A Travellerspoint blog

Flip This House: Guana Cay Edition Part II

Taking a vacation from our vacation: A Weekend in Eleuthera!

Sometimes you need a vacation from your vacation. When the vacation has been spent painting, sweating, getting blisters, and picking up an endless army of millipedes, this is certainly the case.

We decided to treat ourselves for “getting over the hump” by flying over to North Eleuthera for the weekend. I was a little worried that this would stymie our momentum and that we’d return on Monday and never get finished before it was time to go home.

A weekend off turned out to be the best decision we could have made.

I picked Eleuthera because it was close. I picked North Eleuthera because, in true neurotic planning fashion, I knew it was off season, so I had emailed EVERY SINGLE RESTAURANT ON THE ISLAND to see what was open. Most of the places I found open were on the north end. So the decision was made.

I settled on Ocean Tally as a place to stay for several reasons: 1) The website was simply gorgeous; 2) the cliffside location and whitewashed buildings reminded me of Greece; and 3) She said Bella and Rooby could come.

Friday, September 11

The flight from Marsh Harbour to Eleuthera was short and uneventful. Within 30 minutes, we were flying over the north end of Eleuthera and landing at the North Eleuthera airport.

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On Eleuthera, you don’t get online and reserve a rental car. You don’t even call a rental car agency. You call a “guy.” Our guy was Wendell and he had left an extremely sandy Ford Explorer at the airport. It even came with shiny beads and a broken stereo remote which, despite its non-working status, was displayed proudly and prominently on the dash with velcro. We paid cash and there was no paperwork. I was pretty sure this car did not come with roadside assistance.

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For the bumpy, rough, dirt roads of Eleuthera, it was exactly what we needed.

We arrived a bit after lunch time and we were starving. Thankfully, the drive out to Whale Point was pretty quick.

Upon arrival, we were warmly greeted by the owner, Annette, who quickly took us to our cottage, asked if we needed anything, and left us to get settled, directing us to just come up to the lighthouse bar/restaurant when we were ready.

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I knew that Ocean Tally was a fairly new place, but I had no idea we were the first overnight guests EVER. We were also the only guests. It couldn’t have been more perfect.

Our cottage was perched right on the ocean and it was impeccably clean and bright.

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We dropped Rooby and Bella off in the cottage and walked up the short, sandy path to the lighthouse where the bar and restaurant were housed. It was stunning.

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They started us off with cocktails as we perused the lunch menu. The cocktails were a heavy pour.

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Vicki liked.

I expected the usual Bahamian lunch fare: fish sandwich, hamburger, cracked conch.

I did not expect delicate stuffed crab with pickled red cabbage and butter curry lobster.

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Vicki loved.

The past week had been exhausting. Sure, we were on an exciting new island with new things to see, but all we really wanted to do was sleep. After our booze and lobster filled lunch, we crashed. We all slept for the rest of the afternoon.

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We woke up feeling better than we had felt all week. The crisp, fresh linens were soft and cool and the views from the windows that wrapped around 3 sides of the cottage fed our senses.

We were so happy to be here.

We took Rooby and Bella for a walk around the grounds before dinner.

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Did you know that you can eat sea grapes? You can. They are mostly pit and taste pretty much like a tart, slightly astringent grape, but you can eat them. You know. If you want to.

(Of course I ate one)

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We were too tired to drive anywhere for dinner, so we decided to eat at Ocean Tally again. Our first meal was so spectacular, we couldn’t wait to try another. When the food and view are that amazing, why go anywhere else?

While we were the only overnight guests that weekend, there was a small and lively crowd at the lighthouse enjoying sunset cocktails and chatter.

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We started off with spicy shrimp with polenta cakes, followed by blackened grouper topped with fresh mango.

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Dinner was absolutely as good as lunch. We agreed that Ocean Tally had the best food we have had in the Bahamas.

For dessert, I had the key lime pie, but for some reason, the photo was blurry. Probably because I was shoving it into my mouth as I tried to take the photo.

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Matt had the pastry wrapped banana with ice cream. It was delicious, but there is literally no way you can arrange those three items on a plate and it not look inappropriate…..

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Saturday, September 12

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Thanks to the hospitality of Annette, we were feeling rested and rejuvenated. We woke up early to watch the sunrise.

Annette showed up at our cottage with a wonderful breakfast tray each morning: cereal, milk, fresh squeezed OJ, fruit, yogurt, spread, and baked goods. I couldn’t imagine a more beautiful place to eat breakfast than the deck of our cottage.

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Ocean Tally is located on Whale Point, a finger of land that juts out with the ocean on one side and a calm bay on the other. The cottages are located on the rocky cliffs on the ocean side, but Annette has a little golf cart that guests can use to ride a short distance down the road to their beach.

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We found the beach entrance easily enough.

There was no one on the entire beach but us. I spent at least an hour beachcombing because the beach had more beautiful shells and sea glass than any beach I had been on in a long time.

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Matt found himself some seats and took a load off. I’m not sure, but I think this means the crates are seats, so don’t steal them. Whatever it means, it gets my vote for best sign ever.

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When we felt like the dogs had their fill of beach running, we took them back to Ocean Tally, dusted them off, and sent them into the cottage for naps while we drove a short distance to The Cove resort for lunch.

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Developed by New Orleans entrepreneur Sidney D. Torres, IV, the Cove is touted as one of the best resorts in the Bahamas. As we walked onto the grounds, I could see why. Tall palm trees, as lithe and elegant as runway models lined the walkway that led us through grass so green and lush it didn’t look real. Stylishly chic geometric cottages dotted the landscape, separated by clean walkways and beautiful outdoor spaces. A rocky cape separated 2 perfect coves with soft white sand beaches. The grounds were littered with driftwood benches, elegantly crocheted hammocks, and perfectly white sofas. It was white on white with a side of pink sand.

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We made our way to the restaurant and bar where a cool blue infinity pool beckoned invitingly. We were immediately greeted and made to feel welcome, despite the fact that we were obviously NOT part of the jet set that frequents this place.

Along with lunch, we were able to pay $35 each for a day pass. This granted us access to all of the luxurious amenities the Cove had to offer. I once paid $50 for two crappy beach chairs and a slightly crooked umbrella pressed against 500 other beach goers in Seaside, FL. $70 seemed like a bargain.

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We started off with some cocktails while we decided what to do first: beach or pool?

Beach.

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Not being actual guests of the resort, we were surprised when the beach attendant came running over to open our umbrella, lay out clean, cool towels and bring us ice water before we even set our bags down.

When we wanted a drink from the bar, all we had to do was stick our little Cove flag in the sand and someone showed up instantly.

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This drink was champagne with a touch of kiwi puree. Seriously. That must be ½ a bottle of champagne.

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We did nothing more than soak in the sun and sip giant glasses of kiwi infused champagne until we were hungry for lunch. Lunch could be served on the beach, but I wanted a clean, cool, fly-free lunch experience.

The restaurant was as elegant as the rest of the property. The interior was decked out in white on white with the occasional dash of driftwood, with floor to ceiling walls of glass that let the beauty of the outside in. I felt transported to another place entirely. Like Ocean Tally, this was not your typical Bahamian dive-y, paper-plate happy, fried food establishment. There was no sand on the floor, no lizards in the bathroom, and no flies on my food.

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I dove enthusiastically into the bacon cheeseburger and fries while Matt watched his figure with a jerk chicken wrap.

We spent the rest of the afternoon lounging in the infinity pool.

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We made a quick stop at Surfer’s Beach before heading back to Ocean Tally.

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Ocean Tally was hosting a birthday party dinner that night, so we got to enjoy the festivities. They had live music and a fire pit on the ocean.

Because of the number of guests, dinner was a set menu: crab cake salad (AMAZING) and chicken piccata (AMAZING).

We agreed that, while the Cove had an outstanding setting, Ocean Tally’s food blew it away.

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Not only that, we thought Ocean Tally beat the Cove in all respects. Sure, the Cove had glitz and glamour, but Ocean Tally was intimate and special. It had a beautiful location, spectacular cottages with significantly more privacy, and, because of its smaller size, Ocean Tally was more personal and warm. It suited us perfectly.

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Sunday, September 13:

We woke to another outstanding sunrise at Ocean Tally.

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We were also treated to another delightful breakfast on our deck.

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Rooby believes breakfast should be a shared experience.

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After breakfast, Matt and I decided to brave the rocks and walk down to the tide pool below the lighthouse. This was not an easy task in flip flops, but that was all we had, so we just walked very…..very…..carefully.

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After a soak in the pool, we walked the grounds and just took in the amazing details of the property. The Cove was like Ruth’s Cris, fancy and upscale, but not particularly unique. Ocean Tally was like that amazing little bistro that you have in your town where the desserts are all made by hand and original art hangs on the walls. There was so much time, effort, art, and love put into every inch of the place.

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After taking the dogs for a walk, we loaded up in the car and set out to find Ben Bay beach. We had seen it when we were flying in and knew we had to go there.

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The only negative about Eleuthera is that the beaches are hard to find and hard to get to even if you have incredibly good directions. I had good directions, but they looked like this:

From the highway turn right, then left-right-left. And there you'll be, at a really pretty beach.

What the directions failed to mention was that, once you left the highway, the remaining 20 minutes of your journey would be on extraordinarily rough dirt roads that were approximately ¾ the width of your car and that you would scrape against every shrub, bush, and tree that grew beside the road, would come across multiple turns that you couldn’t clearly identify as a road or a driveway or a footpath (is that a turn?), and would encounter multiple spots where the road was submerged under a foot of muddy water. There are also no signs of ANY KIND. None.

We ended up at a dead end, had no room to turn around, and had to back down the road for about ¾ of a mile at one point.

As we scraped past one particularly large bush for the second time, I was suddenly very happy that we had paid cash for the rental car and had no paperwork. Clearly, this was more of an advantage to us than it was to the person that owned this car.

Somehow, we found it.

It was worth it.

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Ben Bay was a perfect cove. The water was shallow and clear, the sand soft and white, and no one else was there.

This, my friends, is the beauty of the Bahamas. Where else are you going to have a beach like this to yourselves?

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We spent several blissful hours on Ben Bay before we started to get hungry.

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Before we headed back, however, I convinced Matt we needed to find the “blue hole.” No, not the famous blue hole on Eleuthera, the other one. The one no one seems to know the location of and the one you can’t find directions to ANYWHERE.

I had used my clever interweb skills and had pieced together what I believed to be a reasonably close, albeit sketchy, set of directions. It was very close to where we already were, so Matt agreed.

God love him.

Leave it to me to bypass the tourist friendly, well mapped Ocean Hole of Eleuthera, a blue hole that has signs, a park, and picnic tables for guests and, instead, head straight for the “blue hole in north Eleuthera that is somewhere in the midst of the ganga fields…be careful that you don’t step into the wrong area.”

Sure, I wasn’t 100% certain where the blue hole was and there were an inordinate number of dirt tracks that all looked the same, but a gun battle with ganja farmers was not on my radar. I wanted to jump into that blue hole!

My directions proved to be spot on, thanks to a little help from a Google satellite image where I was pretty certain I had identified the hole. We found it easily enough.

All of my bravado instantly evaporated, however, when I actually stood at the edge of the hole. I found myself staring at a 25 foot jump into an endless chasm of cobalt water.

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How did I know there weren’t any rocks down there? How deep was it? How far was it really? How hard would I land? How would I get out?

It literally took every ounce of nerve I had to jump off that cliff. And it hurt like hell.

The difference between Matt and Vicki can be perfectly illustrated by our jump into the blue hole.

Matt: Jumps off with enthusiasm and confidence. Body is immediately symmetrical and straight as an arrow. Glides into water like an angel. Lands perfectly, feet first.

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Vicki: Starts off badly and gets worse. Is she running? Awkwardly starts to slide sideways. Lands on ass.

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That's going to leave a mark.

Luckily, there was a rope to help us get out, but it still wasn’t easy. Especially with a 6 inch bruise on my butt.

Fear and adrenaline made me hungry. We decided to drive to the ferry dock and take the 5 minute ferry ride over to Harbour Island.

‘Briland, as it is known to locals, is one of the poshest villages in the Bahamas and caters to the rich and famous with its 3 mile long pink sand beach. Water taxis make the 5 minute, $5 trip all day.

I knew that most establishments would be closed, but we had visited Eleuthera and Harbor island about 15 years earlier and I still remembered that pink sand beach. I had to see it again.

I had found one restaurant on Harbour Island that was supposed to be open, so we grabbed a golf cart at the ferry dock and set off to find Aquapazza, an Italian restaurant with a Bahamian flair.

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Sure, it won our lunch business by default, but it turned out to be excellent. It was located on the water, and the views were breezy and beautiful.

I ordered their house cocktail made with Prosecco and Campari while Matt went Bahamian with a goombay smash.

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For lunch, Matt ordered the spaghetti aglio with chili and conch and I had the marinated Spanish-style “pil-pil” salad. Both were perfect, and that wasn’t just because there was nowhere else to eat.

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As luck would have it, Acquapazza is located next to Harbour Island’s famous “haunted house.” Legend has it that the home was built for a wealthy family in 1945. The tale is that the entire family that lived there simply vanished one night, leaving the lavish dinner table set for the evening meal. They never returned. It sat empty until the 1960’s when a Greek shipping magnate purchased the beautiful mansion for his new bride. The wife left the house shortly after entering it and refused to step back inside. In the 1980’s, looters and fire claimed the beautiful house. What remains today are faded swirling pink walls that make it the perfect place for a post-lunch stroll… as long as you don’t mind the ghosts whispering in your ear.

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Back on our cart, we made our way to one of the many entrances to Harbour Island’s famous beach. I couldn’t remember….was it really pink?

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Yes, yes it was.

And because it was the off season, we had it completely to ourselves.

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We did a short golf cart tour of town before heading back to the water taxi. It was getting late and we had some hungry puppies back at Ocean Tally.

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After showers had been taken, dogs had been walked, played with, and fed, and the giant bruise forming on my butt cheek had been inspected to ensure there was no permanent damage, we cleaned up for dinner.

Of course we ate at Ocean Tally again.

We had fully intended to spread our dining love around to the other open restaurants on the island, but we just couldn’t tear ourselves away.

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This white dress was exceptionally beautiful before I awkwardly spilled an entire glass of red wine on it. I looked like a scene from Carrie.

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After a quick change back at the cottage, I celebrated my new, clean dress with spicy prawns and pasta puttanesca. Matt loved the blackened grouper so much, he ordered it a second time.

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A creature of habit (he likes what he likes!), Matt also re-ordered the banana dessert. Thankfully, someone had the sense to put two bananas on the dessert this time so that it didn’t offend my coconut tart.

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Monday, September 14

It seemed like each sunrise at Ocean Tally was even more spectacular than the one before it.

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Our time on Eleuthera was done. We enjoyed our final breakfast, bid a sweet farewell to Ocean Tally, and headed back to Abaco. The weekend was perfect. Ocean Tally was perfect. It had left us relaxed and refreshed. We were ready to get back to work.

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Before we flew back to Abaco, however, Matt flew us over the glass window bridge. I really wanted to see it from the air. The narrowest point on the island, this strip used to be a natural arch that separated the calm, shallow Caribbean sea from the deep, blue, turbulent Atlantic Ocean. The natural bridge washed away in a hurricane and was replaced by a man-made bridge, but it was no less fantastic to view from the air.

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We also got a peek at Harbour Island and Ocean Tally from above. Bye-Bye, Ocean Tally! Bye-Bye delicious meals! Bye-Bye rest and relaxation!

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It was time to get back to work.

Next up: Flip this house - Guana Cay Edition Part III!

Posted by vicki_h 06:11 Archived in Bahamas Tagged island caribbean tropical abaco elbow_cay guana_cay marsh_harbour treasure_cay lubbers_landing Comments (0)

Flip This House: Guana Cay Edition Part I

We never intended to buy a house in the Bahamas.

Really. We didn’t.

It was kind of like going into a puppy store. You never really MEAN to buy a puppy, but the next thing you know you are buying pee-pee pads and rope bones.

Of course we did the “what if” just like everyone else and imagined that ONE DAY we’d own a piece of paradise. We would never wear a proper pair of shoes again and would spend our golden years beachcombing and sipping rum.

But that was just IMAGINARY.

Wasn’t it?

On our very first visit to Guana Cay, some ten years ago, I took a photo of a charming little cottage in the settlement on Front Street. I have always had a soft spot for cozy, quaint, tiny, vintage houses. Put them on an island and they take on a special level of adorability.

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Throughout the years we have visited Guana, I have never stopped loving that little cottage, with its precious little pineapple cutouts on the porch railing and its tiny wooden shutters. I have taken many photos of it over the years.

When I saw the for sale sign on it recently…..I knew.

I just knew.

In my heart, it was already mine.

When I mentioned it to Matt, his response was not what I hoped for. I envisioned him looking deeply into my eyes and saying, “It’s perfect. Let’s buy it.”

Instead, he said, “It’s too small.” He also said, “It’s not on the ocean,” “It doesn’t have a dock,” “It doesn’t have a deck,” and “We can rent a house 3 times that size several times a year for less than it would cost to buy it.”

It was immediately obvious that he didn’t get it.

Yet.

In my head, I was already reading a beachy novel on my new linen sofa as the Guana Cay sunlight filtered in through gauzy white curtains. I was pretty sure I needed to start shopping for beach house furniture right away.

I had to figure out a way to make him see my vision.

I managed to do it with one simple sentence, “You know, if we bought a house, you’d have to get a boat.”

Next thing I knew, we were making a quick trip down to look at the house. Before the weekend was over, he saw my vision. Okay, maybe his vision had more boat and less house, but it was settled. We were buying a house on Guana Cay.

I was over the moon.

And scared shitless.

For those that are interested in the tedious details of the process because you might want to try this yourself someday – it wasn’t that bad. We worked with an on-island rental agent who helped us negotiate the purchase price. Both parties agreed to an attorney who coordinated the necessary paperwork. All we really had to do was get some initial information to the attorney, wire a deposit, sign a few things and wait.

And wait.

And wait.

It took WAY longer than it should, but what doesn’t in the Bahamas? Apparently, “island time” applies to everything.

About 90 days later, we signed some additional documents, wired the rest of the money and were home owners.

Buying it was the easy part.

The rest was a pain because there were just so many details to take care of and they all had to be done long distance. Thankfully, our on-island real estate agent became our on-island property caretaker and he made everything else as easy as possible. He did all of the leg work to get the utilities switched over, get the wi-fi set up, coordinate deliveries, he even cleaned up the golf cart.

The first thing we discovered was how much more everything cost than we thought. When you buy a house on an island, take what you think each thing will cost and triple it. Then add a little more money and a lot of frustration and you are probably in the ballpark. With this being our first venture into the world of Bahamian ownership, we were immediately glad we started small.

Before we knew it, it was time to head down for 2 weeks to make it our own – painting, redecorating, and getting anything the house didn’t already have.

Welcome to Flip This House: Guana Cay Edition!

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Friday, September 4:

7:00 a.m. I am pretty sure we are going to crash. Why did I buy so much stuff to take down? The house is furnished. Seriously….do I really need a seahorse shaped cutting board? I should have just packed a toothbrush.

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10:30 a.m. We have landed in West Palm Beach for the night. Somehow, we did not crash. This is good, because we would have been buried under 620 lbs. of home goods and would never have been able to exit the plane before it caught on fire and burned us along with an enormous assortment of turquoise bedding and beach towels.

10:00 p.m. I do not know how we did not die of heat stroke or exhaustion in the last 12 hours. We have been to every hardware store, house ware store, golf cart supplier, and marina in West Palm Beach. It is at least 112 degrees in the shade. Now the plane will have 720 lbs. of crap on it. Also, the man delivering the boat from Bonita Springs was late and got here after dark, so instead of dinner, we spent all night preparing the boat for its trip from West Palm Beach to Guana Cay. That’s fine. I’m too hot to eat anyway.

10:30 p.m. Damn. I forgot to get a clean change of clothes off the plane. I have no clean clothes for tomorrow. That’s okay. Mine aren’t that dirty. Matt’s, however, are decimated. I would burn them but I am pretty sure they are too sweaty to catch on fire.

Saturday, September 5:

10:00 a.m. I am waiting outside the Tommy Bahama store in West Palm Beach so I can buy Matt some clean clothes. Why did the only store within walking distance of the hotel have to be Tommy Bahama? Where is the Wal-Mart? I wonder if Publix sells shorts.

10:10 a.m. I’m walking back to the hotel with 1 t-shirt, 1 pair of shorts, and 1 pair of boxers that cost me $189. I should have walked the 9 miles to Wal-Mart. Or let him go without underwear.

12:30 p.m. We have arrived in Marsh Harbour! Yay! I’m glad we didn’t crash because the life jackets were buried under a do-it-yourself Murphy bed, an ottoman coffee table, and 500 lbs. of “beach house things” I was certain I needed 2 days ago. Now, I just really want some clean underwear. We made it through customs with a lot of stuff. I think the agent took pity on us and decided to ignore the fact that 2 people had 10 extra-large duffel bags for a 2 week trip. She only made us pay duty on 2 items. Probably because we are really sweaty and I am wearing dirty clothes. I think she wanted us to get out of her office.

1:00 p.m. I am sitting at the ferry dock and am feeling much better thanks to the Bahama Mama in my hand. I don’t even care that I am wearing dirty clothes.

2:00 p.m. We just got off the ferry. Where is the golf cart? We have 720 lbs. of stuff and it is 900 degrees out here. I need a golf cart.

2:30 p.m. We have stolen a golf cart. We saw one left at the dock with our friends’ names on it so we took it. Okay, maybe we have only met them once, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t friends. It doesn’t matter. We know they aren’t arriving until later this afternoon. They’ll never know. That's what they get for telling internet strangers their last name.

2:40 p.m. Dammit. They will be here in 20 minutes and will wonder where their golf cart is. We still haven’t found ours.

2:50 p.m. Golf cart has been found. We have safely returned friends’ cart to dock. They will never know. Except that their cart is all sweaty now.

2:55 p.m. What the &^%%%#****??????

3:00 p.m. We almost died on the golf cart. Who knew our new golf cart has a sticking gas pedal? We almost didn’t figure this out until it was too late. Note to self: Never drive golf cart with sticking gas pedal onto ferry dock.

3:05 p.m. First time walking into Bikini Hut and it’s mine. I love it even though it looks like a condiment cart threw up in the living room. Man, I need a shower.

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5:00 p.m. Everything is unloaded into the house. I think we just put 1050 square feet of stuff in a 950 square foot house. It’s all haphazardly tossed in, but I was able to find clean underwear. That’s good enough.

5:30 p.m. I really need a shower. Matt says something is wrong with the pump because only a trickle of water is coming out of the shower head. I don’t care. Okay, I am pointing the trickle of water straight down. This is like trying to shower in fog. Let me try pressing my body against the wall of the shower to capture the water I can. Okay, this is gross. But it's working. I hope the wall of this shower is clean. There is no way I can wash my sweaty hair.

6:00 p.m. Finally, we are relaxing at Grabbers with some frozen grabbers and a sunset. Surely the worst of it is behind us. “Moving Day” is over and we can start settling in. First order of business: FOOD. I haven’t had anything since my complimentary yogurt and banana at the Residence Inn West Palm Beach. Geez, I am starving. I knew I should have shoved all those little kids out of the waffle line.

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6:10 p.m. What is with all the flies???? So many flies. Matt is eating his dinner walking around so they can’t catch his plate. I don’t care. I have given up. I am too tired to care. I’ll share with the flies as long as I don’t have to move. They can’t really eat that much, can they?

6:30 p.m. I think Rooby is dead.

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8:30 p.m. For the love of all that is holy, WHERE ARE THE FLIPPING SHEETS? I can’t find anything in here. It’s just a giant pile of mess. Yellow and red mess. With a lot of tools and tarps on top.

Sunday, September 6:

5:10 a.m. I am awake. This is what happens when you go to bed at 9:00. I may as well take Bella and Rooby for a walk on the beach. Is that a millipede?

6:00 a.m. I just remembered why I am doing all of this. I love it here. Bella and Rooby agree.

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9:00 a.m. We just figured out that the water pump is fine. The shower is fine. The water was turned off. I am doing my best not to be mad that I was forced to shower in a trickle and go to bed with dirty hair. At least we now have awesome water pressure. Found a few more millipedes. What’s up with that?

12:00 p.m. We are waiting for Matt’s new boat to arrive from Florida, so we don’t really want to get into any heavy work. We’ll go to Nippers for lunch instead. Our new friends are supposed to be there.

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12:15 p.m. Robert and Stacey keep talking about how their golf cart was really sweaty when they arrived. We say nothing.

12:30 p.m. We have work to do so I am just going to get lunch and have 1 Nipper. Definitely not more than one. Mmm….lobster salad sandwich goes so well with a Nipper.

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1:30 p.m. I’ll just have one more Nipper. Two should be fine.

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2:30 p.m. The boat is here and I think I had more than 2 Nippers. Hello boat, I am going in for a nap.

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3:00 p.m. Apparently, I am not taking a nap. Matt has neurotically decided that the boat must be cleaned. Now. I am on my way to Guana Grocery to buy more paper towels and magic erasers.

6:00 p.m. The boat is finally clean. I am too tired to get cleaned up for dinner. I will just make something here at the house. Good thing I brought plenty of food.

6:30 p.m. Damn stove doesn’t work. Does anything work in here? Matt is certain the gas regulator is broken. I don’t care. I will make something in the microwave. Thank goodness we made that stop at Trader Joe’s. Pre-grilled chicken and microwave baked potatoes it is. I will eat anything I can eat in my pajamas.

Monday, September 7

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6:00 a.m. I just enjoyed a beautiful sunrise on the beach with the dogs. Today is the day we start “doing stuff.” I can’t wait. I’m ready to get started. This place looks like a dump. And I keep finding more millipedes.

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7:00 a.m. Matt is going lobster diving with friends. Really? I suppose I will be working alone today. I think I can get painting supplies at Guana Hardware. Sure, it would be cheaper in Marsh Harbour, but I’d lose a day of work. How much more could it cost?

9:00 a.m. I did not know a gallon of white paint could cost $70. I am discouraged by my tiny pile of supplies that I just spent $200 on. Matt better come home with some lobster. A lot of it.

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1:00 p.m. I am in paradise, and I am inside painting. Matt is fishing, and I am inside painting. The sun is shining, and I am inside painting.

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2:00 p.m. I just figured out the difference between renting a beach house and owning one.

RENTING:

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OWNING:

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3:00 p.m. I just threw 4 more millipedes in the toilet.

3:30 p.m. I just learned that, despite the desire to conserve water, one should not put millipedes in the toilet and not flush, lest they crawl right back out. This is not ideal for the person sitting on the toilet unaware.

4:00 p.m. The painting is done! I would pat myself on the back, but I can no longer lift my arm.

6:00 p.m. Matt came home with 10 lobsters, so he is forgiven. A little.

7:00 p.m. God knew we were tired, so he treated us to an exceptional sunset. Wait a minute…. I am tired. Matt didn’t do anything but fish all day.

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7:30 p.m. I am too tired to fend off the flies, so dinner is indoors at Nippers tonight. There is nothing better than a monochromatic plate filled with brown and white foods. This means there is nothing on the plate but fat and carbohydrates. There is nothing green on my plate unless you count the lime. Please don’t tell my mom. This is awesome.

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Tuesday, September 8

Millipede count: 4

6:00 a.m. I think I will stain the dining table and paint some furniture today. I made my own stain a few days ago with vinegar, steel wool, and coffee. It’s supposed to look like driftwood.

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6:30 a.m. Coffee, steel wool, and vinegar really do make wood look like driftwood. They also make it stink.

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8:00 a.m. I am determined to use this ugly ass piece of furniture. Sure, it’s made of plywood and has pencil marks all over it, but do you know how much furniture costs down here? My new mantra: Throw away NOTHING.

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10:00 a.m. Matt declares he would like to take his new boat out. We have work to do, but he really wants to take our friends to Firefly before they leave and it’s closed on Wednesday. I really want to go to Firefly. I am tired of working and picking up millipedes. I agree.

10:10 a.m. Matt just left to spend the morning “getting the boat ready.” I suddenly realize that Matt has done nothing but clean his boat, play with his boat, consume grabbers and nippers, and go lobster fishing since we arrived. I have unpacked, organized, washed all of the laundry left by previous owners, painted the entire interior, stained the table, painted that ugly little nightstand, and made most of meals. Somehow, this does not feel equitable.

3:00 p.m. I LOVE THE NEW BOAT!

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4:00 p.m. I have to admit getting out on the boat was a good idea. I was getting cranky. I needed a day off. Boat drinks, a trip to the beach at Man-O-War Cay, and a stop at Austin and Amy’s is just what the doctor ordered. Lubbers Landing is still the BEST!

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5:00 p.m. Amy was right – Firefly has the best fried pickles EVER.

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7:30 p.m. We just made it back for sunset. Perfect timing. I wonder if there are any millipedes in the house? Yep.

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Wednesday, September 9

Millipede count: 5

8:30 a.m. I just ran to Gauna Grocery and found fresh made banana bread. It's the small things.

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10:00 a.m. Apparently, the millipedes are an epidemic right now. I am not sure if I feel better knowing our house is not uniquely cursed with them or worse knowing it’s obviously not something I can do anything about right now. For now, I will just keep throwing them in the toilet each morning.

10:30 a.m. Finished staining the table. I like it.

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11:00 a.m. I have been compiling a list of things we need to buy ever since we arrived. It is time to head to Marsh Harbour in our boat to see how much we can find. I am excited! My only experience with Marsh Harbour to date is the brief view outside my taxi window as we pass quickly from the airport to the ferry dock. Marsh Harbour, here we come! Yay, shopping!

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12:00 p.m. We are in Marsh Harbour and have a rental car. It is an old mini-van that has not been cleaned in a very long time. At least the a/c works. Sort of. Wow, it’s hot today.

12:30 p.m. We decided to stop for lunch. Most of the restaurants seem closed for the season. Except Kentucky Fried Chicken. It’s in a strip mall. Something about that is weird. I saw an “Open” sign at this place – Oasis. We’ll give it a shot. I don’t want to eat at the Bahamian KFC in a strip mall.

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1:00 p.m. Oasis rocks. Sure, they are even slower than the average Bahamian restaurant, but that is probably because they are the only thing open. Unless you want a 2 piece meal with a biscuit.

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2:30 p.m. Oasis gives an entirely new meaning to s-l-o-w. The food was great, but I think we just lost 2 hours of much needed shopping time. Maybe we should have gone for that chicken. How late do the stores stay open? So excited to finally go shopping!

3:30 p.m. Shopping here sucks. I can’t find anything here. When the Ace Hardware is the best store in town, you know you are in trouble. What I can find costs 9 times what it should. I just paid $9 for a cheap rubber plunger and $25 for a throwaway sponge mop. They don’t even have normal stores. There is no “Bed, Bath, and Beyond.” They have “Bed, Bath, and Between.” I understand “Beyond,” you’ve got lots of rooms beyond the bed and bath….the kitchen, the living area, the dining room….What the hell’s between the bed and the bath? The closet? That’s just stupid.

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4:00 p.m. ALL Mart? Seriously? Like Wal-Mart…except they have it ALL.

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4:30 p.m. Shopping was not as fun as I thought it would be. Half the things on my list are still on my list because I refuse to pay for them. I am not paying $34 for a $7 hairdryer or $49 for a $10 iron. I will just have wet hair and wrinkled clothes. And $25 for a cheap curtain panel that looks like something Big Lots would have for $3.99? No thank you. I bought a glue gun and a pile of fabric instead. And forget about replacing those curtain rods the previous owner made out of PVC. They are just fine, thankyouverymuch. This was the best thing I found in Marsh Harbour and they wouldn’t let me buy him.

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5:00 p.m. I thought we would never get all that stuff on the boat. And it was so hot. I have sweat running down my back. We look like a refugee boat. Did I mention that it is hot? I don’t feel like I will ever stop sweating. Thank heavens we found some frozen drinks nearby.

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6:00 p.m. We were so hot we decided to stop at Mermaid Reef for a quick snorkel on the way back. Amazing. I saw my first lion fish.

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8:30 p.m. Thank you, Kidds Cove for cooking Matt’s 10 lobster tails since my damn stove doesn't work. That might have been the best dinner ever. Can you guess which plate is mine and which is Matt’s? She who does all the painting alone gets the most lobster, I say.

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Thursday, September 10

Millipede count: 6

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8:00 a.m. My OCD is kicking in. Usually, when one moves into a new place, one immediately reorganizes and unpacks. We can’t unpack anything because we don’t have the modifications done. So far, all we can do is shuffle crap around. Move one pile to another pile. Put some junk on top of some different junk so that we can get to some other junk. There are no curtains on the windows. The initial excitement and newness has worn off. It has been replaced by frustration.

Stress, dirt, and chaos have become the defining aspects of my life.

I can’t take this.

If we can’t get over the hump today and get some of this stuff organized, I am certain I will die.

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10:30 a.m. We are kicking some major remodeling ass today. Matt is building the Murphy bed and I am repainting the cabinets. We are getting it DONE.

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12:00 p.m. Matt just got the Murphy bed completely put together on the floor and realized it’s too tall to stand up. The ceiling is too low. I am pretty sure Matt has reached his maximum frustration point with the Murphy bed.

Murphy Bed: 1
Matt: 0

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12:30 p.m. Nope. He was definitely able to get even more frustrated.

2:30 p.m. The Murphy bed has now been taken apart and reassembled on the wall. It’s up! I think Matt is dead on the inside, though.

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3:00 p.m. The cabinets are painted, the handles and doors are replaced, and I have an enormous blister on my hand. Why don’t we have an electric screwdriver? Oh yeah, because I needed 620 lbs. of beachy dishes and scented candles and it wouldn’t fit in the plane.

4:00 p.m. I am using a glue gun to make curtains and hang them on rods made out of PVC until I can go back to the states and get something better. Oh, dear God. I am making glue gun curtains and I have been eating a lot of instant food (because we still have not figured out the stove). I have reverted back to the 1989 college version of me. What’s next? Ramen noodles?

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5:00 p.m. Rooby has given up on us.

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6:00 p.m. It’s been a long work day, but the Murphy bed is up, the house and cabinets are painted, and we were able to put most of the stuff away. We have at least moved from “this place looks like hoarders live here” to “organized chaos.”

It’s starting to look like a beach house!

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Next up - Part II: Taking a vacation from our vacation....Hello, Eleuthera!

Posted by vicki_h 09:11 Archived in Bahamas Tagged island caribbean tropical abaco elbow_cay guana_cay marsh_harbour treasure_cay lubbers_landing Comments (2)

By Popular Demand....What's Up Next????

a.k.a. The Neurotic Travel Planner's Sanity Guide

Are you a travel planner or are you more of a "wing it" type of person? I am definitely a planner.

I genuinely overdo everything. "Is today your birthday? Look! I made you a birthday cake with a fondant sculpture of your face." "It's girls night! I made a list of all the places we can go along with a precisely timed itinerary and a breakdown of prices and suggested tips. Isn't that FUN?" "Potluck dinner? I made a 19 layer salad with hand foraged mushrooms and dressing that I made from my own herbs. I also made special pottery bowls to serve it in. Surprise!"

I just HATE when things suck. So when I’m planning a trip, I spend a neurotic and unhealthy amount of time trying to prevent any sucky elements from disappointing me during my travels.

It works.

This means that I typically have a travel calendar planned nearly a year in advance. This keeps me sane.

I know, I know. This is unhealthy. I need to get a life.

In the meantime, enjoy taking a peek at what we have coming up!

(I apologize in advance for photos shamelessly pirated from the internet)

FLIP THIS HOUSE: GUANA CAY EDITION....tune in as Matt and Vicki try to turn a beach house into their own little piece of paradise....with a special bonus edition: a side trip to Eleuthera!

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Girls Trip to Asheville: 8 Women, 3 beds....it has to be interesting.

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Getting our hiking fix at the hike-in only Charit Creek Lodge in Big South Fork: It's not Montana, but it'll do.

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Tortola, BVI: It's time for a trip to the Virgin Islands that doesn't include Mothers in Law.....

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Honduras: Yes, I said Honduras. I know it's the murder capital of the world, but it also has this awesome deserted island where Matt and I will spend 3 days alone and either have the time of our lives or commit a murder/suicide out of boredom. That will be followed by 4 days in an awesome villa on Roatan to make us forget what it was like to live without electricity or ice cubes.

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Matt's Big 5-0 Blowout on Jost Van Dyke: 16 Friends on the barefoot island....how awesome is that?

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Plus a regular smattering of weekend trips just to keep things interesting. Stay tuned, friends, it's going to be a helluva good time!

Posted by vicki_h 16:47 Archived in USA Comments (6)

It’s My Birthday. I'll Eat if I Want To.

48 Hours of Gluttony in Music City.

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It all started when Matt asked me what I wanted for my birthday.

I puzzled. I planned. I pondered.

I came up with…..nothing.

There was absolutely nothing I wanted that I didn’t already have.

Is that not AWESOME?

That alone should have been a remarkable birthday gift, and right then I should have taken any money that might be used on my birthday to buy a goat for a village in Africa, but I am far too selfish for that, so I thought, “Why not DO something instead of GET something?”

And what do I like to do more than anything?

Eat.

Birthdays are the one day a year that you can throw all your inhibitions away and eat yourself into a happy (birthday) food coma. Everyone knows that calories don’t count on your birthday (or holidays, vacations, Saturdays, after midnight, and following any emotional trauma).

I should also point out that eating is also a fantastic distraction from the aging process.

So Matt agreed to load up and head to my eating destination of choice.

I chose Nashville.

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We tend to forget about Nashville. It’s so close, but we never really think of it as a “destination.” To us, it’s just that big city in the middle of the state.

However, it has recently experienced a surge in popularity thanks to the new show Nashville, the inexplicable popularity of country music, and a brief stint as Taylor Swift’s home a choice before she decided NYC was infinitely cooler.

I’m pretty sure its popularity is not attributable to the fact that Billy Ray Cyrus lives there.

While we weren’t paying attention, Nashville became Nowville.

Or, in my case, Noshville.

Nashville’s restaurant scene has exploded in the past few years. A slew of new restaurants have popped up and I wanted to try as many of them as possible.

It seemed like a good time to head down the road for a visit to our mid-state cousin. Home of the Grand Ole Opry. Birthplace of Country Music. Honky Tonk Capital of the World. And baker of more biscuits than you can shake a stick at.

Day 1: Pass the biscuits.

We arrived in time for breakfast at my insistence (and despite Matt’s futile efforts to sleep late). There is no sleeping late when there are biscuits to be eaten.

We drove straight through what I think of as Nashville’s neon corridor of misery, that stretch of Broadway that is littered with neon boot signs and places promising line dancing and country karaoke. It’s like Las Vegas and Dollywood rolled up into one hot, flashy country-fried mess.

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If you are looking for a blog post filled with Robert’s Western World, The Bluebird Café, Printers Alley, and the Ryman….you should probably move on.

I was looking for an experience that was a bit less common. I wanted to take the road less traveled.

Unfortunately, the road less traveled appeared to have been taken over by hipsters.

Forget Nowville or Noshville. When we weren’t looking, Nashville had turned into Hipsterville.

For those of you that aren’t sure you know what a hipster is: 1) you’re lucky, and 2) I’ll give you a hint. You know that new coffee shop that just opened up in your town? The one with the glass contraptions that look like something from a chemist lab and that have the menus hand printed on the back of a recycled brown lunch bag? That 19-year-old faux junkie with the handlebar mustache and the mustard yellow fedora who is choreographing your coffee experience for 8 minutes with his pour-over method using sustainable, fair trade aged Sumatran roast….that’s a hipster.

And if you take a picture of your double upside down cacao cortado with soy, you might be one too.

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I have no shame in admitting it. We are moderately uncool middle aged people. The entire hipster movement is simply baffling to us. I don’t understand the sudden popularity of Victorian-era facial hair, unicycles, and men wearing skinny jeans, rolled up, with boots that look like something my great-grandfather likely wore to milk his cow.

However, hipsters take their food seriously. So, there is something to be gained by a moderately uncool middle aged person if he/she is brave enough to enter the hipster domain.

I had planned our eating carefully, and it included a vast number of hipster joints. Make no mistake, hipster joints make GOOD FOOD. You just have to get past the …..hipsterness of it all.

The first thing you have to do is look past the dim and ineffective vintage light bulbs and rough-hewn unfinished wood that is likely covering every surface to appreciate the wonder that is the menu. Don’t let yourself be immediately discouraged by the barrage of hipster-speak that assaults you from the menu. Dig past all of the locally foraged, ethically sourced, artisanal, salvaged, sustainable, stone-pounded, bicycle delivered weirdness and what you’ll find is really good food.

Move past the bone marrow, sweetbreads, and scrapple. Focus on key words: beef. potatoes. jam.

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Biscuit Love Brunch was a great place for Matt and I to start.

Like any good hipster restaurant, Biscuit Love started as a simple food truck. They recently moved from serving up hot handfuls of butter and flour on Nashville’s city streets to a bona fide brick and mortar restaurant. They only serve brunch, are only open until 3:00, and you can pretty much get anything on a biscuit.

When we walked in, there was a line. Apparently this was an “order at the counter, get a number, have a seat,” kind of place. We waited about 15 minutes.

I am BAFFLED by the number of people that can wait in line for 15 minutes, STARING AT A MENU, and are not prepared to order when they reach the counter.

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I did not have that problem when it was my turn at all. It was 9:00 a.m. and I was ravenous.

Bronuts and an East Nasty,”I blurted out so forcefully it made Matt jump.

Hey man, I was hungry.

I was then presented with a credit card slip to sign and leave a tip. REALLY?

I waited in line 15 minutes to order my own food and get my own beverage and you now want me to tip someone to bring my plate to me? Before they bring it to me?

Apparently, I do not understand the new counter service trend. If you’re making me serve myself, what are you asking for a tip for?

I prefer to wait and see if the person bringing my plate comes out dressed as a clown and makes me a balloon giraffe to go with my biscuit. THEN they will get a tip.

After a very short wait, my plate of bronuts arrived.

These biscuit-doughnut hybrids were made of fried biscuit dough, coated in crunchy sugar, filled with lemon marscapone, and sitting on top of fresh blueberry compote.

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That should have been enough, but then the East Nasty showed up: a crispy fried chicken thigh with smoked cheddar sitting on a flaky biscuit smothered in sausage gravy.

Nasty indeed.

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After breakfast, I wanted a really good cup of coffee. If there is one thing hipsters know how to do well, it’s make coffee.

Unfortunately, Biscuit Love had only moderately prepared us for the full-on hipster establishment experience.

Barista Parlour was the whole enchilada (an organic, locally sourced spaghetti squash, cotija, and lime infused yam enchilada, of course).

We found what we believed to be the Barista Parlour, a non-descript building with a cement block exterior. The doors were all locked, so we walked until we found a concrete courtyard surrounded by high concrete walls. I was starting to wonder if this was a coffee shop or an elementary school in Mexico City. We eventually found the right door and stepped inside.

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Residing in an old car stereo shop complete with roll up garage doors, this place was so hipster that it made me instantly want to put on one of my granny’s old dresses and a vintage cardigan. I suddenly wished I hadn't washed my hair and had grabbed a slouchie beanie on the way out. It was like walking into an Instagram photo. I saw a barista in a toboggan and a leather apron, despite the fact that it was 95 degrees outside. There were small children wearing unnecessary scarves and the all of the chocolate bars had at least 65% cacao.

In lieu of the customary hipster chalkboard menu, the only menu I could see was a small elaborately custom-made affair attached to a wooden board affixed permanently to the area just below the register. As I waited in line, I realized this would give me about .86 seconds to consider my order, while the uber cool barista stood in silent judgment. I had to order before the crowd behind me started angrily waving their beanies and vintage copies of The Catcher in the Rye at me.

Apparently, I was supposed to know what was on the menu before I arrived. I was already failing my hipster exam.

My level of discomfort on a scale of 1 to 10 was about a 4.

Matt’s was a 27. He immediately decided he didn’t want anything and ran to the safety of the bathroom.

I distracted myself by perusing the colorful shelves filled with fanciful appurtenances (I feel like this overelaborate description is necessary to reflect the true atmosphere of the Barista Parlour). There were colorful French macarons, artisan chocolates, gluten-free cookies, and hand-made pop-tarts. There were vintage motorbikes and a wall shelf filled with vinyl record albums.

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When it was time to place my order, I was blessedly quick, simply choosing the first thing I could read without my glasses.

I took my number to my table (apparently a phenomenon here in Nashville….there did not appear to be any restaurant at which one did not receive a whimsical number on a stick to affix in some manner to one’s table). As I tried to decide which industrial upcycled table to sit at, I passed the condiment table. No doubt in a place like this, where coffee making was considered art, adding sugar to your cappuccino would be like putting ketchup on your langoustine at Le Bernardin.

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My coffee could come out tasting like cardboard and turpentine and I wouldn’t dare risk the disapproving stares of the other patrons to get a scoop of Splenda. I wasn’t going to be making that walk of shame. Besides, they probably only had Sugar in the Raw or honey anyway.

After about 15 minutes of careful brewery magic, the barista in the toboggan brought me my Caramel Whiskey Latte.

No wonder the condiment table looked dusty. Who needs it? The coffee was AMAZING.

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Apparently, all you need is a leather apron to make an astonishing cup of coffee.

It was time to leave the hipster-cool of the City. We’d had all we could take for a while. We needed to go somewhere that didn’t require tattoos or facial hair to fit in.
We easily found our conspicuous oversized Land Rover parked in a sea of tiny electric cars and bicycles and made our escape.

Our first stop was at Love Circle, a grassy hill with a panoramic view of the city skyline. Technically the hill belongs to Metro Water Services and technically it’s considered trespassing on the water reservoir that exists up there and technically it’s illegal to park …..but we had been emboldened by our middle aged foray into the youthful hipster world, so we went for it.

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Next up was a drive through Nashville’s prestigious Belle Meade neighborhood. We were planning to make a stop at the Belle Meade Plantation, but after driving past mansion after mansion, we felt poor and dejected and decided the only thing that would make us feel better was pie.

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We stopped at the famed Loveless Motel and Café to see what they had to offer. They have been serving the best biscuits in Nashville since 1951, and it is said that the recipe remains unchanged today.

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Unfortunately, I was full up on biscuits. Not just full up, EAST NASTY full up.

We couldn’t decide on one pie, so we got a pie sampler, because when you are too full to eat one piece of pie, you should just go ahead and get three. The sampler included banana pudding (okay, not technically a pie, but who cares), chess pie, and coconut pie.

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Pie is always good, but next time, I want the biscuits.

We then took a beautiful drive on a section of the Natchez Trace Parkway, which extends 444 miles from Nashville to Natchez, Mississippi. I could only imagine what it must look like in the fall.

Note to self: Come back in the fall. Drive parkway. Eat biscuits.

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We hopped off the parkway at quaint Leiper’s Fork, a scenic village surrounded by farmland just southwest of Nashville. It’s a place filled with farmers, artists, and musicians. Home to the famous Puckett’s Grocery Store, where live bluegrass mingles with meatloaf and collard greens, the village was filled with quaint shops and galleries.

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And this old Jeep Willys which I must have or die.

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Shopping made us hungry, so we headed back to the City for a late lunch.

Having had enough hipster fun that morning, we decided to go as un-hipster as possible: Arnold’s.

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If Arnold’s writes something on a paper bag, it’s because that’s what was nearby. Arnold’s is not cool. Arnold’s is not hip. And Arnold’s doesn’t care.
Arnold’s has been serving up “meat and 3” lunches out of a colorful cinder block building for over 30 years. Nothing is fancy, food is served cafeteria style, and tables are communal – you simply squeeze in where you can find space.

We arrived late, at 2:20. They stop serving at 2:45, so imagine our surprise when the line still stretched out the door. No matter, we had nothing but time.

When we got inside, we had plenty of time to review the menu on the wall. Everything looked like it was cooked in pork fat or fried in lard. It was like heaven.

The good thing about the line at Arnold’s is that it gives neurotic orderers ample time to consider every possible combination of the meat + three before actually having to settle on just one.

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Should I get meatloaf with creamed corn, fried okra, and green beans? What about catfish with mashed potatoes, tomato pie, and collard greens? Oh wait, maybe roast beef with white beans, fried apples, and candied yams????? What about the cole slaw??? DEAR GOD, WHERE WOULD I FIT IN THE COLE SLAW?????? Is there a meat + 4?

While I was suffering a mild panic attack at being limited to only 3 side items, we came to the food line.

Desserts came first. These people have their priorities in order. I immediately forgot all about side items.

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We did not plan to get dessert since we had eaten bronuts, biscuits, and 3 pieces of pie that morning….but they had the pies right at eye level. They were staring at us. “Pick me, pick me,” each one chanted, like a homeless puppy at the kill shelter. We just had to take one home.

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With a choice between roast beef, meatloaf, chicken n’dumplings, fried catfish, or fried shrimp…it was a tough call. I almost ordered the chicken n’ dumplings, but then I spotted the whole roast beef, rare and juicy, as they were hand carving it to order.

“Roast beef, fried green tomatoes, macaroni & cheese, and greens, please,” I said with no hesitation.

Matt went for the meatloaf, corn pudding, green beans, and mashed potatoes swimming in rich gravy.

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We. Ate. Every. Bite.

Shameful.

Delicious.

It was late in the afternoon and we really needed a post-binge nap, so we made our way to 12 South, an eclectic (and yes, hipster) neighborhood just outside of downtown. Not that long ago, this was just considered a rough part of town. Now, it’s one of the hottest neighborhoods in Nashville where you can buy a vintage guitar, drink a craft cocktail, eat a gourmet popsicle, and try on a pair of hand-stitched jeans all in one 10 block stretch only 2 miles from downtown.

It’s no secret that I am not a fan of hotels. Beyond that, I make every effort to seek out the most unique accommodations I can find. I’m not satisfied with the ordinary. I want extraordinary.

The 12th Avenue South Urban Oasis was my idea of perfect. It was Matt’s idea of a fancied up garage, but that was because he didn’t get it.

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Nestled quietly and privately behind the dazzling Savant vintage store on 12 South, this place was literally an “oasis.” Once we entered the gate, it was quiet and peaceful. It was hard to image the hustle and bustle of 12 South was so close.

The garage had been lovingly restored and decorated by the owner of Savant with her own fabulous antiques and unique finds. It was bright and airy. I felt like I had stepped into a magazine shoot.

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And no, it was not entirely lost on me that I was sleeping in the Barista's Parlour's less evil twin.

I loved everything about it.

Well. Almost Everything.

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We enjoyed the cool retreat of the Urban Oasis during the 95+ degree afternoon. Line dried white linens covered the windows to block the sun and the big, blue vintage Westinghouse floor fan created a perfect naptime breeze that went nicely with the ice cold a/c.

When the temps started to drop and we felt like we could eat again, we headed to East Nashville to explore some off the beaten path places for dinner.

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“Off the beaten path” is not Matt’s favorite. It’s really his least favorite. He likes safe, conventional, right-in-the-middle-of-the-damn-path types of places, but it was my birthday, so he chose to be a good sport.

East Nashville is a mixed bag. Not too long ago, it was considered a down-on-its-luck undesirable part of town. However, thanks to urban sprawl and a mix of creative and artistic types, it enjoys a trendy, progressive vibe and continues its upward movement.

Thrillist recently named it one of the coolest neighborhoods in America.

Sounded like a good place to eat.

As we crossed the river and entered East Nashville, I saw a fixed gear bicycle shop, a sign for handmade paletas, and an artisanal chocolate shop with several guys outside with scraggly beards.

There had to be good food nearby.

The hardest thing to decide was WHERE to eat. East Nashville is literally riddled with awesome new places to eat and drink. The place is silly with them.
I had a mental list. We’d see how many we could get to.

We started at Mas Tacos. Another place that started as a food truck, Mas Tacos was supposed to have killer Mexican food.

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We found it easily enough, housed in an old deli building with a faded Winnebago parked beside it. Between the sketchy looking exterior and the freakish line, Matt was already giving me the death stare.

“It’s my birthday,” I said.

I wasn’t sure how many more times that line was going to work.

The line moved fast and in minutes we were inside. The décor in the cinderblock and linoleum building was eclectic and cool. We found ourselves in a dimly lit, rustic room with mismatched chairs huddled around small tables, cacti scattered about, quirky artwork, old-school oscillating fans (no air conditioning), and an old jukebox playing free songs.

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The menu overwhelmed us. There were simply too many amazing choices. The taco choices ranged from fried avocado to cast iron chicken to quinoa sweet potato. There were Cuban beans and grilled corn, sweet plantains and pozole verde.

We ended up with pork tacos, sweet plantains, tortilla soup, and elote (grilled corn with crumbly cotija cheese and lime juice).

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It was all good, but the show stopper was the tortilla soup. Laced with lime, chili, and cilantro, it was chunk full of white meat chicken, fresh tomatoes, grilled corn, peppers, tender avocado slices, and puffy delicious strips of deep fried tortilla.

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Okay, apparently I really liked the corn too.

As I was eating it, I heard someone singing “I’ll make love to you” by Boyz II Men. Thinking it was the free jukebox, I realized it was me.

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Mas Tacos is BYOB, but why would you want to when you can get one of their house made agua frescas? We couldn’t choose between watermelon-lime and pineapple-cilantro, so we got one of each.

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Pretty sure we could eat a second meal if we gave it a little time, we walked over to the Holland House Bar and Refuge for some drinks.

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Facial hair and full sleeve tattoos were obviously a bartender requirement, we noticed as we were seated at the enormous 4-posted bar. The mixologist wore suspenders and held a bottle with an eye dropper. The crowd was chic and vintage. We were definitely in the right place for a craft cocktail.

I ordered the Shennong’s Delight, a light and refreshing (but powerfully strong) blend of Tito’s vodka, lemongrass, orange curacao, ginger, lemon, and champagne. Matt had the Sailing to Byzantium made of El Dorado 5 year rum, crème de cassis, vanilla, lime, and black walnut bitters.

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We only planned to have one drink, but they were so good, we decided to have another. We had spotted a bottle of Leblon cachaça behind the bar. The only good thing that had come out of our trip to Brazil (besides the fact that we made it home with all internal organs intact and found that Matt only had the flu and had not contracted some terminal disease) was our love of a real caipirinha. I say “real” because almost NO ONE in the U.S. can make one properly. Something about the simple ingredients “limes, sugar, cachaça” perplexes them and they insist on adding all manner of other things. We decided to give the suspendered, tattooed, mustached bartender a shot.

He nailed it.

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I felt confident that we could eat again before throwing in the greasy white napkin, so we headed out to find the holy grail of hot chicken, Prince’s Hot Chicken in East Nashville.

If you have heard about the hot chicken phenomenon, it started in Nashville. If you haven't, then you are missing out. There’s a lot of hot chicken in Nashville these days, but it all started with Thornton Prince.

Legend has it that Mr. Prince was quite a philanderer. He came home one morning after a night of womanizing demanding his breakfast and his lady decided she’d had enough. She made him breakfast all right. She made him a breakfast he would never forget, putting every manner of hot spice she could find in the kitchen cupboards into his fried chicken. She wanted him to HURT.

When he took the first bite, she smiled in smug satisfaction, waiting for the cry of pain. Instead, he LIKED IT.

He liked it so well, he made her make it for all of his friends. And so, Prince’s Hot Chicken was born.

Today, Thornton’s great niece owns and operates Prince’s Hot Chicken where you can indulge your craving for skillet-fried, cayenne-swabbed birds piled on white bread with pickles.

Prince’s was not exactly located in the “up and coming” part of East Nashville. It was in the “down and out” part.

We found Prince’s in a defunct strip mall, sandwiched between a wig store and a nail salon. The interior was a sea of green linoleum and vinyl table cloths.

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It was clear that no one in the throng of people hanging around outside or waiting inside was a “visitor.” You could tell these people were here every day, waiting for their deliciously greasy bag of to-go chicken on their way home from work.

We stood out like a pair of hot pink suits at an Amish funeral.

Matt gave me his best “Please, don’t make me” look, but I made him go inside anyway.

Matt’s internal comfort meter was starting to tip to the “I’m about to run” point. I pushed him up to the counter.

As we ordered, two 20-something guys in matching J Crew outfits came in. They looked like they had just hopped off their yacht. I looked at Matt. “You can relax,” I said. “You are no longer the most conspicuous person in here.”

The chicken comes on top of white bread and is served with a pile of pickles. You can get mild (hot), medium (really hot), hot (scorching), xhot (blistering), xxxhot (you will die). Prince’s Hot Chicken is not to be confused with buffalo style chicken. The pepper is violent. It’s nuclear.

The chicken is fried in a cast iron skillet and is then doused with an unholy combination of cayenne and lard. The liquefied fat and pepper oozes into all of the nooks and crannies in the crunchy chicken, dripping onto slices of gooey white bread underneath. I am sure the bread is to keep the nuclear mess from seeping off the plate and into the eyes of any small children that may be standing nearby, lest they be blinded for life.

Legend has it that ordering the XXX will require medical intervention.

We ordered ½ a chicken in the medium. It came with instructions for CPR.

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The fire started slowly, at my lips. Then it spread down my throat and eventually consumed my entire digestive tract. I had read that I should be careful not to touch my eyes, should have plenty of napkins (for the sweat), and that I should use the slice of white bread that comes tucked under the chicken to counteract the heat. I quickly shoved a slice of white bread into my mouth, followed by a gulp of sweet tea.

Dear sweet Lord, but it was GOOD.

When we were finished, that ½ chicken looked like roadkill that had been picked clean by every buzzard in a 20 mile radius.

The verdict: Hot chicken rocks.

Too full for any more food, we decided to wrap up the night at a new bar in 12 South. This way, we could walk home if we had too many drinks, or if we started convulsing from the hot chicken.

I forgot to wash my hands and spent the entire drive back to 12 South concentrating on not scratching my eye so that I didn't blind myself.

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Embers Ski Lodge was modeled after every apres-ski bar I had ever been to back in my skiing days. There was a faux fireplace, a wall sized mural of a snowy mountain, snowflake lights, and rough-hewn logs decorating the walls. The menu had all of the kitsch of an old ski movie, with vintage ski photos, “black diamond appetizers,” and “bunny hill desserts.”

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Even the drinks were themed.

I ordered the Ski School, which was described on the menu as “vodka, vanilla, passion fruit, butterscotch, sparkling.” Imagine my delight when what came out was a foamy delicious, butterscotch tasting cocktail in an old school champagne glass with an adorable little sidecar of Prosecco.

“You sip the sweet cocktail, and then follow it with the dry bubbles.”

It was genius.

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We had packed a lot into one day and were we were TIRED.

It was time to head to bed. I went to sleep trying not to think about this…..

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Day 2: Help! I’ve Eaten….and I Can’t Get Up!

As soon as my eyes opened, I checked the squirrel. He hadn’t moved. Good.

I was still full from the day before, but that didn’t stop me from dragging Matt out of bed to go in search of breakfast. We had eating to do.

There were so many great places to grab breakfast, but we decided to stick close so that we could see a little bit of 12 South.

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I didn’t realize there were so many cool shops. Like Imogene & Willie. Set up in a refurbished filling station named after the owner’s grandparents, this place is apparently famous for their hand-made, high end jeans.

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Or White’s Mercantile. Modeled after an old general store, this upscale shop had everything from baby soft bath robes to vintage cocktail stirrers.

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This neighborhood was a feast for the eyes, but I needed a feast for my belly.

We stopped at Edley’s BBQ. A BBQ joint that serves breakfast? Why, yes. Yes indeed.

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With a never ending need for biscuits to be filled, I ordered the Tuck’s biscuit: a fluffy, homemade buttermilk biscuit topped with savory brisket, and over easy egg, pimento cheese, and red and white sauce.

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Matt had been so envious of my East Nasty the day before that he ordered his own nasty biscuit, Edley’s Nashville Nasty, topped with fried chicken breast and drowning in sausage gravy.

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BBQ and eggs might be my new favorite dish.

We strolled the neighborhood before I decided it was time for COFFEE.

To its credit, 12 South has its own excellent coffee shop, so we had no need to return to the uber hipster Barista Parlour which was one part Instagram portrait studio and one part disheveled beard and ironic mustache gallery.

The Frothy Monkey was just a really good coffee shop.

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Obviously.

These lines were getting ridiculous. So far, we had waited in line for EVERY MEAL. It was time to start going to some places that took reservations!
The coffee was worth the wait. My cappuccino was excellent and Matt was able to order a hot chocolate without fear that the barista would judge his non-coffee choice. No need to flee to the bathroom this time.

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We spent the rest of the morning shopping our way through the 12 South neighborhood.

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They even had a quaint little farmer’s market set up. I bypassed the South Carolina peaches and went straight for the Georgia peach truck. You can’t tell a Georgia girl that they don’t grow the best peaches.

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We grabbed a post-breakfast, pre-lunch ice cream at Jeni’s. Simply amazing ice-cream, this is literally the one thing we have to eat every time we are in Nashville.

It's more likely that the 16-year old workers simply placed the containers wherever was closest so that they could return to discussing whether or not to go to the Minions movie, but I liked to think the ice-cream gods put the brown butter almond brittle right next to the darkest chocolate just for me.

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Next up, I had a surprise for Matt.

When we were in Las Vegas once upon a time, Matt went to have an old fashioned shave. He loved it.

I had read about a place downtown where you could get a straight razor shave, so I had made him an appointment.

I knew by the time I saw the door sign, I had made him an appointment at an ultra-hipster salon.

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By the time I saw the inordinate volume of taxidermy, string lights, antlers, and mason jars – I knew.

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When they offered me free wine in a jelly glass while I waited, I didn’t care.

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Matt truly enjoyed his shave, even if he did have a stuffed fox staring at him while he got it.

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I was all jazzed up on cheap hipster wine, so it was time to eat something. We headed to Germantown to try the new Butchertown Hall, a new place claiming to specialize in smoked meats and sausages using primitive wood-fired cooking techniques.

The name conjured up images of meat and fire. Imagine my surprise when a sleek, tall white building rose in front of me. The interior was clean and artsy, full of caged rocks and barren branches in vases. It felt more like an Anthropolgie store than a meat house.

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The smell, however, was all meat. I was immediately struck by the smoky delicious aroma.

We arrived at an off time, almost 2:00. Thankfully, there weren’t many patrons, because Butchertown Hall does not take reservations and if I had walked Matt up to one more food line, I believe I would have had a mutiny on my hands.

We were seated immediately and set about the task of ordering cocktails. I couldn’t resist the winter-spiced grapefruit mimosa. Matt went with the oak roasted bloody mary.

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The smell of the place had woken our inner caveman, so we ordered accordingly.

MEAT. CORN. POTATOES. BREAD.

Was a more manly meal ever conceived? I literally felt my testosterone level rise as we ordered.

We ordered the oak smoked pork carnitas and the house made chorizo sausage. Both were served with house pickles, thin sliced onions, thick flour tortillas. We also ordered the potato salad and grilled street corn.

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It gave me the meat sweats.

I needed another beverage to slow the heart palpitations, so I got tried the Paloma, a tangy combination of tequila blanco, Pimms, lime, grapefruit, and black cardamom.

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Obviously, that lunch required another nap.

We woke up refreshed and ready to hit the streets in search of more food.

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I felt like Matt deserved one meal that didn’t involve lines, table numbers, mason jars, lack of air conditioning, or general fear for one’s safety, so I had made reservations at Josephine.

Josephine was less than a block from where we were staying on 12 South, so we were able to leave the car at home and enjoy a walk on a beautiful summer night.

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When we walked in, Josephine greeted us with soft lights, white linens, and gleaming glassware. There wasn’t a chalkboard, piece of butcher paper, or recycled, hand-cut, distressed piece of salvaged furniture in the place.

It was elegant without being pretentious. It was filled with middle aged adults in normal adult clothing. There was no unnecessary facial hair. It was just what we needed.

We started off with the pretzel bread and housemade mustard. That was followed by the tomato gazpacho with lump crab and lime for Matt and the arugula salad with fresh peaches and goat cheese topped with mint, honey, and lavender for me.

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For dinner, I opted for the housemade fettucine with tomato, lobster and basil. Matt had the scallops with grilled romaine.

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We received a wonderful little surprise with our check – a delightful little box of ginger cookies with the recipe attached.

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We were tempted by dessert, but this trip was about variety, so we felt compelled to indulge our dessert whim elsewhere.

We made the short walk down to Urban Grub where Matt found a chocolate peanut butter bar and I fell in love with the vanilla bean doughnuts with bacon toffee cream cheese ice cream (say that 3 times really fast), caramel, and chocolate covered bacon.

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Those doughnuts were like warm, soft little pillows of sugar.

They almost made me forget about sleeping in the same room as that squirrel.

Almost.

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Day 3: It's Not Over When I'm Full...It's Over When I Hate Myself.

It wasn't over yet. I didn't want to go home thinking, "I should have eaten that."

We kissed the Urban Oasis goodbye and headed out for our last meals.

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Yes, I said "meals," do you have a problem with double breakfast? Because if you do, you should just stop reading now and go get your smug self some carrot sticks.

To complete the Nashville trifecta of perfect coffee, I followed the Barista Parlour and Frothy Monkey with coffee from Crema, not from the original location, but from the mind-blowing awesomeness that is Pinewood Social.

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Pinewood Social was like nothing I have ever experienced. From the outside, it was a simple brick warehouse. Inside, it was a virtual playground of food and drinks, presented in every bizarre venue possible. First, there was the "Living Room." Plush sofas and overside chairs, vintage tables and throw rugs, as well as a tech table suitable for even the most particular Mac user filled the space, offering up endless nooks and crannies to cozy up in.

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Then there was the bar and restaurant, vintage bowling alley, and a pool deck complete with lounge chairs, cabanas, and an old air stream serving up pool drinks and tacos. When I was there, I didn't think about how absurd it was, I only thought about how incredible the food was.

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My Crema Cubano was perfect, complete with the requisite coffee art. We also snacked on an avocado omelet with crispy fried fingerling potatoes. I say "snacked on" because this wasn't actually breakfast.

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For our grand finale, we headed to Sunday Brunch at Husk. Pulling up to the elegant historic Italianate home, I felt like it was 1880 and we were arriving for Sunday supper. White gloves and a parasol would not have been entirely inappropriate.

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Husk didn't disappoint. We went out in grand style with White Lily biscuits with black pepper and sausage gravy; french toast with peaches, peanut butter, maple and chantilly cream; and chicken fried steak with gravy and a farm egg served with sausage and potato hash.

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As with all good things, it had to come to an end eventually.

I'm not sorry I went and ate half of Nashville. Sometimes, a gluttonous weekend is good for the soul. It's a reminder in our gluten-free, non-dairy, low fat lives that life is rich and is meant to be enjoyed.

Unfortunately, at my age, that enjoyment comes with a price. I am spending the entire month of August on the Whole30 no dairy, no soy, no grains, no sugars, no legumes, no alcohol diet to undue all the damage I have done with this summers sinful vacation eating.

Don't feel too sorry for me. I'll be back off the wagon for a 2 week jaunt to Abaco next month.

Until then, eat well, my friends. Eat well.

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Posted by vicki_h 19:04 Archived in USA Tagged food south tennessee eating nashville josephine husk 12_south mas_tacos hot_chicken leiper's_fork Comments (4)

Guana Cay....Anything but Boring.

a.k.a. I think I'm getting to old for this S**t.

July 4th and Abaco.

Like tin foil and a microwave….neither is particularly dangerous alone, but put them together….and POW!

Explosive.

Time it right and you end up with 3 days of high-energy events….the Stranded Naked Cheeseburger Party…..the 4th of July……and Nippers Sunday Funday. Add to that 8 adults in varying stages of insanity and immaturity, and you have a situation just waiting to happen. Or many situations.

This trip made my 38th birthday on Abaco look like a tea party. Like diarrhea after a bad street taco, it was the gift that just kept giving, replete with “What the ?!” moments.

Hold on, folks. This one’s a doozy.

Day One: Up and At ‘Em!

When I was a kid, this is how my Dad woke us up every morning. He’d beat on our door and shout, “Up and At ‘Em!!” in the most annoyingly cheerful voice ever.

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I figured out what the phrase actually was, ending a long standing belief from my childhood that my Dad inexplicably shouted “Up and Adam” at us every morning.

All 8 of us piled up in the Chieftan in the wee hours of the morning. Destination: Guana Cay.

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We had 5 days of fun planned and wanted to get the party started as early as possible. I mean, when you intend to spend the next 5 days going full throttle, why not start at 4:00 a.m. just to ensure the maximum level of exhaustion?

Thanks to Darvin, the man who can do anything on Guana Cay http://www.everythingguana.com/, the boat was waiting for us at the ferry dock in Marsh Harbor as soon as we touched the ground. We hit the ground running.

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We’ve decided that the perfect first day is accomplished by boating straight to Lubbers Landing. Austin and Amy give us the perfect place to relax, unwind, and breathe the city air out and the island air in.

We spent the afternoon with good food, good friends, and the best drinks in Abaco.

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Austin’s going to have to start giving something other than Patron for mastering the “around the pole” game. I bet if he was giving out free shots of Tortilla Gold Matt wouldn’t be so good at it.

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By the end of lunch, we were 100% in island mode.

After lunch at Lubbers, we hopped over to Tahiti Beach for a quick swim. The sandbar was out in full force and the afternoon boat party had started. We all enjoyed a soak in the bath warm water.

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But for this group, flying to the Bahamas, boating to Lubbers Landing, and beaching on Tahiti Beach wasn't enough. Hell no. This trip was about seeing which would kill us first, overconsumption or exhaustion, so we headed to the beach at Man O War. Why not go for total collapse on the first day?

Rest is for sissies.

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We finally made our way to Guana Cay late in the afternoon. We hadn’t even been to the house yet. Our luggage was in the boat and we had been climbing on top of it all day. It was starting to get as limp and soggy as we were.

We only stayed at the house long enough to unpack and get showers. Then it was off to Grabbers for sunset.

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Having recently become big fans of “wing night” at Orchid Bay’s Sunsetter restaurant, we headed that way for some $4 wings.

Dinner took “island time” to a whole new level. You see, wing night is very popular. Even though it was 9:00 p.m., the restaurant was packed. AND we had a table of 8. With a table of 8 in the Bahamas, you might as well be asking the restaurant to feed the entire country of China.

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An hour later……

We managed to eat in less time that it had taken to get a water refill.

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There was nothing left to do but head home and fall into bed, exhausted.

Day Two: Time to Get Stranded Naked!

It was the day before the 4th of July and that meant one thing: The Stranded Naked Cheeseburger Party on Fiddle Cay.

No one gets stranded. Or naked.

Sorry.

However, it is the world’s most awesome beach party. Bob and Patricia Henderson work tirelessly each year to throw this most amazing FREE event. Hosted on uninhabited Fiddle Cay, where hundreds of boats surround the islands sandbar, Bob and Patricia give away 1200 Cheeseburgers, 600 hotdogs, 250 pounds of Fries, 100 gallons of Margaritas, and 100 gallons of Boat Drinks.

It is an unforgettable event.

It’s like Bourbon Street and Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville had a baby. And Las Vegas was the Godmother and any Orlando water park was the Godfather.

You never know what’s going to happen.

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When Matt told me we were taking a group of 8 down for this year’s event, I knew the boat we normally used wasn’t going to cut it.

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Unfortunately, it is a very bad idea to try to rent a large boat for the single busiest week in Abaco at the last minute. By the time I knew we needed a bigger boat, there were no bigger boats.

That’s when I found the Regal. As soon as I saw her, I knew it was love.

From her hydraulic Flexiteek swim platform to her convertible rear facing chaise lounges to her wet bar and Bluetooth sound system….she was a thing of beauty and I knew she had to be mine.

And she came with a Captain.

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Sure, this meant we would have a witness to our debauchery, but it also meant there was no risk of being stuck on the sandbar for an extra 4 hours while our boat captain “slept it off” on top of the chips in the cuddy cabin.

Worth. Every. Penny.

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The ride over was awesome. Even Matt was able to relax instead of having to be the “responsible one.”

No one had to be responsible today.

Except Joey.

I’m sorry, Joey.

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Captain Joey had us anchored off Fiddle Cay just after 10:00 a.m. I was amazed at how many boats were already there so early.

I could smell burgers cooking on the grill. People were lazily drifting about on floats. Margaritas were being poured. The sun was shining.

It was shaping up to be a fantastic day.

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We managed to get in the cheeseburger line early, so there was almost no wait time. I think I’ve told you before that I don’t believe in waiting in line for food. Not even really good food. Not even really good FREE food.

The line was blessedly quick.

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That was good, because when I looked up from my hamburger, grease and ketchup smeared on my cheek, I saw Matt coming toward me with the Yeti cooler in tow.

Holy cats.

When Matt straps the 45 lb Yeti on like it’s a fanny pack…..a serious party is about to get started. I had never been so happy to have a bundle of greasy meat, bread, and potatoes in my belly.

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I threw an extra handful of pickles down my throat just to be on the safe side.

My recollection of the events after lunch are somewhat fuzzy and play in my head to Flo Rida’s theme song from the Hangover…….Thankfully, I made it out of there with all my teeth and no tattoos that weren’t temporary.

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Poor Joey. Somehow he managed to wrangle all of us back onto the boat before the tide went out and he ended up having to spend the night with us on the sandbar.

I don’t blame him for not wanting to spend the night with us.

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Instead, he took us to No Name Cay to feed the pigs before heading back to Guana.

I was a little apprehensive. I had read about a couple of people getting nipped by the pigs in recent weeks.

Having a group of somewhat intoxicated adults waving food around at a bunch of wild pigs seemed to me to be the Bahamian equivalent of “Hey y’all…..watch this….”

As such, instead of all of us running up on to the beach to feed the pigs, we elected a Pig Ambassador, who represented the strongest among us.

Of course it was Matt. Did you really think it would be anyone else? The man hauled a 45 lb. Yeti around all day like it was a beer coozie, for goodness sakes. He’s tough as iron.

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Besides, the rest of the group was in no shape to be feeding pigs.

Captain Joey deposited us safely back at the Guana dock in time for a beautiful sunset at Grabbers.

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We took stock of the day’s injuries.

We had: one black eye, one bruised arm, one bruised ankle, two bruised legs, one cut foot, two blisters, and one toenail completely devoid of polish (hey, to a woman, this is an injury!).

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Good thing we had a nurse in the group.

A wedge salad with the fresh catch of the day was just what the doctor (or nurse) ordered.

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When we returned to the house, an Abaco forum member ( http://abacoforum.com/ ) whom I had met briefly the day before had left the sweetest note and two t-shirts for Matt and I, as thanks for the inspiration he finds in my travel blog.

IS THAT NOT THE SWEETEST?????

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Robert – if you’re out there, I have 3 things to say:

1. Thank you, thank you, thank you. You made my day!

2. I’m sorry we didn’t see you at Stranded Naked. I was apparently too busy drinking out of strangers’ champagne bottles.

3. I kept both t-shirts. I will give Matt his when I feel he has sufficiently earned it. My blog, my shirts. It’s only fair.

Day Three: Red, White, and Booze

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The significance of July 4th is not completely lost on me. I am not unaware that we are celebrating our Declaration of Independence, our freedom, and the birth of the United States. It’s awe inspiring when you think of what happened back in 1776. It fills me with gratitude and pride.

Is it so wrong that it also makes me want to cook meat over fire, drink, and watch things explode?

Even in the Bahamas, many places recognized the U.S. holiday. We had chartered the Regal for a second day to take us to Pete’s Pub for their annual July 4th Pig Roast.

I was surprised when Joey showed up for a second round. I was sure he’d had enough of us the day before, but there he was, undaunted.

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We thought about stopping at Pelican Cay on the way, but the water was rough and Joey suggested that it would be best to get to Pete’s before it got so crowded that we were unable to get space at the dock and were forced to swim in.

As soon as I heard the words “swim in” I decided I could see Pelican Cay after lunch.

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Pete’s was pretty quiet when we arrived. They weren't serving lunch yet, so everyone grabbed drinks, found seats, and enjoyed the relaxing vibe.

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Everyone except me. I was busy stalking the smoker.

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Smelling that meat made me feel very sorry for vegans.

Smoked meat is the monster truck of the food world. It’s the guy at the gym in the too small muscle shirt who is deadlifting weight so heavy that the veins in his forehead start to bulge. Regular grilled meats ask politely if you’d like a taste. Smoked meat will punch you in the mouth and scream “HELL YES!”

Seriously, the smell of that meat turned me into the carnivorous equivalent of a crack addict. I quickly scribbled a note on an old napkin.

Dear Guy at the Smoker,

I will give you $10,000 if you will walk away from the smoker. Now. Just go to the bathroom for 5 minutes. That’s all I need.

V.

It didn’t work. He was guarding that smoker like his life depended on it. It would have been easier to get a hotdog from a hobo than to sneak anything past that guy.

And just when I thought I couldn’t wait another minute…..I was handed a stunningly beautiful combo plate loaded with slow smoked shredded pork and a crispy chicken leg quarter. As though that wasn’t beautiful enough on its own, they loaded the plate down with potato salad, slaw, corn and rice, and baked beans, which immediately threw me into a full on food frenzy.

MUST EAT ALL THE FOODS.

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I love the 4th of July.

Thank you, Thomas Jefferson. I choose to celebrate with a chicken leg.

The DJ was late, so we all headed for the water after lunch. We waited. And waited.

AND WAITED.

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No DJ.

We left.

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It’s probably a good thing. If the DJ had shown up, there would have been more drinks. There would have been dancing. There would have been even more drinks. By the time we left Pete’s, we’d have been pickled.

That would have made it harder to jump off when the boat caught on fire.

Yes, you read that correctly: WHEN THE BOAT CAUGHT ON FIRE.

One minute, you’re innocently drinking moonshine and dancing on the boat……

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The next minute a life jacket is shoved at you as you are told to get the F*** of the boat.

There are times when the universe likes to remind you that you are not in charge. Usually, the reminders are not easy and are slightly painful. They are a lot like playing with a cat. One minute, you think you are having fun and the next minute, “OUCH.” That sonofabitch just up and bites the hell out of you for no reason.

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We were having some boat drinks, playing some music, and dancing on the Regal when I noticed black smoke starting to pour into the main cabin.

I have slow reflexes when I am NOT drinking. When I am drinking, my reactions are akin to someone in a coma. My flight or fight response is clearly broken and Matt often reminds me that I seem to lack the natural, God-given fear that creates a healthy sense of self-preservation in most people.

Naturally, my reaction was to move some things and lean down to see the smoke better, because that is certainly what most people would do when faced with a sudden boat fire.

That’s when Joey shoved a life jacket in my hands, moved me to the back of the boat, and said, “Jump off. NOW.”

I jumped.

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I had been filming the boat dancing and realized that I still had the GoPro clutched in my sweaty hand.

The playback of the incident is funny. I’m not crying. I’m not panicking. I’m not screaming for help. The only sounds that can be heard on the audio are the sound of the water and me repeating over and over, to no one in particular, “I really hope the boat doesn’t blow up because my camera is still on it.”

Priorities, people.

Everyone, including Joey, was scattered about in the ocean watching the boat burn, hoping it wouldn’t explode.

Because, well, then my camera would blow up.

Obviously.

So, there we all were, drifting alone or in pairs on the current, slightly drunk, silently worrying about sharks, and wondering what the hell we were supposed to do now.

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As I drifted farther from the others, I started trying to remember all those “lost at sea” stories that I have heard on Good Morning America. What did they say to do? Float on your back? Swim? Do you punch a shark in the nose or in the gills? Did I remember to put on sunscreen?

If a Vietnamese fisherman can survive for 4 days, surely I could make it a half hour.

I silently cursed myself for not grabbing that bag of pretzels before I jumped off.

Luckily, one thing you can be sure of is that a motor yacht with plumes of black smoke pouring from it will quickly get the attention of other boats.

We had no need to be worried.

Embarrassed maybe, but not worried.

Some nice folks from Florida pulled us out of the water, one at a time. We looked a hot mess. Some of us were fully dressed, some had life jackets half on/half off, there was smeared mascara, someone only had on one shoe, we all smelled like diesel fuel, and there were more bruises. You’ d have thought we had just endured a capsize, not a simple jump into the water.

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Moonshine and boat fires don’t mix, y’all.

Once everyone was on the boat and Joey was sure the engines were not going to explode, those nice folks from Florida even helped us get all our stuff off the boat. Even my flip flops made it!

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And yes, the camera was fine. (I know you were secretly worried)

I can’t thank Steve, Helen, Victoria, and Matthew enough. They saved the day.

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With the fire out, Joey stayed with the Regal while we were boated over to Lubbers Landing where Blue Wave had another boat waiting to take us home.

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Blue Wave handled it like champs. Thankfully, it was just a funny story instead of a tragedy.

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Just in case you aren’t sure, here is where burning boats fit into the hierarchy of funniness:

7 - EXTREMELY FUNNY: A Chihuahua in a toupee.

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6 - REALLY FUNNY: Matt in the 80s.

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5 – FUNNY: Jumping off a burning boat into the ocean (provided everyone is safe).

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4 – STILL FUNNY: Hemmorhoids (if someone else has them)

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3 – LESS FUNNY: Hemmorhoids (if you have them)

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2 – I'M NOT SURE IF IT'S FUNNY: Adam Sandler

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1 – NOT FUNNY: Exploding boats.

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That should clear that up.

By the time we got back to Guana, everyone was tense. Our day had been cut short. Our stuff (and some of us) smelled like diesel fuel. We’d had to jump in the ocean in our clothes and they had dried stiff and salty. Some of us were only wearing one shoe.

We couldn’t let the day end like that.

We put the life back in the party by making a quick stop at Nippers and Kidd’s Cove to remind ourselves that it was a beautiful day, life was fun, and there were things to celebrate.

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Back at the house, we thanked the Lord for our safe return and took stock of the new injuries of the day.

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Earlier, at Kidd’s Cove, Matt had made us a reservation for dinner. The last time we’d been on island, Forrest wasn’t around and his dad had done all the cooking. Mind you, Edmond was a fine cook, but he only had one thing on the menu…..Mahi-Mahi in a bowl of black beans and rice. Both times.

I was looking forward to seeing what Forrest had to offer. I have been told Forrest is professionally trained and is an excellent chef. After the day we’d had, a really good meal was in order.

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They weren’t quite ready for us when we arrived, so we sat at their pop-up bar across the street and had some Jello shots.

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When we were finally seated, I was giddy with anticipation. I couldn’t wait to hear what my options were.

That’s when Edmond came out of the kitchen.

“I’m cooking tonight and I’ve got mahi-mahi with black beans and rice.”

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We're going to have to teach Edmond to make something else.

We ended the day with fireworks at Nippers because apparently we hadn’t had enough smoke and fire for one day.

Happy Birthday, America.

Day Four: Just Kill Me Already

I woke up exhausted.

This trip was killing me.

I wasn’t sure how much more I could take.

And today was Nippers Sunday Funday.

Oh dear sweet Lord.

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We arrived early, before the crowd, to ensure our newbies had a front row seat to the action and to allow them the “full day experience,” which is really the best way to experience Nippers for the first time.

Sneaking in late in the afternoon just for the pinnacle of madness is not sufficient.

You need to be there early, when it’s calm and quiet. The music is playing, the breeze is blowing. You have a drink, lay by the pool, laugh with friends, have a little lunch. It’s beautiful and the atmosphere is chill and relaxed.

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While you are blissfully enjoying your mac n’ cheese, more and more bodies pour in, faster than a flu virus spreading on a playground. Before you know what has happened, Nippers is a bouncing mob of sweaty bodies, thumping music, and frozen drinks being spilled on your feet by strangers and you are right in the middle of it.

And you like it.

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I gave our newbies “Vicki’s Top 10 Tips for a Successful Nippers Sunday Funday:”

1) Get there early. Otherwise, you’re stuck at what I call the SPF 70 tables – the ones with absolutely NO SHADE. You will fry in less than 20 minutes and then you’ll have to go home and spend the rest of the afternoon bathing in aloe instead of having fun.

2) NEVER leave your keys in your golf cart. Not because someone will steal it. Don’t be crazy. This is the safest place on earth. Don’t do it because every rental golf cart looks exactly the same. Do you trust 400 drunk people to know exactly which one is theirs when the leave? I didn’t think so.

3) Don’t wear heels. Heels and a swimsuit? Heels at the beach? Heels in the sand? Why? Just WHY? Please, stop the madness.

4) Leave the trucker hats at home. I’m sorry, but I am so sick of the 20-somethings that show up in their matching trucker hats from their massive yacht and try to take over Nippers with their designer swimwear and Daddy’s AmEx card. Stay in Bakers Bay for gods sakes and leave Nippers to the 40-somethings that have nowhere else to lose their dignity without being judged by a bunch of entitled young people.

5) Eat the buffet. "ALL YOU CAN EAT MACARONI AND CHEESE." There’s really nothing else to say.

6) Have the Frozen Nipper. Sure, you can drink other things but this is why you are really here, isn’t it?

7) Don’t have more than 3 Frozen Nippers. You’ll thank me for this one later. If you ignore it, I can promise your boat/dock/deck/spouse will be covered in a moderate amount of bright red vomit later.

8) Never go to the bathroom in bare feet. This one needs no explanation.

9) Don’t get in the pool after 3:00 p.m. You just don’t know what might be in there.

10) Dance badly. No one cares. Most of them dance as badly as you do. This isn’t the place to worry that you might look silly. This is exactly the place to look silly.

It appears they took my advice.

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It seems the Nippers crowd always migrates to Grabbers late in the afternoon. It’s the place to fill your stomach with some heavy food, the place to slow down, the place to regain your composure.

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Or, in the case of our group, the place to enter a dance contest, try some hula hooping, and see how many more drinks you can consume before requiring a stomach pump.

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We added the new bruises to the “bruise of the day” list and called it a night.

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Day Five: It's Not Over Until It's Over

I jumped out of bed in a panic.

It was already 6:30 a.m.! I should have the cooler packed! We should be headed to the boat! I should be dressed already!!! Where were we supposed to be today????? Beach party? Nippers??? Fireworks????? Where was I? What day was it?

That’s when I remembered we had absolutely nothing planned for the day.

Sigh.

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It was our final day and it was blessedly agenda free.

Once everyone was up and about, we all agreed that our first destination would be the lagoon. The water was a little choppy on the sea and we thought this might offer a calm place to hang out on the boat for a while.

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It was perfect.

We did nothing more ambitious than sip on some bacon bloody marys and watch the clouds roll by.

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When we started to get hungry, it was time to make a decision. We narrowed it down to 2 options:

1) The weather was looking iffy, but it was gorgeous on Guana. It seemed like a good idea to swing by Guana grocery and get stuff for sandwiches and do nothing more than boat over to the north end beaches to relax.

2) Throw caution to the wind and head to Treasure Cay.

You’ve probably figured out by now that we have more guts than smarts.

The ride over was as beautiful as it always is. I am always mesmerized by the changing colors of the water as you get closer to Treasure Cay. It’s practically electric.

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As we neared the dock at Treasure Sands, the black clouds started to roll in. We watched the clouds gather ominously…promising a thunderstorm.

The bottom dropped out just as we made it inside.

I’d like to say we didn’t mind it so much. I’d like to be a big enough person to say we’d had our sun and our fun and a day of rain was just fine. But I am, in fact, a very small person and I wanted sunshine dammit.

I learned that no amount of sulking will make the rain stop.

We were stuck in the Treasure Sands club for HOURS.

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Oh well. If you are going to be stuck somewhere, at least get stuck somewhere with AWESOME FOOD.

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All of the food was fantastic, but it was the Crichton that won my heart.

THE CRICHTON: Vanilla ice cream, Espresso, Amaretto

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Listed with the “Adult Coffees” rather than the desserts, I expected a drink. Maybe like a grown up milkshake.

However, it was not a drink that showed up. It was this awesomeness.

Sure, that may just look like ice cream, but to dismiss this is JUST ice cream would be like saying van Gogh was JUST a guy with one ear. Comparing this to ice cream is like comparing Disney World to that time you took a creepy photo with an unlicensed character in Time Square that one time when you were drunk.

IT IS NOT THE SAME THING.

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I shoved it into my mouth with such unrestrained urgency that Matt gave me “that look.” You ladies know the one. The same look your husband gives you when you eat that 3rd piece of cake at the wedding or when you buy the dress that’s $435 because it’s ON SALE instead of the one that’s $49.95 or when you drink the champagne out of the bottle. Okay, maybe these are just me? Whatever. You know what I am saying.

I looked at him and said, “SHUT UP!” but I don’t think he understood what I was saying because my mouth was full of delicious ice cream-coffee-liquor awesomeness, but my passion was conveyed and that’s what matters.

With lunch over, there was nothing to do but wait.

And wait.

And wait.

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To add insult to injury, the roof was leaking everywhere. We may as well have been outside. We bundled up in towels and wished we were eating bologna sandwiches on Bakers Bay beach.

The storm finally slowed to a drizzle and we were able to leave.

So, our calm, quiet day hadn’t been so calm and quiet. It was par for the course. With this group, anything could happen.

We cleaned up and headed to Island Flavors for dinner. It was the only place that we hadn’t eaten at yet and they had MANGO SOFT SERVE!

MANGO SOFT SERVE!!!!

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And then, five days of madness were concluded with a simple fried grouper sandwich with a side of mac n’ cheese.

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Just like that, it was ov------

Wait.

It’s not over until it’s over.

And it wasn’t over.

Guana Cay had one more kick in the pants in store for us.

Apparently, one black eye, a sprained ankle, countless cuts and bruises, one boat fire, and one thunderstorm were not sufficient.

We also needed to run out of gas on our golf cart at 11:00 p.m. in the dark.

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Sweet heavenly Moses. I was never going to survive this trip.

Day Six: TGIFO (Thank God It's Finally Over)

Survive it, we did. We made it to the airport the next morning, a little banged up, a lot tired, and still smelling a little bit like diesel fuel, but we’d had a blast.

Now it was time to go home and lick our wounds.

Guana Cay: Don’t cry because it’s over. Cry because it happened.

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Until Next Time!!!!

Posted by vicki_h 10:00 Archived in Bahamas Tagged islands tropical bahamas nippers abaco elbow_cay guana_cay grabbers marsh_harbour lubbers_landing Comments (3)

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