it started POURING. This rain was biblical. I expected frogs and locusts to come out of the sky with it.

I’m pretty sure I saw seagulls and beach lizards pairing up two by two.

You know how people say, “It always rains on the beach, but it only rains for a minute or two and then the sun comes out again?”

Those people are liars.

It rained for an eternity.

So, we did the only thing we could do. We ate our weird meat, almost 6 lbs of tortilla chips, and drank an entire bottle of tequila.

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And sulked.

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But then….it happened….a hole literally opened in the sky.

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I did not see a dove with an olive branch fly through it, but I did see the sun. We were able to enjoy a couple of hours of glorious sunshine on Ben Bay Beach.

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Then it was on to Ocean Tally!

I love Ocean Tally.

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The owner, Annette, is one part beach babe and two parts coastal chic hostess tied together with flowing white linen tunics, seashells, and perfectly sun kissed hair. She is at once casual and elegant. She welcomes you in like an old friend. Her place personifies Bahamian charm. Ocean Tally strikes a sweet balance between a boutique hotel and a bed-and-breakfast, and stands in stark contrast to the cookie-cutter resorts that dominate the islands.

The cottages are bright, airy structures that overlook the dramatic rocky cliffs and out to the ocean beyond. They are stylishly but simply decorated, with billowing white curtains, clean white walls, and crisp luxury linens. Ocean Tally is an oasis of relaxation. It is a perfect, intimate hideaway.

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My only disappointment was the knowledge that we wouldn’t be able to visit her beautiful and delicious restaurant and bar. One of my most memorable beach meals was in that restaurant.

I can still taste the buttery curry lobster….

I apologize for getting distracted, but don’t judge. You haven’t tasted that lobster.

We all settled into our cottages for afternoon naps under the breezy fans and agreed to meet at the lighthouse later that evening, where Annette promised to have some dinner recommendations waiting as well as a boat to take us to Harbour Island if that’s what we wanted to do.

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What I didn’t know was that everyone had a secret.

When we arrived at the bar, expecting to be whisked away to some sub-par dinner experience, Annette was smiling and pouring champagne at the bar.

“Happy Birthday,” she said.

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With Annette’s help, my friends had planned a surprise birthday dinner at Tally Bar as a late celebration. Annette had endless bottles of champagne and wine, a private chef, and a beautifully set table waiting.

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It was perfect.

Our first course was a salad of fresh greens, marinated artichokes, and toasted goat cheese medallions.

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Then there was wine. So much wine.

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For dinner, we were served delicious herbed lobster tails with black beans, sweet potato cakes, carrots and asparagus.

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Then there was more wine.

The grand finale was a birthday cake.

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I felt like a queen. (Maybe it was all the wine.)

The evening couldn’t have been more perfect.

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We woke up to a beautiful Ocean Tally morning.

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Even though the restaurant was closed, Annette (always the gracious hostess), whipped us up some coffee, juice, fruit, and fresh coconut tarts for breakfast (okay, she might have bought the tarts, but SOMEONE made them with love…I could tell….).

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It was time to head back to Abaco, but not before everyone had a chance to jump into the Blue Hole. We made the short drive, soaking in the last of the views before we had to leave.

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Having shamed myself with a horrible “running man” posture, side slide, and butt splat on my previous jump, I had no foolish intentions of trying to redeem myself with a second go. I know my limitations and considered myself lucky that I emerged from the water the first time with all of my appendages still attached.

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However, Mr. Olympic felt the need to do it again just to prove he could do it perfectly a second time.

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I had no doubt.

And, we had newbies who wanted to give it a try. We had a couple of takers who made the leap of faith.

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Much like that leap into the Blue Hole, our trip to Ocean Tally had been exhilarating and glorious, but over in the blink of an eye.

Our love affair was brief, but intense. I know I'll be back. Until next time, Ocean Tally!

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Posted by vicki_h 09:14 Archived in Bahamas Tagged ocean bahamas eleuthera tally Comments (1)

Oops, I did it again.

I just can't satiate my Guana Cay addiction.

So I dove in for another taste.

How about we just hit the highlights?

The food: If it's battered, deep fried, golden brown, carb laden, and swimming in fat on a paper plate, I'll eat it in the Abacos. Just to keep my mom off my back, I throw in a green thing every now and then.

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The drinks: Because you need to keep your blood alcohol level up to ward off those pesky mosquitoes.

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The sunrises: There simply aren't words.

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The sunsets: So beautiful they make my heart hurt.

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Nippers: Because it's not a trip to Guana without Sunday Funday!

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The Wildlife: Sharks and stingrays and screaming! Oh my!

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Blue water and white sand: Because that is the recipe for happiness, my friends.

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The colors of the Bahamas: Because nothing brightens my day like a little pop of color.

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Good friends and good times: That's what a trip to Abaco is all about.

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Before I go, I want to give a special "shout out" to Shawna Deal of Easy Touch Massage from Marsh Harbour (easytouchmassage@yahoo.com or find her on Facebook!). Us "girls" wanted massages and with no spa on Guana, we were able to get Shawn to come over for a half day to give us in home massages. While Bikini Hut is not, in fact, a Bikini Store, it apparently can operate quite well as a part-time spa, complete with mimosas and Shawna's magic hands. I recommend contacting her if you ever have a few folks that want a massage on the cays or if you are going to be in Marsh Harbour.

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See....I'm not always long winded.

I will tell you one story. On our last day of our week in Abaco, a sign appeared to me in the sky.

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In case you can't all see what is OBVIOUS, it was clearly a giant lobster.

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I took it as a sign that we weren't supposed to leave.

Obviously, Matt didn't agree with me, because I am home now.

Sigh.

Posted by vicki_h 10:46 Archived in Bahamas Tagged islands tropical bahamas nippers abaco elbow_cay guana_cay grabbers marsh_harbour lubbers_landing Comments (7)

Guana Cay: This is my happy.

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When we bought a house on Guana Cay, I think we both secretly worried it would turn a place we love into a place we felt forced to visit. We were so afraid that ownership would make us feel like we HAD to go there instead of WANTING to go there and we would start thinking about all the other vacations we could have taken with that money. We worried it would turn a joy into an obligation.

Sort of like having a package of chicken thawed out in the refrigerator at home that you know you should go home and cook, even though your heart really wants to go out for pizza.

I didn’t want Guana Cay to become old chicken.

We couldn’t have been more wrong.

I literally can’t wait to return to this place.

Maybe the “new” will wear off at some point, but right now, Bikini Hut and I are tangled in a deep love affair. When I am not there, it’s all I think about. When I am there, I am in heaven.

I guess Guana Cay has become my “guilty pleasure” destination. You know, the one that offers little in the way of new experiences or cultural enrichment, and at times (think Nippers Sunday) might even be a little on the tasteless side, but it’s entertaining and cheerful and just feels really good. Like watching an episode of the Real Housewives in your sweatpants while eating an entire box of ice cream sandwiches.

It might not be the most chic and refined, but it makes me happy.

So, at least for now, you will be subjected to repeated photos and descriptions of the same things. Go ahead and say it.

“Are we really going to Guana Cay AGAIN???”

Yes, friends. Yes we are.

Saturday, July 2:

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The flight from TN to Abaco seems to get easier every time we make it. Maybe that’s because Matt’s doing all the flying and I am doing no more than watching the sun rise over the Great Smoky Mountains and sleeping in the back of the plane.

It seemed like only minutes before we were landing in Marsh Harbour, picking up the boat at the boat yard, and speeding towards that happy little cottage on Guana Harbour.

Hello, Bikini Hut!!

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We were welcomed with open arms (and more than a few millipedes). We quickly shook the travel fugue off, changed into something breezy, and made our way to Grabbers for the first frozen goodness of the week and a spectacular sunset.

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It was a beautiful night and the sunset did not disappoint. Because it was the height of the visitor season, Grabbers had gone “fancy” and had a special surf and turf buffet set up.

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We surfed. We turfed.

And then we called travel day quits.

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Sunday, July 3:

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It was a beautiful first morning on Front Street.

No matter how much I want to sleep in, my eyes pop open the minute the sky begins to turn pale. My internal clock wakes me up (or maybe it was the incessant puppy kisses begging to be taken to the beach). I can’t help getting out of bed while the sky is still a cool gray. I have to see the sunrise.

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It was our first day of a long week and we didn’t have any ambitious plans. The only plan was to have a relaxing week.

We spent a lazy morning at the house before heading toward Nippers for lunch.

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The Sunday before the 4th of July is usually a pretty lively day and this one was certainly shaping up to be a crowd pleaser.

Even though it had been a month since Matt’s birthday fiesta in the British Virgin Islands, we were still recovering from a 7 day hangover from Jost Van Dyke, so, for once, we were the quiet ones at Sunday Funday.

See….I can be calm if I choose. To be frank, it was just too HOT to do much more than sit limply in a chair. Dancing in that heat would have had disastrous effects on a person my age.

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The weather was gorgeous and boats came from every direction. It was fun watching from the beach as scruffy little boats with 17 drunk 20-somethings sidled up to $400,000 cruisers and attempted to anchor with about 3 feet between them. I have never seen an overindulged, middle aged man move as fast as I saw one move when a small boat filled with kids literally got right next to his mini-yacht and drunkenly threw a bean bag over the side to serve as a bumper.

A bean bag.

$90 cigar be damned. He tossed it aside as he ran through the water faster than Paula Deen at a butter sale.

We watched as another boatload of people put a large bottle of Fireball on the beach, partially submerged in the sand, and sat on their boat with a fishing line tied to the bottle.

Eventually, some poor drunk clown would walk past it, stop, and reach down for it. That’s when it would get jerked back into the water with the speed and force of a barracuda.

It was all fun and games until one poor girl did a face plant in the sand.

Oh, the things you see at Nippers Sunday Funday when you are the sober ones.

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When our fingers started to prune, we dried off and headed to Grabbers to see if Steel Daddy was still playing.

We caught the tail end of his show and a beautiful sunset, but the horde of people clamoring for menus convinced us that we should probably find dinner elsewhere.

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We headed inside for a quiet, air-conditioned meal at Fish Tales.

Not only did they have a/c, they had patriotic jello shots!

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And whatever this delicious little thing was.

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After a crisp Caesar salad with fresh caught fish, some gooey nachos, and a seafood pasta, we made the short walk back to Bikini Hut to call it a night.

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Monday, July 4th:

My favorite part of each day is walking the beach at sunrise. It’s that much better when my 2 favorite sidekicks are with me.

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It was Independence Day back home, and we couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate than with some good old fashioned picnic food and a day on the boat.

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We made our way to the lagoon where the tide was exceptionally low, making for some amazing sand bars and shallow pools.

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We did it up right with hot dogs, pasta salad, potato salad, cheese and crackers, chips and salsa and chilled oreo parfaits for dessert!

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NOTE TO SELF: Always be mindful of what your face is doing when your photo is being taken. Always.

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Then it was time for sun, fun, and a whole lot of relaxing.

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Even the dogs got into the action. I had a moment of panic when Rooby leapt off the boat like a flying squirrel, all splayed legs and bugging eyes when she spotted me about 100 feet from the boat.

The good news? We discovered Roobs can swim.

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After that, we put them on a float and paddled them around. If they want to be in the water, they shall be in the water!

We left when a massive number of boats showed up and decided to plow their way into our peaceful lagoon. We probably could have tolerated the company, but it was the superfluity of Gator flags that finally did us in.

We played them a little Rocky Top as we made our exit.

Everyone needed a shower and a little down time before the fireworks anyway.

We took in the sunset with a frozen Grabber and made our way to Nippers for the fireworks.

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There were “FIREWORKS IN YOUR FACE!” and a beach bonfire to finish off the holiday. We could see folks getting a little crazy as we made our way through the crowd to head back home. This was a low key trip for us, so there would be no sweaty midnight dancing for our group.

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I’m sorry. Maybe next time.

Tuesday, July 5th:

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Apparently, this guy did too much sweaty midnight dancing. Or at least too much sweaty midnight drinking, because something made him think it was a good idea to drive his golf cart onto the beach. Where it will probably live forever, much like that giant ball that made its way down the beach some years ago.

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Maybe it will be discovered hundreds of years in the future by a race of very smart apes.

That cart was STUCK.

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We noticed the Tervis tumbler in the cup holder bore the name of a very large yacht that was docked at Orchid Bay.

Rich doesn’t always mean smart.

After my walk, I scored a loaf of fresh baked bread at Guana Grocery and we had amazing egg sandwiches and fresh mango while we tried to figure out what to do with our day.

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We decided it was a perfect day for Lubbers Landing.

First, we made a snorkel stop at Fowl Cay.

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I couldn’t help but feel nervous when I looked at the choppy water remembering that only days before, a diver had been swept out by the current at Fowl Cay and had to be rescued by Dive Guana.

I nervously bit my nails as we slowly and carefully made our way to a mooring ball.

I was trying to decide if I should fake a cramp, when I looked over and saw the Dive Guana boat on the next mooring ball.

Whew.

The currents were fine and the snorkeling was glorious. I was glad I didn’t wimp out.

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Once we were sufficiently exhausted from swimming, we headed to Lubbers Landing for island burgers and saltwater margaritas….the single best lunch in all of Abaco!

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Lubbers Landing was SLAMMED with a huge group of at least 50 people, but that didn’t stop the amazing staff from supplying us with cold drinks, crispy hot cauliflower bites, and juicy ground tuna burgers with hand cut fries in mere minutes.

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As I was wiping the ketchup off my chin, I noticed a guy walking toward me with a really cool guitar.

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It was Jimmy Parrish http://jimmyparrishonline.com/ a trop rock singer/songwriter from Jacksonville, FL. Jimmy had contacted me months before and requested the use of one of my photos of Abaco for a special wrap he was having made for his guitar. He also let me know he’d be in Abaco over the 4th of July and we had agreed to meet up so that I could see the finished product.

If I say so myself, it was pretty spectacular!

I was surprised (and honored) when he handed me a sharpie and asked me to sign it….like I was the famous one.

Folks, let me tell you….if you want to suddenly silence a room filled with drunk vacationers….hand a girl with a southern accent wearing a pair of cutoffs, sunglasses, and a trucker hat a sharpie and ask her to sign your guitar.

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The entire room spent the rest of the afternoon trying to figure out who I was.

I spent the rest of the afternoon pretending I was famous and trying to score free drinks.

After lunch and a few too many saltwater margaritas, we headed over to Tahiti Beach for the sandbar party.

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When Fireball invites himself to the party, it’s time to go home!

We cleaned up a little and headed to the Abaco Inn for dinner.

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We might have lingered over one Conch Pearl too many, but we still managed to make it home just before the last of the sun was gone.

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Wednesday, July 6th:

Are you guys bored yet?

Seriously, some trips are for the party, some for the adventure, and once in a blue moon even I take a trip solely for the relaxation.

This had been a wonderfully low key week so far. As I walked the beach with my two favorite buddies, I felt stress free. We didn’t have any plans for the day and I was absolutely fine with that.

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My morning was spent searching for sea glass, chasing Bella into the edge of the waves and watching her run, and watching Rooby stalk this very large bird.

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I don’t think Rooby is aware of her own size limitations.

We did nothing more than laze around the house all morning. At least until we got hungry.

It was such a beautiful day, we decided to do lunch with a view at Grabbers. Now that I think about it, is there actually anywhere you can eat on Guana Cay that doesn’t have a view??? Grabbers was spectacular on this particular day.

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A wedge salad, a coconut crusted fish burger, and a few Grabbers later and it was time for a nap.

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Seriously, you’re getting bored, aren’t you?

I may as well be an old lady at an AARP convention telling you about my knitting and sciatica, but you’re still here, so we’ll carry on.

After naps, I packed up a wine and cheese picnic and we took the boat over to Shell Island for sunset.

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For dinner, Forest and Edmond at Kidd’s Cove whipped us up some lobster. It may not have been lobster season, but a frozen lobster is better than no lobster in my book!

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Thursday, July 7th:

It was my favorite kind of morning, where the sky is lit up in pink and blue and then erupts into gold as the sun makes its way into the day.

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We needed to run some errands, so today was going to be Marsh Harbour day.

I no longer get excited about shopping on Marsh Harbour, because I know I am going to come home with things like a $60 blender that should have been $19.99.

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Our goal was to come home with a washer and dryer that didn’t break the bank.

We managed to score a scratch and dent set, which suited me just fine considering the fact that within 11 months it would be rusted out from the salt air anyway.

We grabbed lunch at Curly Tails. Bahama Mamas and burgers hit the spot.

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It was a gorgeous afternoon and it seemed like a shame to just head back, so we made a short detour to a little uninhabited island I had seen a thousand times, but that we had never stopped at.

But first....dolphins!!!

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Today was the day to try a new spot.

It had the clear, shallow water that I have become accustomed to…but it also held a little surprise. A hidden tidepool!

The water was bath-warm and the views out to the ocean were magnificent.

Another reason I love Abaco: No matter how many times you go, there is always something new.

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Like any old couple, we fall into routines. For some old people, it's warm milk and a rousing game of canasta. On Abaco, it’s sunset at Grabbers. I can’t stand to miss a single, sizzling, blazing one.

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When the sunset had cooled and the water had turned to glass, we headed to Orchid Bay for wing night.

We assaulted our bodies with hot wings, gooey mac n’cheese, and loads of sugar. An all brown dinner with nary a vegetable present.

Don’t tell my mom.

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Friday, July 8th:

We always wake up happy on Abaco.

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It was a great weather day, so we decided to take the boat through Tilloo Pond and down to Pete’s Pub. As we neared Elbow Cay, we were thrilled to see the day’s regatta sailing past. We knew it was regatta week, but we hadn’t really been keeping up with the schedule.

We sat still for a while and watched the boats race.

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Then it was on to Tilloo Pond, where the water was insanely blue and so clear you could see every starfish and stingray that passed.

Before long, we were pulling up to Pete’s. Most people like the Blaster, but I prefer the Caribbean Breeze. Made with 151, it packs more of a punch than the Blaster.

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And when you are wearing a redneck fabulous shirt like this one, you need a punch.

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Before long, we made our way back to Guana with a quick pit stop for snorkeling at Sandy Cay and a beach stop.

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For some inexplicable reason, ever since I got my own beach house, with my own beach kitchen, I have found myself wanting to cook on vacation. I want to learn to bake Bahamian bread and do creative things with mangos and pineapples. I want to make coconut cream pies. Lots of pies.

I’m not sure where this sudden inspiration came from, because, while I love cooking at home, I don’t think cooking and vacation can coexist. Not only do I typically have an aversion to doing anything more than heating up a cup of water in the microwave on vacation, I also have a beach kitchen with an apartment sized fridge, a miniscule stove, and counter space the size of a postage stamp.

So why did I keep finding myself wanting to cook?

Maybe it was the pleasure of doing something I love in a place that was MINE.

Or maybe, it was just, well, PIE.

Whatever the reason, I found myself in a cooking frenzy.

We had dinner in that night, Bikini Hut style.

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Saturday, July 9th:

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. Sunrise, sunrise, sunrise. Blah, blah, blah. I realize this is getting repetitive, but it seriously is awesome.

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I still hadn’t gotten the cooking out of my system, so we hung around the house doing some odds and ends and I decided to make lunch.

Yum!

I should try this cooking on vacation thing more often.

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I also have to highlight this AMAZING "Murphy Bar" my Dad made for me. Because Bikini Hut is so small, we just don't have room for a bar, but I needed some place to put everything. I showed my dad a photo I found online and next thing I knew...VIOLA! Amazing Murphy Bar.

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It had been several years since we had stopped at what used to be my very favorite spot in all of Abaco: the beaches at Bakers Bay.

Back when there wasn’t a house in sight, no mega yachts pulled up to shore, and no celebrities cavorting around on shore forcing the Bakers Bay security guards to attempt to chase off any and every beach goer no matter how illegal that is…..it was just a pristine and beautiful beach with the most amazing water imaginable.

I had a hankering to see it again. (I apologize to all you “yankee folk” that may not know what a hankering is, but that’s what Google is for)

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Despite the McMansions that are stacked as tightly as 19th century tenement housing, it was still beautiful.

Despite the mega yacht that was literally pulled up to shore, it was still one of the prettiest spots in Abaco.

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I grabbed my pineapple cup (just to increase the tacky factor), thumbed my nose at the Bakers Bay security guy, and hopped on my float to enjoy the beautiful water.

I think Rooby and Bella enjoyed it too.

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I couldn’t believe it was our last night. I hadn’t once scarfed down an entire bag of Doritos, cried over an empty Nippers cup, or danced badly to the Cha Cha Slide. I had actually behaved like a civilized adult and had ended the week rested, relaxed, and completely rejuvenated.

We enjoyed a final sunset, a final Grabber, and a final dinner at Orchid Bay before closing the door on another week in Abaco.

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It may be boring, but THIS IS MY HAPPY.

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Posted by vicki_h 15:29 Archived in Bahamas Tagged islands caribbean tropical bahamas abacos abaco guana_cay Comments (9)

CAKE BY THE OCEAN: A 50th Birthday Bash in Paradise

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I have found out there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them” – Mark Twain

It was a cold, gray day in December 2014. Matt and I were drowning our Seasonal Affective Disorder in a pitcher of top shelf margaritas at our favorite Mexican dive. Somehow, the conversation turned to Matt’s 50th birthday. I mean, if you’re already depressed, you may as well dredge up every miserable topic you can think of, right?

Despite the fact that it was still a year and a half away, it was already weighing heavily on his mind.

“Why don’t we plan something fun for your birthday, like when we took all my friends to the Bahamas for my 40th? You should look forward to your birthday, not dread it,” I said, through a mouthful of tortilla chips.

We started visualizing what such a trip could look like….where we would go…..who we would invite….and the more tequila we drank, the more amazing the idea seemed.

Why should he sit at home and bury his head in misery? Instead, we thought about going big and planning the trip of a lifetime.

By the bottom of the pitcher, we had solved all of the world’s problems, had figured out a cure for cancer, and had planned a birthday trip for Matt’s 50th. We had decided to rent a villa on Jost Van Dyke and invite our friends.

With 4 bedrooms, we could invite 3 other couples, but who? How to decide? We loved all of our friends and there were 12 of them.

“Let’s just invite them all and see who can come,” Matt said through the tequila haze.

It was a perfect plan.

What better way to turn 50 than do it with all of your favorite people in paradise?

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We invited 12 people.

12 people said “yes.”

This was an unanticipated turn of events.

Of course they all said yes. They have heard us rave about Jost Van Dyke for years.

Jost Van Dyke is simply one of the best places on earth. Not only does it have one of the most famous beach bars in the Caribbean, the Soggy Dollar Bar, a veritable rite of passage for any beach bum, it has TWO of the most famous beach bars in the Caribbean with Foxy’s just a stumble away. Jost Van Dyke is an island of pure magic; a bubble of happiness and perfection, an oasis of sunshine and rainbows fueled by painkillers and rum punch. It is Caribbean utopia.

So that was it, then. We were going. All 14 of us.

We were going to need a bigger house.

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Forget all those trust-building exercises where you have to assemble a puzzle together, or fall into one another’s arms with your eyes closed. I cannot imagine a more arduous test of any personal relationships than travelling together to a remote island as a group of 14.

Don’t get me wrong, I have vacationed with all of these people and loved it.

SEPARATELY.

I just wasn’t sure how the dynamics of the ENTIRE UNIVERSE OF PEOPLE I KNOW being in one place at one time would work.

Some of our friends had never even met each other.

Still unsure whether this was lunacy or genius, we booked another house.

God help us.

God help Jost Van Dyke.

It was officially on.

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SATURDAY: JOST VAN DYKE RULES.

Never mind that the mean age for this group was just over 50, the “House Rules” for this trip read something like a frat party:

• Wake up smiling every day.
• Remember that drinking rum before 10:00 a.m. makes you a pirate, not an alcoholic.
• Calories do not count on vacation. Anyone who attempts to exercise will be tied up and left as shark food.
• No talking about politics or the election. The first person to bring up Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton gets voted off the island.
• Stay hydrated.
• The least drunk people each day are in charge of looking out for the drunkest people each day.
• You can’t be the drunkest person each day. In the interest of fairness, please take turns. Except Matt. He can be the drunkest person every day.
• This is your vacation. If you need some “me time,” take it. Of course the rest of us will talk about you while you’re gone. We’re not Puritans.
• No passing out in the common rooms of the houses. No one wants to wake up and tiptoe around your drooling, lifeless body.
• If you don’t want to see it on Facebook, don’t do it.
• Yes to drinking games, spontaneous dance-offs, group singing, laughter, snacks, and naps.
• No to arguing, fighting, whining, crying, working, dieting, exercising, or excessive sobriety.
• Relax.
• Have fun.

A list of rules may seem unnecessary for a group of mature adults. This was not, however, a group of MATURE adults.

This was exemplified before our flight even took off as one male member of our party showed up on to the American Airlines gate dressed like a pregnant woman while screaming that Matt was the baby daddy.

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Yep. This was going to be a week to remember.

Despite the fact that we had all gotten up at 3:00 a.m. to make our early flights, the mood on the plane was downright joyful.

WE WERE GOING TO JOST VAN DYKE!

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We landed on St. Thomas at 11:30 and I sent everyone over to grab their free thimble full of rum while I sent Matt out to find a taxi large enough for 14 people.

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He found one all right!

With luggage and bodies crammed into every nook and cranny, we set off for Red Hook.

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4 carsick passengers, 7 impatient horn blows, and 23 hairpin turns later, we were dropped off at Duffy’s Love Shack where we hoped to grab a quick bite before catching the 2:30 ferry.

It was going on 1:00, so this seemed possible.

Yes, I wasn't really thinking about "island time."

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Despite the fact that there was exactly ONE very slow bartender and ONE even slower waitress, we somehow managed to eat, drink, and get merry in time to catch the ferry.

By the time we arrived on Jost Van Dyke and cleared customs, it was 3:30.

We had been up for 12 hours. We were hot. We were dirty. We were exhausted.

I had rented Escape Villa and Pink House Bougainvillea because I had a large group of people, a very special occasion, and I needed top notch service.

Despite the fact that I paid a hefty sum to rent these 2 houses for a week, I did not get top notch service.

The materials sent to me by the managers for the houses clearly stated that the caretakers would gladly help me provision the houses, accepting delivery of groceries and putting them away. This was one of the reasons I rented these properties.

From the Pink House information packet: Call our General Managers (Franky and Lydia) so they know what your order's delivery schedule is estimated to be. Please confirm with them a pick-up from the dock at Great Harbor and delivery to the villas.

From the Escape Villa information packet: The property managers will arrange to have your groceries picked up at the ferry dock and delivered to Escape Villa and waiting for you upon arrival. You will just have to email the Property Managers with the information and confirm it with them.

However, my repeated emails (which started 4 weeks before our trip), went ignored. When I finally pressed for assistance after 10 days of emailing, the response I received was rather curt:

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Two sentences that told me to do it myself. And no explanation about why or alternatives offered.

I envisioned 14 travel weary adults, ready for nothing more than a hot shower and a good meal, arriving to 50 boxes of groceries that needed to be loaded, transported, unloaded, and unpacked.

I appealed to the managers of the houses, sending this mournful plea (I am not too proud to grovel and would have done just about anything at this point): “It will be somewhat difficult to arrive with 14 people and luggage to also pick up boxes of groceries from the dock and transport them to the house on a taxi. If there is any way that this service can be provided, I would appreciate it, otherwise, I suppose we will simply try to do it on our own as best we can.”

I offered to pay extra for the provisioning assistance.

I received one response that said, “Please coordinate this with Lydia.” I received no other response.

Wow.

Not what you expect for $12,000.

So that is how we arrived: a sweaty, bedraggled group of 14 after 12 hours of travel that were forced to split up so that the women could get all of the luggage to the house alone and start getting it unpacked while the men sat in the sun at the ferry dock and to wait an additional 45 minutes for the ferry with our groceries to arrive, load the groceries onto a taxi, unload them at the house, and then all of us spend 30 minutes putting them away.

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At the moment when I was dragging our two fifty pound suitcases up the very steep driveway to the house by myself, I would have paid any amount of money for help. Unfortunately, I wasn’t even offered the opportunity.

To add insult to injury, the caretaker wasn’t even at the house when we arrived. When she finally showed up about 45 minutes later, she spent a scant 5 minutes showing us the house and left. We never heard from her or saw her again during our trip.

Even after I communicated my displeasure with the owner of the houses after our trip – not one word of apology. His response was “We have established relationships with vendors who provide our guest top service. In this case, while you’ve personally had a good experience with Bobby’s, we’ve had dozens that have not and therefore we do not use them anymore. We advised you this was the case and simply stated that you would need to coordinate with them on your own if you didn’t want to use our preferred vendor.”

Seriously???? It’s important to note that NO ONE advised me at any time prior to my arrival (not during the 4 weeks of emails that I continued to send in hopes of some assistance) that they would not help if we used Bobby’s rather than their grocery store of choice. The only communication I received in those 4 weeks were the two sentences that told me to do it myself with no explanation about why.

And frankly, I don’t think it should be their choice to force a guest to use a more expensive grocery store when that guest has a well-established history of good service with another vendor. Just. Incredible.

So….instead of arriving to this:

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We arrived to this:

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Escape Villa and Pink House?

As a well-travelled individual who has rented many homes on many island in all price ranges……My advice is…

DON’T DO IT.

Stay at White Bay Villas and put the other $10,000 in your pocket. Not only will you be treated well, you’ll have a lot of money left over for painkillers (or for sending your kids to college).

Hours later, we finally had everything put away and everyone got a much needed shower (and a much needed drink!).

The party had gotten derailed. Instead of arriving to paradise, my group had arrived to a carboard box filled hell complete with sweat, tears, and Ritz Crackers that needed to be put away.

As the official Funmeister of Matt’s 50th Birthday, I had to get things back on track. I knew there was only one thing that could make everything right with the world again: SHOTS.

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Okay, make that two things:

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FOXY’S – BECAUSE EVERYTHING TASTES BETTER WHEN YOU HAVE DUSTY UNDERWEAR HANGING ABOVE YOUR HEAD.

I knew I had been successful when the waitress at Foxy’s came out for the third time to tell us that the pole was necessary to hold the building up and was not, despite our best efforts, put there for dancing.

The party was ON.

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SUNDAY: PARADISE DOES HAVE A NAME. IT’S GERTRUDE.

The forecast had called for mostly cloudy with an 80% chance of rain and storms for every day of our trip. I know better than to pay attention to a Caribbean forecast, but, like the rest of you, I can’t help myself.

We all know we do it.

It’s like looking behind the shower curtain when you walk into the bathroom even though you know there isn’t anyone in there. It’s pointless, but you are helpless to stop yourself.

When I woke up that first morning, I thought about that forecast.

After the arrival fiasco the day before, I prayed that we didn’t wake up to gray skies. That was a blow I didn’t think even the Funmeister could pull the group back from.

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We woke up to a gloriously perfect White Bay Day.

I was as happy as a pig in the sunshine.

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As the official master of ceremonies, I was in charge of the itinerary. (Was this even a question????). I had decided our first day had to be a White Bay Day. We had no plans more aspiring than seeing how long it took to get lounge chair marks on our butts.

The first order of business, however, was collecting 16 free painkillers at the Soggy Dollar Bar.

How do you get 16 FREE painkillers at the Soggy Dollar Bar, you ask? You have extremely awesome friends that purchased them months before on their own trip to Jost Van Dyke.

It also helps if your super nice friends can’t count and accidentally buy you 2 extra so that the Birthday Boy and his master of ceremonies, the Funmeister, can two fist it before it’s even time for lunch.

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On the “party end” of White Bay, my favorite base of operations is Gertrude’s. Not only does she have full size reclining chairs, she has “pour your own” rum punch.

My version of Gertrude’s rum punch has enough rum in it to kill a small horse.

Or Gary Busey.

The day was spent drinking copious amounts of rum and alternating between getting pruney in the gin clear water and getting marginally sunburned on a lounge chair in between sporadic bouts of bad dancing.

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Lunch found us at Seddy’s One Love downing lobster quesadillas, wings, and the island’s best bushwackers.

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That was followed by more dancing and generously giving away all of my chips to two little boys who asked me if they could have them.

With those faces, I would have given them my kidney if they had asked.

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Foxy’s Taboo was supposed to be having a Regatta party that afternoon, so we pried ourselves off our chairs and headed that way.

We found….nothing.

No live music. No dancing. No people. No party.

Although we did find some exceptional cocktails.

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Everyone was a little too salty, a little too tired, and a little too lubricated for another party anyway, so we headed back to the house for much needed showers and naps.

Besides, Ivan’s told us they were having an 80s party that night. We needed to rest up.

The plan was to put on some obnoxious 80s-wear and head to Ivan’s where we would do the robot, listen to some Billy Idol, and grab some eats.
As I sent everyone inside to “gear up,” we sent a scout over to see what was going on at Ivan’s. It was only feet from Escape Villa, but we couldn’t hear any music. That seems suspicious.

Apparently, Ivan’s had gotten the same memo Foxy’s Taboo had gotten and the party was not meant to be.

What does a Funmeister do when she has promised a night of 80s fun to 13 adults and has forced them to put on costumes only to find out there is no party?

She makes shots and starts her own party. (Shots are the vacation equivalent of duct tape - they fix EVERYTHING)

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What no one knew was that one of our 50 lb suitcases had contained a secret:

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The Rockville was 800 watts of musical awesomeness. Who needs a party at Ivan’s when you have the Rockville, an iPod full of 80s tunes, and 14 adults in costumes? Not to mention strobe lights and a fully stocked bar.

It was EPIC.

The party was so good we had strangers wandering up from the beach to join us. We could have charged admission.

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It was around 9:00 p.m. when I noticed Matt staring blearily into space while shoveling handfuls of chips into his mouth that I realized I hadn’t thought about dinner when we made the shift in plans. I had 14 adults who had been drinking all day and had no dinner.

I made a quick call to Vinnie at Corsair’s.

“Is it too late to order some pizzas for delivery?” I said in a state of panic. “I have 14 people who need some grease and dough in their bellies STAT!”

Vinnie delivered a stack of pizzas to our door in 30 minutes.

I am pretty sure he should be called Saint Vincent.

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MONDAY: BOATS & HOES.

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One of Matt’s birthday week requests was to charter a catamaran to take us out a couple of days.

Captain Colin of Jost Van Dyke Scuba had just what we needed: a 42’ catamaran with 1000 square feet of deck space and free rum punch.

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Everyone was still felt like Vicki Prince was screaming “Let’s go Crazy!” in their ears, so we started the day slowly, with some much needed boat lounging.

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Cpt. Colin took us to the Indians for an incredible snorkel.

This was followed by a nice spread of snacks on the boat.

And rum punch.

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That’s pretty much where the civilized portion of the day concluded.

Next stop? Where else do you go once the rum punch starts to flow? The Willy T, of course! (every Funmeister knows that)

This broken down pirate ship just off the beach at Norman Island was definitely the place to let this group get their fun on.

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We started off with lunch.

Lunch turned in to drinks.

Drinks turned into…well….I have been instructed not to overshare. I’ll just let you use your imagination.

Let’s just say it made 80’s night look like your grandma’s tea party.

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The boat ride back to Jost was uneventful, although we did have one person throwing up off the back of the boat, three passed out in the salon, and one puking into a zip-loc bag.

Fun times!

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The Funmeister passed waters around and we managed to get everyone back to Jost Van Dyke intact. Getting them off the boat and onto the dingy and then from the dingy to the dock was an entirely different matter.

No one fell in the water, so we will call it a success.

I sent everyone in for naps and showers, letting them know dinner was at Sidney’s Peace & Love that night.

Sidney’s was a perfect end to the day. The lobsters were HUGE and we made short work of them. All that was left was the carnage.

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TUESDAY: THE ULTIMATE F WORD.

I have heard it said that a birthday is nature’s way of telling you to eat more cake.

A FIFTIETH birthday is apparently nature’s way of telling you to drink more rum.

Because that’s what we did.

All day long.

It was Matt’s birthday and we were going to party like it was his birthday.

It was another picture-perfect White Bay Day.

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We took up our usual spots at Gertrude’s and soaked it in.

It was a perfect day filled with sunshine and friends, beach ducks, interesting strangers, Seddy’s magic tricks, lobster rolls and spicy wings, and enough rum to pickle a small army.

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I wanted Matt’s birthday dinner to be special. The restaurants on Jost are great for a beachy lunch or drinks, but none of them seemed right for a nice birthday dinner. The Sandcastle no longer did dinners on the beach, and the thought of being crammed in their dark cement hole of a restaurant just didn’t feel right for this occasion.

I had gone out on a limb and contacted Liz Henderson of Hendo’s Hideout. Hendo’s was just being built when we had last been on Jost and I remembered it being a beautiful building with a stunning view. The restaurant and bar had just opened 2 months earlier, serving drinks and lunch only.

It was a risky move. We had never even seen the completed restaurant. We had NO IDEA what their food or drinks were like. They didn’t even serve dinner.

But I had a gut feeling and I went with it.

When Liz agreed to do a private dinner party for Matt’s birthday, I was so excited. And nervous. But mostly excited.

Everyone put on their beach best. You’d have never know this group had been moderately intoxicated for 4 days.

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At least until the guys put on a pre-dinner concert, but maybe that was because of the birthday shots.

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We walked down the beach to Hendo’s, wondering what to expect.

Liz had decorated a beach front table beautifully. We were greeted by delicate starfish and small votives filled with sand.

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She immediately took drink orders and we noticed right off that these weren’t your average “White Bay” drinks. It was less rum punch and bushwacker and more passionfruit margarita and champagne cocktail. The drinks tasted as good as they looked.

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Champagne buckets arrived, filled with bubbly and ice.

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The dinner was getting off to a great start.

Liz had provided a menu in advance and we had sent in our orders the day before, so within minutes of our arrival, we had delicious cocktails and mouth-watering food.

The food. OMG. THE FOOD!

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The food was nothing short of amazing. We had lobster with butter lime sauce, BBQ ribs (because every group has the one person that won’t eat seafood!), grilled mahi-mahi with peppers, and a creole snapper that was to DIE FOR.

The champagne flowed. The food was phenomenal. The candles sparkled. The air was filled with the laughter of our friends.

It was perfect.

Liz had knocked it out of the ballpark.

Run, don’t walk, to Hendo’s Hideout the next time you are on Jost Van Dyke. You will thank me.

Our group agreed it was everyone’s favorite meal of the entire trip.

Then it was time to head back to the villa for cake.....by the ocean (I'm sorry. I couldn't help myself).

Matt had specifically requested a chocolate peanut butter cake, so I had made it myself. After drinking rum all day.

Cake mixes should come with "island directions." Kind of like "high altitude directions," but more geared toward simple things that you forget in a slightly altered state like, "First, open the box. Next, cut open the plastic pouch. Then, pour cake mix into a bowl, crack the eggs before putting them in the bowl, do not put the shells in the bowl." That would have been helpful.

I really think it turned out quite nice, complete with “nutter butter sand” and chocolate seashells (and enough candles to start a forest fire).

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Then it was time to break out the Rockville and dance the calories away.

Happy Birthday, Matt!

You may be 50, but to me, that just means you are 5 perfect 10’s. (Can I hear a collective “awwwww….,” please?)

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WEDNESDAY: RUM SOAKED, SUN SOAKED, AND WELL….JUST SOAKED.

The party hadn’t stopped since we had arrived. Our fun switches had been in the “ON” position for 4 days. I think one of our friends summed it up perfectly when she looked at me the night before and said, “I just realized I have been drinking for 13 hours.”

We needed a break.

We were exhausted.

As luck would have it, this was the one overcast day we had on the entire trip. It was a blessing.

We had booked a second catamaran day with Cpt. Colin.

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For a minute, he wasn’t sure if we were the same group he had dropped off 2 days before. We were quiet and subdued.

It was time for a down day.

We decided to put up the sails and sail to Cane Garden Bay on Tortola. This would take a couple of hours and give everyone plenty of time to relax.

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When we arrived at Cane Garden Bay, we decided to head to the Callwood Distillery. Matt and I had spent an entire WEEK in a house across the street from the distillery the previous November and had never made it inside.

No one really knows how long the distillery has been in operation, but the Callwood family has been operating it for 200 years after taking it over from the Arundel family.

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As the sign demanded, we bellied up to the bar, put down our $1 and sampled 4 shots of their rum, all aged to various degrees.

The 90 proof Arundel cane rum called the “horny rum” was clearly the group favorite.

I’m not sure what that says about our group.

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After making some rum purchases, we headed to Myett’s for lunch. We ordered a rainbow variety of frozen drinks, wings, burgers, and sticky-sweet chicken thighs.

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Did I mention that we were exhausted?

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On the way back to Jost Van Dyke, we passed by Sandy Spit and made a B-Line for Little Jost Van Dyke.

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The B-Line Beach Bar, that is.

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This little bar sits by itself on a little curve of sand and serves up a delicious drink called the passion confusion. There were even chunks of frozen pineapple floating in there.

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We found a birthday message to Matt that had been left by our friends in December.

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And we left a message of our own.

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Then it was back to the villas for our requisite afternoon siesta.

We headed to Corsairs that night for dinner. While Vinnie’s pizzas are top notch and had really saved our bacon a couple of nights before, the rest of the menu is exceptional and begged to be sampled.

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Matt and I had creamy lobster mac n’ cheese and the spicy cioppino with a fresh salad. It was out of this world.

I’m not sure how we had the energy to stop for a drink at Foxy’s before heading home, but we did.

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Then it was time to head back and get some sleep, lest we end up looking like this guy:

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THURSDAY: STRESS FREE.

So far, we had spent our beach days on what I call the “party end” of White Bay. This is where you will find the Soggy Dollar Bar, an inordinate number of people in straw cowboy hats, and a sea of boats pulled up to the shore. It’s crowded. It’s loud. It’s fun.

But sometimes, you want the quiet end of White Bay. That’s when you park it at Ivan’s Stress Free Bar.

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We lined up 14 chairs, mixed up some rum punch, and proceeded to take over the place.

It appeared the “off day” had worked it’s magic and everyone had their groove back.

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That was a good thing, because we had a lot of rum to drink in two days.

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I guess Ivan’s wasn’t the quite end of the beach anymore.

When the hungries hit, we headed back to Hendo’s for lunch. Dinner had been so great, lunch had to be pretty good.

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It was good.

The afternoon was spent doing a whole lot of nothing.

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That evening, we all got cleaned up and decided to head to Ivan’s for the Thursday night buffet, because we certainly needed more all-you-can-eat on this trip!

Ivan’s didn’t disappoint and the ladies serves us up some mean chicken and ribs.

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We ate enough to send us all into a food coma for the night.

Or was that the rum?

It was getting hard to tell.

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FRIDAY: AIN’T NO PARTY LIKE A HATFIELD PARTY, ‘CUZ A HATFIELD PARTY DON’T STOP.

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One of our friends had come up with this phrase on a previous trip and it had stuck. Because it was true.

We were good at this.

We had sustained the party for a week with very few down times. Even Vicki the Funmeister was impressed with this group’s stamina.

It was our last day, so we wanted to make it a good one. We decided to stay on “our beach” for the day. We lined up the chairs, blew up the floats, dragged out the paddle boards, anchored the floating mattresses, and turned up the Rockville.

The day was non-stop fun.

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We went through every phase of beach drinking that day.

There was the “this is the most fun I have ever had in my life,” phase:

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That was followed by the “I love you, man,” phase:

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Next up was the “we are amazing dancers,” phase:

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Things started to wind down with the “I've fallen....and I can't get up,” phase:

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And finally, the, “let’s just take a nap,” phase:

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With one dinner left, we let Matt pick where he wanted his last meal on the island.

Of course he picked Sidney’s Peace & Love for another monster lobster. He is painfully addicted to their potato salad.

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Before we knew it, we were hanging up our own shirt at Foxy's and taking our last sleep on the birthday island.

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SATURDAY: ADIOS TO JOST….IT’S THAT TIME OF DAY.

It’s the point that comes in every trip: time to go home.

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I couldn’t believe how the week had gone. It had been amazing. Near perfect.

All 14 of us had gotten along so well that it was almost frightening (rum helps with that, I think). There had been no fights, no arguments, and no hurt feelings. We practically held hands and sang “Kumbayah” every day like a commune full of hippies in an old farmhouse in Woodstock filled with cats.

The weather had been great. Everything had gone well. We never ran out of potato chips. And no one got hurt (except for one unfortunate incident involving a member of our party and a large shrub.....).

I couldn’t believe how great the week had gone. I couldn’t believe how fortunate we were to be able to spend a week in paradise. I couldn’t believe how blessed we were to call these people our friends.

Ehr ma gawd, that’s some sappy crappy, isn’t it? I blame all the rum I guzzled over the trip for that word vomit. My liver is still trying to recover.

(But I meant every word of it)

So, here’s to Matt! Here’s to his 50th! Here’s to great friends!

If this is what we did for his 50th, I better start the planning for mine NOW.

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Posted by vicki_h 11:05 Archived in British Virgin Islands Tagged island caribbean tortola jost_van_dyke bvi british_virgin_islands Comments (5)

Going Out on a Limb - Taking Our Anniversary to New Heights

Matt and I have made it a tradition to go somewhere unique for our anniversary.

Some years, it’s somewhere tropical like Jost Van Dyke.

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Other years, we stick to romantic places like Savannah or the Banner Elk Winery in Blowing Rock.

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And don’t forget the time I made him go “glamping” in the woods.

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Last year’s glamping experience was so enjoyable, I decided to take it to an entirely new level, and by new level, I mean about 20 feet up.

This year I found the ultimate anniversary getaway.

The day I ran across an Airbnb ad for this treehouse in the middle of Atlanta, GA…I knew I needed this treehouse in my life:

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Maybe I read Swiss Family Robinson too many times as a child, but sleeping in a tree that had all the comforts of home seemed like the ultimate romantic getaway to me.

I will admit I worried a little. I have read some Airbnb horror stories like the one about the guy that rented a house only to have some huge Russian show up in the middle of the night asking him what the hell he was doing in his house and threatening to crush him. Seriously, that’s not only a good way to ruin a weekend, it’s a good way to ruin a perfectly good pair of underpants.

While reasonably confident that this was, indeed, a romantic, lovely treehouse in Atlanta, there was a small, secret part of me that worried it was actually nothing more than an oddly elevated shed that looked out over some guy’s lawn and his kid’s trampoline.

Those twinkling fairy lights had me, though. I was willing to chance it. If the treehouse was even half as adorable in reality as it was in those photos, it was going to be worth it.

It was a beautiful spring afternoon and we found ourselves travelling down busy Howell Mill Rd. in Buckhead. The GPS said our destination was less than a mile away.

Could this be right?

The treehouses looked like they were in the middle of nowhere in the photos, and here we were in the middle of Friday afternoon rush hour in Atlanta.

As we passed a strip mall with a PetCo and a Chipotle, the GPS said we were only .5 mile away.

Seriously?

Had I made a mistake?

Was our magical treehouse adventure going to be nothing more than a garden shed on stilts overlooking I-75?

Suddenly, we found ourselves turning into a beautiful, residential neighborhood, one filled with huge trees and lush green lawns. We crept through the quiet streets and came to a long driveway that took us back into the woods.

Within seconds, we were literally transported from the hustle and bustle of Buckhead to the quiet of an urban forest.

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It was extraordinary.

It was as though Peter and Katie Bahouth had created a portal to another dimension rather than simply build a treehouse in the woods surrounding their Buckhead home. A dimension that was darkly lush and green and filled with the sounds of a hundred birds.

The treehouse was nestled in the woods in the heart of Buckhead, but it was as removed from the City as a country retreat would have been. It was made up of three different structures connected by swinging rope bridges and decorated with dainty white lights.

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The first structure was a living room complete with a chandelier and 80 year old windows with pressed butterflies and a balcony overlooking the forest. A basket had been left for us filled with chilled water, snacks, and wine.

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The middle structure was an uber romantic bedroom with gauzy white curtains and a super soft double bed that could be rolled out onto a platform to sleep under the stars. It was like walking into an Anthropologie catalog.

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The third structure was a deck that wrapped around the “Old Man,” an 80+ year old massive pine tree. There was even a hammock for afternoon naps.

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I was instantly enchanted.

I couldn’t believe all of this was ours for the weekend.

We immediately popped open the wine and celebrated our good fortune.

“To 16 years!” We shouted, the Old Man nodding approval from above.

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We had late dinner reservations at The Local Three. Who could resist a restaurant with the following philosophy:

“People Matter Most, Local Is Priority, Seasonal Makes Sense, Authenticity Rules, Quality Governs, Delicious Trumps, Pretense Stinks, Comfort Feels Good, Appreciation Tastes Better, Prudence Sustains It All.”

I knew that Local Three was located in an office building, so I wasn't expecting the location to be very dazzling. What they failed to mention was that it was a gorgeous Tuscan inspired office building, complete with manicured lawns and a giant villa towering in the background.

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We ran around for a moment, doing our best Taylor Swift video impression. What I really needed was a vintage convertible and a golf club.

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We had reserved the Chef’s Table. Not your standard Chef’s Table, the Local Three puts a private table right in the kitchen, where you can be front and center to all of the action. We were shown to our table, decorated romantically with mason jar candles and a special menu that was a tribute to the late Prince, who had died just the day before.

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Their goal is to provide you food and wine pairings until you cry “Mercy!”

I knew it was going to be good when the first question our server asked us was, “Do you have someone who can drive you home? If not, I can get you the number for a taxi before we get started.”

Mercy!

The evening began with a toast with some bubbly, Le Dolci Collini Prosecco.

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Then the onslaught began.

The first course was “OOH, THIS YOU NEED.” I did need it. It was the “O.G.” Truffle Parmesan Popcorn. I was pretty sure “O.G.” stood for “Oh, goodness….” Because that’s what I kept saying as I ate it.

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The popcorn course (I think all meals should have a popcorn course, frankly) was followed by the “RASPBERRY BERET.” This was a beautiful salad of Atlanta Harvest greens topped with radish and basil and the most tender, salty slivers of country ham imaginable. This was paired with a Beckstoffer “Hogwash” Rose.

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Next up was “IF I LOVE U 2 NITE.” This was ahi tuna with papaya, avocado, coconut, macadamia, and sesame paired with Gianni Gagliardo Fallegro Favorita.

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And the dishes kept coming.

So did the wine.

The fourth course was “HOT THING,” grilled asparagus with parmesan, chopped egg, and sourdough paired with a William Fevre Champs Royaux Chardonnay.

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Because Matt is not a huge fan of bubbly, rose, or white wines, I had been finishing his as well as mine, and I had been significantly overserved by this point.

I had no intention of crying “Mercy!” Mercy is for wimps.

I powered on.

The fifth course, “TILEFISH & COFFEE,” was a delicious serving of fish with fingerling potatoes flavored with fennel, kale, and sour cherry paired with an Andre Dupuis Bourgogne Pinot Noir.

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Still not ready to throw in the towel, we dove into the sixth course, “LITTLE RED CUTLET,” a rare prime strip with spring onions, barley, carrots and peppercorn, paired with a Justin Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon.

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Course seven (YES….SEVEN!!!) was “CREAM,” a cheese plate that included 4 delightful selections along with flatbread, jam, and honey. This was paired with Turley “Juvenile” Zinfindel.

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Just as we were about to cry, “MERCY!” they brought out the “CHOCOLATE INVASION,” so instead, we cried “Merci!” and gobbled down the sweet, creamy torte that came with a shot of Buffalo Trace bourbon cream.

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I wasn’t crying mercy, but I was crying, “Lord have Mercy,” which in southern speak is the phrase you use when something is just so unbelievable that there are simply no other words that will do. It is also important to note that one must always shake her head 'No' while saying it in order to get the full effect.

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Because I drank all of my wine and half of Matt’s, we did not need help driving back to the treehouse, but Matt might have needed help getting me up across that rope ladder.

It was a cool April night and the cozy bed was heated, so we snuggled in, wondering what sleeping in a treehouse would be like.

I’ll tell you what it was like. Instead of being in a hotel trying repeatedly to get the curtains to shut all the way so the lights from outside didn’t seep in while we slept and listening to the guy in the next room flush his toilet, we were in a quiet forest, cocooned in a canopy of green with nothing to disturb the silence other than the occasional frog down by the babbling creek below.

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Yeah, it was good.

We woke up the next morning and found it hard to get out of bed. No, that wasn’t the wine talking, it was just that cozy. The bed was crazy soft and warm (can you say "heated mattress pad?)," like a little nest. We could hear the birds softly twittering in the trees. I never wanted to move.

At least until I heard Peter’s little bell. That meant coffee! I'll move for coffee. Hell, I would have jumped up and swung through the trees Tarzan-style for coffee.

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I fetched our little basket and it was filled with a thermos of hot coffee for me, sugar, cream, and a thermos of hot water with cocoa for Matt.

We could have eaten one of the nice granola bars that Peter had left for us in our snack box from the day before, but, thanks to my wine stupor the night before, I had forgotten to latch them in the plastic bin, as Peter suggested. I found them hidden under the sofa with suspicious chew marks on them and decided they were best left for the squirrels.

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No matter. We had breakfast plans that included a significant tally of fat and carbohydrates, so I really didn’t want to ruin my appetite with a granola bar anyway.

After a peaceful morning in the treehouse, we made our way into the bustle of the City and headed straight for Buttermilk Kitchen. Open only for breakfast and lunch, Buttermilk Kitchen is the vision of Suzanne Vizethann whose mission is to nurture people through food using sustainable, local ingredients. Almost everything in her kitchen is made in-house from scratch and it shows.

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Matt must have been hungry. This is all his: caramelized banana oatmeal, grits topped with over easy eggs, and just in case that wasn’t enough, a side of bacon.

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I simply went for the fried chicken biscuit with cheese grits and a tasty little side of bread and butter pickles.

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We spent the day shopping our way through Buckhead, which was super awesome, except for the 45 minutes I was tortured inside The Fish Hawk, a giant fishing store that made me feel like I was trapped in a Turkish prison with no chance of escape unless I could figure out how to hang myself with some fishing line.

I suppose Matt can only do so much shoe shopping.

When the hungries hit, we made our way to Antico Pizza Napoletana in Atlanta. This place was nothing to look at, but it is known as the best pizza in Atlanta. We entered the spartan, warehouse-like building and found ourselves ordering at the counter, being given a number, and then wandering to the back, which was filled with family-style picnic tables that overlooked the pizza making operation. Stacks of San Marzano D.O.P. tomatoes, bags of 00 flour, and pizza boxes rising to the ceiling flanked the walls. A wood fired oven glowed in the back, while several men tossed pizza crusts in the air.

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We watched as our pizza was tossed, spread, sprinkled, and baked. The finished product was shuffled from the oven onto an aluminum cookie sheet lined with paper and placed rather unceremoniously in front of us with a roll of rough brown paper towels.

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How was the pizza?

Transcendent.

The crust was crisp and blistered from a mere two minutes in the oven. A zesty sauce was scantily smeared on and topped with gooey fresh buffalo mozzarella. A few leaves of basil and a little drizzle of olive oil transformed it into perfection.

We took our pizza bellies back to the treehouse for a nap under the rustling leaves.

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We had dinner plans that evening with friends who live in Atlanta, so we dragged ourselves out of the cushy bed and spruced up a little.

NOTE: Stilettos and rope ladders do not mix.

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Our friends took us to Cape Dutch, a newer restaurant on the Atlanta dining scene with an South African flair and warmly sophisticated décor.

The “thing to order,” I was told, was the braai, a South African grill.

After an appetizer of tuna that was as beautiful as it was delicious, I dove into the braai filet mignon and a side of crispy perfect fries.

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Then it was back to the treehouse for another peaceful night.

We rolled the bed out on the platform so that we could sleep under the stars.

Pure magic.

After sleeping in as long as we possibly could, we enjoyed another coffee basket and said our goodbyes to the treehouse.

We waved “farewell” to the Old Man as we headed to West Egg to grab some breakfast.

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Apparently, everyone else headed to West Egg at the same time, so there was a bit of a wait.

Waiting makes us hungry, so we felt justified when we ordered 3 breakfasts for 2 people:

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A stack of sour cream pancakes with spiced honey butter to share as well as the eggs benedict for Matt and the Peachtree Plate for me. The Peachtree Plate was loaded with eggs, a biscuit, bacon, cheese grits, and fried green tomatoes.

We remembered what our moms told us about starving children and made sure we ate every single bite.

We spent another day shopping before heading to Alpharetta for the night.

Why Alpharetta?

Aside from the fact that I GREW UP THERE, we had concert tickets for Van Morrison that night.

Sure, Alpharetta is all “big city” now and is simply considered an extension of Atlanta, but I remember it “back in the day” when the only place to eat out was the Dixie Diner and we were super excited to get our first fast food place, nearly going out of our minds when we got a Hardee’s.

Alpharetta may have on her city slicker pants these days, but to me, she’s still just a simple girl in overalls.

I made Matt do the obligatory “drive by my old house” before we made our way to Pure Tacqueria, our favorite place to grab dinner before a show at the amphitheater.

Housed in what’s left of an abandoned 1920’s Pure Fuel Oil Station, this little restaurant serves up strong margaritas and stellar tacos.

After a fantastic meal (and that’s not just the tequila talking!), we headed to the amphitheater.

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Matt, a man who has never been able to properly keep his personal taste within his own age demographic, LOVES Van Morrison. Since the early 60s, Van Morrison has been churning out music that could be called anything from soulful to jazzy to blues-rock to folk music.

If you don’t think you know Van Morrison’s music, you do. Think Brown Eyed Girl, Dancing in the Moonlight, and Crazy Love. Try watching a movie and not hearing at least one Van Morrison song on the soundtrack.

With “Van the Man” being 70 years old and doing very limited performances in the US, I knew this might be Matt’s one and only chance to see him live, so I had gotten him 4th row center tickets for our anniversary.

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I think it was everything he hoped it would be.

After a final breakfast at our old standby, The Flying Biscuit (yes, I ate everything in that picture), it was time to head home.

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We have 16 years under our belt. I hope the next 16 are as amazing as these have been.

Here’s to us!

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Posted by vicki_h 05:59 Archived in USA Tagged georgia atlanta treehouse buckhead Comments (3)

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