23.05.2013 - 27.05.2013
“What do you think about taking my family down to Abaco?”
He may as well have said, “What do you think about shaving your head?” or “What do you think about painting the house royal purple and putting on a glitter roof?” or even “What do you think about me tattooing a unicorn on my forehead?”
It’s amazing how 11 simple words calmly uttered by your spouse can make your heart stop, all your saliva disappear, and can make you consider suicide for the first time since you were 14 years old and accidentally turned your hair bright orange with a bottle of Sun-In.
I did what any good wife would do. I smiled and said, “I think that’s a great idea.”
Then I Googled “Painless Ways to Kill Yourself.”
Don’t get me wrong, I love my in-laws. Actually, as in-laws go, I’m pretty lucky. They are pretty great. But, oh my….a vacation filled with 18 year old girl drama, 9 year old boy energy, and 75 year old lady…well….whatever 75 year old ladies do. I had visions of National Lampoon’s Vacation running through my head.
Let’s just hope Nana didn’t end up tied to the top of the golf cart before the trip was over.
“Are We There Yet?”
I thought that question was a joke that kids say in the movies. In reality, they ask it every 7 minutes. On a 4 ½ hour flight, that’s exactly 39 times.
We had Nana Jo, the 18 year-old princess, the 9 year-old boy, and my two fat dogs in the plane. Sure, it’s a 6 seater, but that is more of a suggestion than a reality. In reality, it’s perfect for 4 people and some stuff. Put 5 bodies, 2 dogs, the boy’s backpack, Nana’s big beach hat, the princess’s MASSIVE purse which must have had 786 sparkling keychains, whatnots, and do-dobs hanging off it and it begins to feel a bit….cozy.
Matt’s sister and her husband were blessedly alone on a US Airways 747 and would meet us later. Never have I been so envious of someone on a commercial flight. Being felt up by TSA had to be better than enduring 5 hours of hot dog breath.
Survival Tip #1: On travel day, plan for plenty of needed breaks – rest breaks, bathroom breaks, crying-in-the-bathroom-for-you-breaks.
As I sat with 30 pounds of hot, panting dog on my lap, my knees pushed up behind my ears to make room for the backpack, the Juicy Couture luggage that my niece was trying to pass off as a purse, and Nana’s oustretched legs, I found myself thinking… “Are we there yet?”
Our landing at Marsh Harbor was our most memorable yet. Of course it would be when we had 2 youngsters, 2 dogs, and Nana. The bad flights never happen when we are alone...only when we have an audience.
It was storming. We heard the commercial traffic turning back to Nassau and we did the same. Just then, a small plane came on the radio and announced he had just landed at Marsh. We did a 180 and headed back in. We were only 10 minutes away.
With about 1 minute to go….the sky collapsed and the gates of hell opened, and I was pretty sure the Apocalypse was upon us. The sky was black, buckets of rain poured on us, thunder and lightning were crashing around us, and I could feel the wind pushing us back and forth.
I looked down at the wreckage of the small plane that lies in the water just before the Marsh Harbor runway and I began to pray. I’ve made a lot of deals with God just before hitting those runways.
The second we touched down, a thunder clap sounded that was so loud, the dogs jumped, I held my breath, the niece’s eyes were like saucers, and I wouldn’t have been surprised if Nana had wet her pants.
After sitting on the runway for about 15 minutes because it was raining too hard to get out, we made an escape with an airport worker who came out with a giant umbrella. The airport power was out, and it was steamy and hot inside….but we had made it.
We made the 1:30 p.m. ferry to Guana Cay with about 2 minutes to spare. By 2:00 we were stepping off onto the dock, the rain had stopped, and I breathed a sigh of relief because I didn’t have to hear, “Are we there yet?” one more time.
We headed to the house to get unpacked and take a breather until Matt’s sister and her husband arrived.
Survival Tip #2: Don’t get stressed out when you have to give the mother-in-law the giant King bedroom with the en suite bath because she has limited mobility. That tiny room at the top of the stairs with the very small bed will allow you and your spouse to spend some special quality time together, provided that one of you doesn’t kill the other one first. I find that nighttime beverage of warm milk, Nyquil, and Bourbon helps.
Matt and I got our things and carried them up to our small bedroom, with our small bed, and our small bathroom. I’m pretty sure I let an involuntary whimper escape as we passed by the palatial master bedroom downstairs where Nana Jo was putting her things away.
“Couldn’t you carry her up and down the stairs?” I whispered as Matt gave me THAT LOOK. If you have a spouse...you know the look I'm talking about.
We busied ourselves with settling in, getting groceries, and getting cleaned up while we waited for the others to arrive. Due to a flight delay, they didn’t get there until the last ferry of the day. I was relieved when they finally arrived. Not because I was worried, but because, after we got to Guana, “Are we there yet” got replaced by, “When do Mom and Dad get here?” and I was pretty sure that if I heard it one more time, someone was getting hog tied and put in the broom closet.
We were tired. We were grumpy. We were hungry. It was time to do something to jump start this vacation. We headed to Grabbers for sunset.
Survival Tip #3: Just because it’s legal for an 18-year old to drink alcohol in the Bahamas, that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. It’s a good way to end up with your feet vomited on. Let’s just leave it at that.
It was Friday and the storms had moved out, leaving us with amazing weather. I learned early that there was no such thing as a “quiet morning” when you have a teenager and a 9 year-old boy in the house. First thing every morning, the T.V. was on. Matt and I might turn the T.V. on once a week, so the constant blare of commercials, cartoons, and MTV videos was more than I could take before a cup of coffee.
Oh. My. God.
I really have turned into my mother.
Coffee in hand, we escaped to the beach for a little peace and quiet wherever we could find it.
Remember the coconut toting wonder dog from our previous trip to Guana? We found him again.
Survival Tip #4: Be sure to bring the essentials: Sunscreen, bug spray, beach towels, taser, Barbiturates.
Not knowing how everyone would do on the boat, we thought it best to stick close on our first day. We headed to Spoil Bank Cay (Shell Island) and North Guana.
About halfway there, we ran up on the “giant starfish party.” The nephew wanted to see a starfish, but no amount of bribery with Oreos was getting him to jump off that boat in the open water, so Matt dove in and brought a couple up for him to gently look at before returning them to the sea.
Shell Island was beautiful as always….plenty of insanely gorgeous water, white sand, and sea creatures.
And of course, shells.
When they’d had enough, we jumped back in the boat to head to the beach at North Guana.
As we neared the north beach, we noticed the water was a deeper, darker aqua than we’d ever seen it before. It is always beautiful, but that day, it was exceptionally beautiful.
There was some misty fog and clouds hanging over the water, and we attributed the unusual color to that…although Matt and I kept joking that Baker’s Bay must have started dyeing the water for their residents.
While on the beach, we noticed a Baker’s Bay security vehicle approach. This has never happened to us before. The gentleman got out of his vehicle and came down to where we were on the beach and said, “Do you know that this is a private development?”
To which my husband, very politely, responded, “Yes, and we also know that all the beaches are public up to the line of vegetation.”
The guy stammered and finally said, “Uh….you’re right….just….um…don’t walk up past the trees.”
“We didn’t plan to,” Matt said as we all kept staring at him.
It’s unfortunate for folks that don’t know the rules because I guarantee that Baker’s Bay is successful at scaring a lot of folks into leaving. I enjoyed that beach before Baker’s Bay was there and I will continue to enjoy it now that they are there.
The Conch Shack at Baker’s Bay was closed for a private event, and the nephew had replaced “Are we there yet?” and “When do Mom and Dad get here?” with “When can we go to Nippers and see the pool?”
I learned quickly that children become easily fixated and will repeat a question until they get what they want or you stick an ice pick in your ears, whichever comes first.
Survival Tip #5: Learn some carnival skills, like eating fire, hula hooping, or magic tricks; that way, when the kids get bored and you don’t know what to do, you can whip out a few pineapples and juggle. It eliminates those awkward moments for us non-parents and keeps the kid entertained. If that doesn’t work, get out those Barbiturates.
We needed lunch and the boy needed a pool, so off to Nippers we went.
It was a gorgeous day for a frozen Nipper and a fried mahi sandwich. And a swim in the pool with the coconut toting wonder dog. We spent the afternoon alternating between beach and pool. There are worse ways to spend a day.
The previous night, before becoming overimbibed and falling off her barstool, the niece had met a boy who invited her to go paddle boarding at Grabbers. We all decided to do dinner at Grabbers because 1) the sunsets are amazing, 2) we like the food, and 3) after last night's spectacle, she wasn't getting out of our sight...if she had a date, we ALL had a date.
Survival Tip #6: Watch the teenagers like a hawk. Be wary. Be suspicious. Be that relative you hated when you were 18. Don’t let them have a moment alone. Follow them to the bathroom. If you can get away with it, hide a GPS in their pocket or put one of those toddler leashes on them.
The sunset that night was off the charts beautiful. The princess did her paddle board thing. Matt took the boy out for a kayak run. Everyone found a hammock and rocked back and forth as the sky went from golden to fiery orange to cool blue.
That’s when the UFO came.
Everyone started running out and pointed at the sky. People were taking photos. There were a couple of massive flashes and a streak of light. A mysterious flying object flew through the sky, trailing streams of light.
Of course it was a space ship.
Yesterday was the Apocalypse, so today we were being invaded by aliens who wanted to wear our faces.
At least that’s what we told the 9 year-old.
That was so much more fun than telling him it was a rocket launch from Cape Canaveral.
Survival Tip #7: To passively-aggressively repay your mother-in-law for scoring the big bedroom, leave her at the bar with a drunk stranger. She might make friends. Or get $20. Or both.
We realized we had left Nana Jo unattended for too long and returned to find that she was making friends. Whether she wanted to or not.
We’d had a big night: paddle boards, kayaks, hammocks and rockets. It was time for some dinner.
Vowing to attempt to eat something other than french fries and mac & cheese on this visit, I went bold and ordered the sesame crusted ahi tuna. Yes, at Grabbers.
I know. That was a risky move. It was like ordering a filet mignon cooked rare at McDonald’s. But to their credit, Grabbers has been upping their game in the past year or so. They had a newly built deck, they’ve added lots of games, watersports, and hammocks, they have expanded the dining area, and they have added some very good food to the evening menu.
The tuna was delicious. And the night was perfect.
Hoping for Hopetown.
This trip hadn’t killed me yet. That was evidenced by the blaring of MTV videos as I opened my eyes on Saturday morning.
It was our middle day and it was going to be our longest day. We had decided to make the trip to Hopetown for strolling and shopping, hop over to Lubbers Quarters for lunch (I was denied that Island Burger on my previous trip and I still had to have one!), wrap the afternoon up with the afternoon boat party at Tahiti Beach, and then join friends for dinner back in Hopetown before heading back to Guana late that night.
Survival Tip #8: Do not overschedule your trip. This can lead to excessive whining and grumbling. Do not underschedule your trip. This can lead to excessive whining and grumbling. On second thought, forget scheduling and find those Barbituarates.
It was an ambitious day to say the least, but after discovering that time indoors meant listening to music videos and iPad games, I decided to use the tactic my parents always used with me and my brothers: keep them busy until they collapsed from exhaustion or cried themselves to sleep.
It was a beautiful boat ride over to Elbow Cay, the water putting on a spectacular show of color along the way.
Before we knew it, that happy red & white striped lighthouse was welcoming us into the harbor.
It only takes a few minutes to walk from the public dock to the Hopetown Harbor Lodge, but I am pretty sure my nephew asked “How much farther” at least three times and we had to stop twice so the mother-in-law could rest.
God love a duck.
I had to cultivate the patience of Job. Sure, his livestock was stolen, his servants were killed, he lost his camels, a house fell on his family, and he was covered in boils and sores....but I bet he never went on vacation with his in-laws.
After 17 hours, 32 minutes, and 56 ½ seconds, we made it to the Reef Bar where a much needed adult beverage was in order.
The views were stellar, as always. We threw the kid in the pool and grabbed some drinks. Even Nana Jo got in on the action.
Afterwards, we took some time to let everyone see Hopetown.
At their own pace.
Then it was off to Lubbers Quarters. I had discovered Lubbers Landing on our last visit and instantly fell in love with it. The laid back vibe of the place really appealed to me. It was just after a hurricane, however, and the tiny resort had lost its freezer and all of its food so we weren’t able to eat lunch. I was determined to make it for lunch this time.
We arrived at the breezy dock and headed down the walkway to the bar and grill.
When we arrived, we realized they are closed on Saturdays.
We had two hungry kids, so heading back to Hopetown was not an option. We also had an old lady that could only walk about 1 foot per minute, so walking next door to Cracker P’s would have taken us about 3 days.
That’s when the young lady behind the bar told us that she’d cook Island Burgers and make us drinks if we didn’t mind waiting. She was only there to clean up after a wedding and the kitchen/bar were not officially open. She was alone but she’d do what she could if we could be patient.
What luck!! In the past 2 days, patient had become my middle name.
Matt and I were IN. We put ourselves down for 2 Island Burgers.
Survivial Tip #9: If you need some “me time,” just threaten the kids with a burger that does not come in a Styrofoam box, has no toys attached, and contains absolutely no beef. If that doesn’t work, you can always try the Taser, but that only gets you about 30 seconds of quiet time, compared to a tuna burger which can buy you up to an hour.
As soon as the kids heard the Island Burgers were made with ground tuna….they started to hyperventilate. I’m pretty sure one of them actually started to get hives at the thought of eating something that didn’t come out of a microwave or a plastic sealed package, so we immediately sent the family next door to Craker P’s.
And that, my friends, is how that lovely girl at Lubbers Landing bought my husband and I an hour of family-free bliss on a Saturday afternoon. That was worth a $10,000 tip.
She went way above and beyond the call of duty. Not only did she jump behind the bar and make everyone a rum punch, when she saw how disappointed I was that she had no fresh lime juice for a saltwater margarita…she squeeze me up a lime so I could have one. Outstanding.
The wait was short and within minutes, a thick, juicy island burger was in front of me. Ground tuna with spices, fresh veggies, creamy hot sauce….it was the perfect beach burger. The hand cut seasoned fries just made it even better.
With happy bellies, we spent the afternoon lounging at Tahiti Beach. It was a perfect time to relax and do nothing.
What do kids do at the beach? Obviously, if you are an 18 year old girl, you put in your headphones and imagine you are alone somewhere exotic where parents do not exist. If you are a 9 year old boy, you run around pretending every object is a football, a bomb, or a missile.
We were meeting friends for dinner at the Hopetown Hideaways Resort. Located on the lighthouse side of the harbor, it was somewhere we had never been. As we strolled up and saw the beautiful grounds, the gorgeous pool, and the impressive bar and restaurant, we decided quickly that we liked it!
It was a great evening with family. The food was good, everyone was having a great time. Even the princess put the iPhone away and joined the family.
It was one of those wonderful evenings where you couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. I looked at Matt and said, “We should do this again next year.”
Survival Tip #10: Stop and appreciate the peaceful moments when everyone is smiling, laughing, generally having a good time, and you are not looking for a bottle of Scotch. Savor the moment internally, but whatever you do, don’t be compelled to turn to your spouse and say, “This is great. We should do it again next year.”
Sunday is Funday.
Survival Tip #11: Get used to the concept of NO PRIVACY. For the childless couple, a family vacation is a challenge. It means you will not be alone ever, you can’t drink out of the OJ carton and actually have to use a glass, you can’t walk downstairs in your underwear, and you will end up constipated because you are fearful that the second you poop in the bathroom, that 9 year-old boy is going to run in and say, “YUCK! What’s that smell?”
We made an early morning escape to the beach where we could enjoy a few moments of silence before launching into the madness of the day.
Back at the house, I played a game I like to play on vacation called, “Let’s make up a recipe out of villa pantry leftovers.”
I like to see what’s been left behind by previous guests and (after checking the expiration date….lesson learned….) then try to cook something using what I find. I have made pineapple pancakes. I have made peach cobbler. I have made pasta with tomato and mystery ingredient sauce (if I told them what was in it, they wouldn’t eat it).
This time it was “Vicki’s Leftover Bisquick and Canned Apples Coffee Cake.”
However much baking mix is left in the box
Some oil...whatever you've got
A few squirts of mayo (don't knock it)
A handful of sugar
Top with a can of apple and cranberry pie filling
Sprinkle a layer of oats, butter, and brown sugar on top
Bake until it looks done
I may not be winning any contests with it….but it was pretty good.
The family had never experienced a Pig Roast Sunday at Nippers, so we did the only thing we could do….we loaded them up and took them up that long sandy hill toward all things rainbow colored and fun and hoped that no one would end up vomiting on a lounge chair (yes, this really happened), diving head first into the 4 foot deep pool and hitting their head on the bottom (yes, this really happened….), or going home with a black eye (yes, this really happened).
There was food, music, and fun. No one got hurt. No one got in a fight. No one got sick.
Only one person cried.
That’s a good day at Nippers!
We ended the day with pizza at Grabbers, which has become something of a tradition at the end of Sunday for us on Guana.
It’s a good way to wind down, enjoy the sunset, and thank God that all of your body parts are still intact.
It had been a brief trip, but that’s the best kind with family. It’s a good idea to go home while you all still like each other.
Survival Tip #12: Don’t make the trip too long. Know the family’s limits. A full week might be a bit much. Shoot for something less ambitious, like 4 hours.
It was time for one last sunrise...
...one last sandy nose...
...and one last meal at Curly Tails...
And then it was done.
It was a good time. Getting to see the people you love enjoy a place you love is rewarding and spending time with family is something you can never place a price tag on.
Maybe we should do it again next year. (Please refer to Survival Tip # 10)