A Travellerspoint blog

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)

Weekend Getaway to Guana Cay

FRIDAY

Now that we have our own little place on Guana Cay, we run down every chance we get. When we recently had an opportunity to head down for a long weekend with use of a free airplane, we jumped at the opportunity even though it was only a few short days.

Sure, we had only been back from Honduras for 7 days, but FREE AIRPLANE PEOPLE.

I wasn't going to let a little thing like "responsibilities" get in the way of a free ride.

Literally a hop, skip, and a jump (okay, more like a 4 hour flight….but STILL….so easy) and we were climbing off the plane at the Marsh Harbour airport.

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Having our own boat on Marsh Harbour has made arrivals a little easier. I love grabbing a taxi and having it take us to our own boat rather than the ferry dock. This beats trying to coordinate my arrival with the Albury Ferry. Not that I don’t love the Albury Ferry, but not having to adhere to a particular arrival time is so liberating.

Instead of arriving to get to a ferry, wait for a ferry, and take a ferry to Scotland Cay for a stop before proceeding on to Guana Cay, we found ourselves tossing our luggage onto our boat and making a B-line for Lubbers Landing. There was plenty of time to get to Guana and unpack later. Right now, it was time for saltwater margaritas.

Although, if I am completely honest, this really set off my OCD alarm. I am a “get there, unpack, get organized before you do anything fun” kind of gal. Running off to have fun first was like eating dessert before dinner.

Although, with proper therapy, I think I can get used to it.

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How can anyone possibly need this much luggage? We looked like we were moving to Cambodia for a year, not spending a weekend in Abaco. It’s amazing what not having to go through TSA or pay for baggage does to one’s packing.

“Do I need an unabridged copy of War and Peace? Maybe. Let’s throw it in. What about that box of live pigeons? Those might come in handy. I may need this ball gown. Better to be safe than sorry.”

Once we had our 19 bags stowed, we were on our way.

OCD alarm be damned. It was liberating to have the breeze blowing in my hair while holding a hastily made boat drink in my hand within minutes of landing.

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It was Friday and our destination was Pizza Night at Lubbers Landing.

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We had put in our required order the day before, because nothing is worse than showing up on Pizza Night without being expected only to discover that you have to let Austin know the day before so he can make the dough.

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The pizza oven was already fired up and getting ready for the night’s festivities when we arrived. We ordered drinks and sank into the cushy sofa, letting the peace of Lubbers Landing sink into our bones. Austin and Amy have created an oasis of happy at Lubbers Landing and we have found no better way to kick-start our vacations in Abaco than with a cold drink at their breezy bar.

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Sometimes, you need a lot of margaritas.

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Before long, Austin was tossing our dough in the air with more skill than a Harlem Globetrotter handles a basketball. When he asked us what we wanted on our pizza, we wisely deferred to his expert judgment and found ourselves faced with an Austin Special: savory salami and pepperoni, red onions, rosemary, banana peppers, and just a hint of Lubber’s magic.

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The pizza was so good that I found myself throwing up a “Mamma Mia” to the pepperoni gods and finding myself wanting to lead everyone in a rousing chorus of “That’s Amore.”

We made it to Guana Cay just as the sun was setting.

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I couldn’t wait to get to Bikini Hut. (That’s not just the OCD talking)

I’m still adjusting to the difference in arriving to your own house vs. arriving to a vacation rental. Bikini Hut is my haven and I am so happy every time I walk inside. It is my perfect cozy nest and I couldn’t wait to settle in.

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It was the same feeling I get when I have been away from home for a while and I return and the smell and feel of “my home” hits me square in the face. Bikini Hut changed everything.

I was able to get us unpacked before the heart palpitations started and marveled at how wonderful it was to drift off to sleep in my own bed.

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SATURDAY

We had agreed to get the boat out for this trip so that meant this trip was more about fun and less about work.

I started my morning off with a walk on the beach. We had left the dogs at home due to the “last minuteness” of the trip, and I had to admit that walking on the beach is simply not the same experience without those two bumbling furballs running into my ankles, digging stupid holes and getting sand up their noses, and running enthusiastically ahead of me, turning around every few seconds to make sure I was still coming.

Yeah, I missed them.

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After my beach walk, I took a walk around the neighborhood. This meant I walked across the street and checked out the Island Flavors menu board, strolled out onto one of the many docks across the street to peek at the water, and nodded “good morning” to Milo at his fruit stand. The neighborhood walk took about 30 seconds.

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I headed back to Bikini Hut.

Apparently, Bikini Hut was an actual bikini store at some point in its 100-year history and the house came with this old sign buried inside. We assumed it was probably the sign for the original bikini store and decided to keep it. Matt thought it would be cute to hang it up outside on the cistern building.

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At the time, we did not realize this would have unintended consequences.

I was milling around the kitchen when a stranger walked through the front door and into the house.

It is important to note here that I am socially awkward. There is something about interacting with others that makes me feel itchy and hot and leaves me struggling for meaningful conversation while simultaneously scanning the room for the nearest exit. I have accepted this about myself after years of awkward mingling and tripping over nothing on sidewalks.

This moment would have been a difficult encounter for me if I had actually invited this woman to my house and knew who she was. Having a stranger in my house and having no idea why she was there was pushing me to my limits of mental stability. My hands instantly became clammy as I tried to figure out what to say.

However, she was a lovely lady, nicely dressed and very polite, so I wasn’t alarmed in a “fear of danger” way. Instead, my “social alarm” was pinging, thinking that I had invited someone over and had not only forgotten the invitation, but had forgotten who they were.

When she saw me she said, “Good morning. I just wanted to see the place.”

It is important to note here that I have corresponded with a number of people I have never actually met through the Abaco Forum and through this blog, so I simply assumed this was someone that had told me they’d love to stop by and see the changes to the house sometime and I had encouraged them to do so.

Despite my proclivity for social evasion, I am a Southern Woman. This creates an internal struggle when interacting with others. My “tell them to go away” battles with my “invite them in and give them a casserole.” We tell people to “Come on by anytime.” It’s what we are raised to do whether we mean it or not.

That is why I looked at this stranger standing in my house and said, “Feel free to look around.”

Which made things really weird.

It started to get strange when she started looking around more intently than I would expect, like she was looking for something.

The clammy hands were joined by a tight feeling in my chest. Something was off. I was trying to think of something reasonably appropriate to say. Obviously, shouting, “Who sent you??? What do you want with me???? Are they watching??” would make me look mentally unstable, so I just said nothing.

“Is this everything you have or is there more in the back?” she asked.

I wasn’t sure how to respond. Obviously, she was not as enthralled with my remodeling efforts as I was and felt I should have more things decorating the place.

Still thinking she must be here to see the Bikini Hut remodel because my mind simply could not come up with an alternative, I said, “Well, the kitchen and bedroom are back there. Feel free to take a peek.”

This just made things weirder.

She looked puzzled.

I looked puzzled.

She stared at me in silence.

I stared back.

We stood and stared at each other for a moment, both of us knowing something was amiss and trying politely to figure out what the hell was going on when she courteously asked, “Is this all you have for sale or are there swimsuits?”

Life is filled with awkward moments. This wasn’t Steve-Harvey-Crowning-the-Wrong-Miss-Universe-On-Television awkward, and it probably didn’t rank up there with the time one of my friends woke up naked in a stranger’s house only to find out that the man she accompanied there the night before didn’t live there, was gone, and had her clothes, but in my book, it was right up there with being in an elevator with a stranger who audibly farts or trying repeatedly to get in your car in a parking lot only to realize your car is the one 2 rows over.

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Unfortunately, she was standing in my living room, so I couldn’t just pretend I didn’t notice her or casually run in the opposite direction. I found myself looking around for the hidden cameras, hoping this was just a huge prank.

I thought back to my mom and all those times she said not to let strangers in the house. So THIS was what she was talking about. I should have listened.

It was like being trapped in this recurring dream I have where I walk up to a yard sale and start nonchalantly looking at items only to discover it’s not a yard sale, it’s just a messy yard. Only in this dream, I was the yard sale.

I tried to figure out how to extricate myself from the situation without appearing rude or insane. Obviously, screaming and running out the back door was not an option. I considered crawling under my dining table and pretending it was a fort, because nothing bad ever happens in a fort, but that would not solve the problem because there would still be a stranger in my living room asking me for swimsuits.

I was going to have to deal with this very uncomfortable situation before she started looking through my dresser for some swimwear to take home.

It was then that I thought about the sign.

The Bikini Hut sign.

The one that said, “Swimsuits and More!”

She thought I was a retail store.

This certainly didn’t make the situation any less uncomfortable, because I knew once I responded, she would be embarrassed. Then I would be embarrassed because she was embarrassed. Then we would still be standing there, facing each other in a never ending spiral of embarrassment and misery, with no clear way to end the encounter unless a sinkhole suddenly opened up in the floor and swallowed us both.

I thought about quickly pretending my iPad was a credit card swiper and selling her something from my coffee table, but I knew I was just going to have to embrace the uneasiness of this moment in all its putrid glory because she still had not realized what was going on and was looking to me for clarification of where the retail racks could be found.

I bumbled through an awkward explanation about how this was my house, not a store, and how the sign was an old sign from when the house WAS a store……. after which she apologized, fled, and sprinted down the street.

I probably could have salvaged the encounter if I had normal human social skills instead of communicating like I was raised by a family of cats.

I cursed that sign and went about my morning. I put it out of my head.

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It was a calm day without much wind and lots of sunshine, so we decided to take friends who were on island all the way to Pete’s Pub. The added stress of running a retail store on Front Street had made for a long morning, so we were all eager to get there and get our lunch on, so we made straight for Little Harbour.

The day was gorgeous as we “oooooed” and “aaaaahed” our way south.

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The cherry on top of the trip was a double greeting by two spotted eagle rays as we pulled up to the dock.

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I took this as a sign that all of the calamities of the day had passed and the rest of the day would be nothing but sunshine and unicorns.

And drinks.

Which is pretty much the same as sunshine and unicorns. Rum is just dream flavored water, I always say.

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Pete’s Pub serves some of the best fish in the Abacos. We enjoyed some spectacular fish sandwiches with their always amazing peas & rice and walnut cole slaw before hitting the water to cool off.

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I will say, though, I am puzzled by the paper towels at Pete's. Is it a paper towel? Is it a toilet paper roll? Under normal circumstances this would not be an issue, but after a few Blasters, it's creates quite the mental conundrum.

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As we pulled out of Little Harbour, a pod of dolphins put on a spectacular display for us. This day really was sunshine and rainbows, wasn’t it?

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We kept the good times going by stopping at one of the small uninhabited cays for beach drinks. It was a sun-filled, fun-filled afternoon.

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And then we got the boat stuck on a sandbar in Tilloo Pond. No worries, the guys pushed us off and the fun continued.

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We were on top of the world!

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And then the boat quick working.

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I have always heard that bad things come in threes. I guess we had our three.

The good news? We were right outside Orchid Bay marina, it wasn’t quite dark yet, and this meant our bad things were over for the trip! Right?

We limped the boat in, tied her off, and went to drown our sorrows with ribs and cheesecake at Sunsetters.

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SUNDAY

It was a beautiful morning on Guana Cay.

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People were streaming onto the island for Sunday Funday. Arriving by boat, ferry, or crawling out of their villas, they were pouring down the street. It was going to be a lively day.

Matt went to cry on his boat for a while, so I kicked back at the house.

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I came out of the bathroom to find a strange woman in my den looking at my Tommy Bahama candles.

I wish I was joking.

After I ran her off with a pool noodle I spent the rest of the morning painting over that sign.

With only 2 full days on the island, we had to use part of Sunday Funday as Boat Day. Unfortunately, our fuel pump was out, so our boat was FINISHED.

Thankfully, our friends had their boat, so we piled in and headed for the lagoon.

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This spot never disappoints and the day was no exception. We pulled out the snacks, mixed up the drinks, and did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

Aaahhh…….bliss.

It was Sunday Funday at Nippers, however, so we couldn’t spend all day luxuriating in the sunshine in the peace and quiet. It is a condition of vacationing with Vicki that at least a portion of each Sunday be spent at Nippers.

I can’t help but love the colorful atmosphere, the amazing views, and the fun music.

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Okay, I really love the Nippers. Who am I trying to fool?

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Unfortunately, my alter ego, Bad Dancer Vicki, seems to come out every time I am at Nippers no matter how honorable my intentions are.

I’m afraid that I am the reason you can’t take your kids to Nippers after 3:00 p.m.

I’m sorry.

Nippers transforms me from this:

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To this:

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In time honored tradition, we moved the party from Nippers to Grabbers in the late afternoon for some sustenance. Despite the delicious pasta, buffalo wings, and pizza…..apparently, all I wanted were some Doritos.

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Sometimes you just really need some Doritos.

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MONDAY

Like a flash, it was over.

It no longer makes me sad when I leave, though.

I’ll be back before you can say, "Do you have any swimsuits for sale?"

Until next time, Bikini Hut!

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Posted by vicki_h 11:40 Archived in Bahamas Tagged island caribbean tropical abaco elbow_cay guana_cay marsh_harbour treasure_cay lubbers_landing Comments (0)

Honduras Bonus: Utila and Roatan video

Posted by vicki_h 08:22 Archived in Honduras Tagged beach island caribbean tropical honduras roatan utila little_cay deserted_island Comments (0)

In Pursuit of Paradise Last Day: Vomit Comet

The Bay Islands of Honduras

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As I sat on the deck of Brisa del Mar, rubbing K2’s ears in the morning breeze, I couldn’t believe it was time to leave. Our time on Little Cay and Roatan had been spectacular.

However, there was still one thing eating at me.

No, not the intestinal bacteria that was setting up housekeeping in my abdomen…..

I wanted to kayak out and snorkel that reef.

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It was a clear, calm morning, so we had Fausto put in the kayak. We eyeballed the buoys from shore and made our way out to them. We found them easily this time and enjoyed a leisurely snorkel along the pristine reef before facing the inevitable task of packing to leave.

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The staff drove us back to the airport where we spent several hours waiting in various hot lines to leave.

At 2:00 p.m., we boarded our Delta flight to head to Atlanta, where we would have an overnight layover before flying home to Knoxville.

As I sat on the plane, I reflected back over the past week. It had truly been amazing. While Roatan and Utila would not make my list for favorite islands, not even close really, the trip itself was one of my favorites we had ever taken. It was hard to explain.

I was basking in warm thoughts of sloth hugging and gentle seas when the first pain hit. Within minutes, I felt like that thing from Alien was about to burst forth from my abdomen.

I cringed in pain as the chills started. My teeth started to chatter as I shook violently.

Matt felt me shivering uncontrollably next to him and asked if I was okay. I shook my head slowly, knowing that a coach seat on an airplane flying 3 hours over the Gulf of Mexico was the worst conceivable location to be sick.

He got me several blankets, but I couldn’t get the shaking to stop.

An hour later, I was shivering, my stomach hurt in a way that can only be described as hellish, and I was sick, sick, sick.

I just knew it was malaria.

I knew I hadn’t used enough Deet. I had gotten exactly 4 mosquito bites during the week and I was trying to figure out exactly which one of the four had infected me.

Two hours of extreme misery later, we made it to the Atlanta airport. By this time, I was in so much agony, Matt had to get me off the plane in a wheelchair. I felt sorry for him as he pushed a wheelchair loaded with me, a suitcase, and my heavy tote with one hand, carried his backpack on his back, and pulled the other suitcase behind him with the other hand.

Customs was at least 17 miles from the gate.

I wish I was joking.

We walked for 30 minutes before we finally reached the area for customs. They put us in the “special needs” line, but even that took a good 20 minutes, all the while I kept looking at Matt and saying, “I need to go to the hospital.”

I guess the blessing, if you can call anything about food poisoning on an airplane a blessing, was twofold:

1) It took so long to get off the plane, to customs, and through customs, that I could tell I wasn’t getting any worse. I realized I did not, in fact, have malaria, and appeared to have a really bad case of food poisoning. The cramps were getting farther apart. I decided to wait it out instead of going to the hospital.

2) We had an overnight layover, which meant I didn’t have to get on another plane; this was good, because I couldn’t have that night.
We grabbed a cab to our hotel. I thought I would die in the cab, but somehow I didn’t. When we got to our room, Matt had 2 additional down comforters brought up and bundled me in them. I finally stopped shivering after about an hour and the cramping eased off after several hours.
We slept.

Sure, it wasn’t the best end to the trip and, even though it has been five days, my stomach still isn’t right, but if you asked me if I’d do the trip again knowing how it would end, I would say “yes.”

It’s the risk you take when you travel, and to me, it was worth it.

The trip was amazing and I wouldn’t trade a second of it. Utila and Roatan might not have had countless pristine beaches or luxury restaurants, but it had a quality that drew me in and makes me want to go back.

I might think more carefully about what I eat next time though……

Ro-ro-ro-atan…gently by the sea…merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily…life is but a dream.

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Posted by vicki_h 08:03 Archived in Honduras Tagged beach island caribbean tropical honduras roatan utila little_cay deserted_island Comments (2)

In Pursuit of Paradise Day 7: The Sloth is my Spirit Animal

The Bay Islands of Honduras

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It hadn’t been an easy night for me. I had blackened my toe running through the house to try to make it to the other bathroom so that I wouldn’t wake Matt up with all my vomiting. I was up and down all night with hot miserable things pouring out of various parts of my body.

I was exhausted.

I had saved some of our best plans for the last day and I felt so ill, I was worried I would miss it.

Because West Bay was touted as the single best spot in all of Roatan, it is also the most popular, particularly with cruise ships. I had read that, on a heavy cruise ship day, you can barely find a spot in the sand. That’s my idea of hell, so we had waited for the one day that NO CRUISE SHIPS would be on the island. We wanted to enjoy West Bay in relative peace and not feel like we were on a beach that had been planted in the center of Wal-Mart.

I had also planned a visit to Daniel Johnson’s Monkey and Sloth Sanctuary, where I might actually get to hold a sloth.

We also wanted to visit West End, a funky, bohemian village next to West Bay, and the owner of Brisa del Mar had told us about the Friday afternoon party that cranked up at a place called BJ’s Backyard in Oak Ridge.

I couldn’t miss all of that.

I told Matt to let me sleep for a couple of hours and we’d see.

I emerged from my coma around 9:00 and announced that I was ready to tackle the day.

I was, sort of.

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After a breakfast of Pepto-Bismol and Advil, I was ready.

We found the monkey and sloth sanctuary easily from Daniel’s directions, located just inside French Harbour. Not a zoo, the place is a small animal shelter located in the back yard of the family’s home. They have rescued a number of macaws and monkeys that individuals took as pets and then abandoned. They also have several sloths, an animal that is inexplicably hunted and killed on mainland Honduras.

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Who would want to kill a sloth???

I love sloths. And why not? I learned from my visit that sloths and I have a lot in common. We both love sleeping, we love hugs, and neither of us move very fast. Hugging a sloth was like everything good about hugging a baby, without any tears, poopy diapers, excessive spit, or that spoiled milk smell.

Matt was a big hit with the monkeys.

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I was feeling reasonably recovered, so we continued to make our way west.

West Bay Beach….we were on our way!

As we drove, we noticed the small island of Roatan was drastically divided. On the east side, where we had spent all of our time thus far, the landscape was sparsely populated with homes, and most things we saw were fairly simple and modest. We regularly saw open fields full of cows and the occasional Honduran cowboy riding his horse along his fence line, checking for breaks. Roadside stands were scattered on the highway, where women stood grilling corn. Clean laundry fluttered in the breeze behind simple shacks.

On the west side, tourism has taken over. We started to see shops, restaurants, and tons of people. Around each curve there was another sign for zip-lines, dolphin encounters, scuba excursions, and dune buggies. Signs for large resorts appeared at every turn.

I already missed the fine white sand of Camp Bay Beach, with nary a soul in sight.

After an hour of driving through throngs of people, roadside shops filled with cheap sarongs, and signs promising the “adventure of a lifetime,” we found ourselves at the road to West Bay Beach, famed jewel of Roatan.

I had high expectations. On Roatan, West Bay is the Prom Queen of beaches. She is the one that everyone wants to hang out with, bragging to their friends with an iPhone picture to prove it.

She is held up as the prettiest one around. Described as one long, blond babe, with the softest and purest of sand, curves in all the right places, and meticulously groomed so that not a speck of seaweed sullies her pristine shores. She’s the one in all the glossy brochures, beckoning the weary, the burned out, and the overworked to her turquoise shores.

She is West Bay Beach.

We parked the car at the Beach Club at San Simon and strolled through the facility, which was lovely. An open air beach bar greeted us, dotted with loungers and day beds on the ocean side.

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We stepped out onto the sand, expectations high.

Hip-hop music immediately blasted us from 4 competing stereo systems, each appearing to strive for the award of loudest and most obnoxious. I sat on a beach lounge and looked out over a sea of braided hair, paper cups filled with cheap liquor, sunscreen, and the lost, glazed over looks of the uninspired. The beautiful, gin clear water was cluttered with banana boats, parasailing, paddle boards, and floating docks covered with signs for “BEST RIDES!”

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We managed to find a sliver of beach that wasn’t covered with a poorly stocked bar, sarong stand, or cheap jewelry table and gazed at an endless line of vendors toting coolers and buckets filled with anything and everything you might, or might not, want to buy on the beach.

And this was a day with NO CRUISE SHIPS.

It was Myrtle Beach on spring break.

This wasn’t the Prom Queen. It was a cocktail waitress in a Dolly Parton wig.

Sure, the beach was very lovely, but it had been carelessly ruined by overdevelopment and littered with so much cheap crap that you could barely see the beauty beneath it all.

As I sat on my chair, I was approached by six vendors in under 3 minutes trying to sell me jewelry, conch shells, jade turtles, unidentifiable food wrapped in aluminum foil from a 5 gallon bucket, ice cream bars, and a parasailing excursion.

This was not our scene.

Nonetheless, we had driven an hour to be here, so we were going to make the most of it.

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We pulled some chairs down toward the water and I sent Matt in search of drinks.

Every island seems to have its own drink. The Bahamas have the Bahama Mama. The BVI is home to the infamous Painkiller. Cuba has the Mojito….and Roatan has the Monkey-la-la.

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Sure, this sounds more like an apt description of me trying to dance, but it’s actually named after the ever-present lizard you will see running across any road up on its hind legs. It’s also commonly known as the Jesus Lizard because it can walk on water for a bit before sinking. I guess the drink is named appropriately, because I’m pretty sure you might try to walk on water and do other miraculous things after drinking 4 or 5 of them.

The monkey la-la was potent and delicious. An adult milkshake with an afterbite. It was the best thing we found on West Bay Beach.

We soaked in the sun and water for about an hour, sipping monkey la-las and wondering how long we were actually required to stay before we could make an exit without feeling like we had totally wasted our time.

When a vendor actually approached me IN THE WATER, we made up our minds. I mean, I was on a lounge chair IN THE WATER. Did he think I had a $5 bill stuffed in my bikini? It was time to go.

Matt was getting hungry and I felt like it might be a good idea for me to eat. The milkshake drinks had been creamy and good, but maybe food would be better.

We headed over to West End, a trendy little town that circled a small bay just a short drive from West Bay. It was filled with cute shops and restaurants, and mostly maintained an authentic feel despite a few places that looked like they belonged in Pigeon Forge, TN more than they belonged in Roatan.

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Our restaurant of choice was Creole Rotisserie Chicken, having been highly recommended to us by our hosts at Brisa del Mar. When we finally found it, it was closed.

Of course it was.

So, we went with his second suggestion, the Argentinian Grill. Located in front of the hotel Posada Arco Iris, this restaurant was known for its grilled meats.

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Matt was starving, so he ordered heavy: shrimp ceviche, Argentinian grilled sausage, and giant shrimp burritos. I went conservative with the grilled churrasco steak with chimichurri (a savory garlic, parsley and olive oil sauce).

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I wasn’t able to eat more than a few bites before my stomach promptly told me that it wasn’t emotionally ready for another food relationship, so Matt finished my food off as well.

We did a little shopping, but shortly decided that, like West Bay, West End was not for us and headed back to the east end. But not before I decided to try some gelato. It seemed to be the only thing I could stomach.

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We still had time to find the obscure BJ’s and see if the Friday afternoon ex-pat dance party was all that it had been described as.

We passed the turn to Brisa del Mar and went a couple of miles until we saw the turn for Oak Ridge. Oak Ridge was a simple fishing village, home port to many of the island’s shrimp and fishing boats. Most of the buildings were built on the edge of the water, and the primary mode of transportation in the village is by boat.

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The village was conspicuously less affluent than anything we had seen on the west end. The dichotomy of Roatan was hard to miss. Yet this appealed to us more. It was authentic. It was genuine. It was humble and unpretentious. I preferred it over the contrived experience that I found on West Bay.

A simple bar on the edge of the water, BJ’s was opened by BJ some 25 years ago to serve the local seamen. It’s now the most common place to find local ex-pats living it up with cold beer and live music, especially on Friday afternoons.

There were no signs pointing the way to BJ’s like there had been for La Sirena de Camp Bay. BJ doesn’t care if you find her. If you are supposed to be there, you’ll know where she is.

We had just given up and were turning around when we saw a large group of people dancing with beers in hand on a dock. As we pulled in, our host from Brisa del Mar was walking out.

We had found BJ’s.

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And it was every inch the party that it had been described as.

BJ’s was truly a hole in the wall kind of place, but one where you were immediately welcomed in like family, handed a cold drink, and asked to stay a while. A live band was playing and the place was filled with colorful characters drinking and dancing the afternoon away. Five minutes couldn’t pass without someone stopping to say “hello” or talk to us about our time on Roatan.

We were having such a good time, it was hard to pull ourselves away, but we were crusty with salt and sand and our skin was screaming for a shower, so we waved our goodbyes and headed back to Brisa del Mar.

Fausto waited at the gate.

The day had been long and exhausting. We napped in the luxurious breeze by the pool until I finally felt hungry.

“I think I can eat,” I told Matt.

We had made no plans, so we decided to run back down to Cal’s Cantina so I could have a second chance at the mystery dish in the pot.

We found Cal’s to be just as breezy, the margaritas to be just as strong, and the view to be just as amazing as before, and this time, I ordered the right thing: the anafre, a hot dip of beans, cheese, and chorizo. In hindsight, it might have been “too soon,” but I hadn’t had any food in over 24 hours and I was hungry, so I dove in with gusto.

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I followed that with the island burger, an equally disastrous decision.

But I didn’t yet know that what had happened to my stomach the night before wasn’t the hot sauce.

And it wasn’t over.

Posted by vicki_h 05:32 Archived in Honduras Tagged beach island caribbean tropical honduras roatan utila little_cay deserted_island Comments (0)

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