A Travellerspoint blog

Sorry, Winter, Please Leave a Message. I'm on Vacation.

Finding the sun on Guana Cay

It was February 2, 2015. Punxsutawney Phil climbed out of his little hole, saw my excessively white body covered with a nice layer of winter fat, screamed with terror, and ran back inside, thus dooming us to six more weeks of winter.

That was it. I’d had enough winter.

The winter doldrums had set in and Matt and I were both getting cranky. It was 18 degrees and we’d just endured 2 weeks of repeated snow and ice storms, which is UNHEARD of in Tennessee….the state where mere snow flurries force thousands of winter weary citizens to flock to the nearest grocery store to stock up on milk and bread and cause entire cities to shut down.


10 Signs I Needed a Winter Break:

1) I needed a reason to put down that cupcake.

I don’t know about you, but in winter, the caveman part of my brain takes over and I start storing up fat like I am in danger of going for months without food. I eat without abandon. Knowing that a bikini might be in my near future makes it harder to curl up on the couch with that half gallon of ice cream.

2) I needed a reason to paint my toenails.

I was sporting a half grown out gel pedicure from November in “So Hot it Berns” Red and my feet were rough enough to sand my coffee table. Something had to give.

3) I was pretty sure I had Rickets.

Laugh if you want, but lack of sunshine can cause Rickets. And I was pretty sure I had it. Just like some orphan in a Charles Dickens novel, I just knew my serious lack of Vitamin D required an ocean view room for a cure.

4) My tan had faded to the point that I was translucent.

Which would be awesome if I was a VAMPIRE. It had gotten so bad that I was considering using a self-tanner. Lest I end up looking like a giant Cheeto, I needed tan lines. Fast.

5) The last frozen drink I had was because it was 12 degrees outside and my latte iced over on the way to my car.

Matt and I did try making some tropical drinks one night. We turned on some Caribbean tunes, mixed up some coconut rum and mango, and then cried. Because it was snowing outside.

6) The only umbrellas I had seen recently were the kind for rain. Which sucks.

There are so many uses for umbrellas that are SO MUCH BETTER. Like garnishing my Pina Colada. Or blocking the sun from my burger at Nippers.

7) I was obsessively checking my airmiles.

Like 4 times a day. To see if some had magically appeared and I now had enough to run off somewhere exotic. Unfortunately, I only had enough to make it to Detroit. On a Tuesday.

8) The last beautiful sunset I saw was on a Lifetime Movie.

I had literally been trapped in the “dark when I go to work” “dark when I go home” zone for so long, I was pretty sure I would need some of those sunglasses they give you when you have your eyes dilated the next time I actually SAW the sun.

9) The last book I had read was the Handbook of Compensation and Benefits Formulas.

I needed a fluffy, pointless novel in the worst possible way. Possibly something with a shirtless man on the cover.

10) The only salt I had in my hair recently was when I fell asleep on the couch on a bag of Doritos.

Which takes us back to reason #1.


It was a bone chilling 14 degrees with a wind chill of 5,000 below when we left Tennessee on a Friday morning. By 9:00 a.m., we were stepping out of the plane into the bright sunshine of an 80 degree day.

Does it get any better than that?



This was Rooby’s first beach trip and she traveled like a pro: sleeping through the flight, navigating her way politely through customs without peeing on the clean tile floor, and riding quietly in the taxi.

All of that was lost when we put her on the boat.

We were lucky enough to have our boat waiting for us at the Curly Tails dock when we arrived at 9:30, so no need to wait for a ferry. Yay, Darvin!!

We loaded our luggage into the cuddy cabin below, tossed the dogs into the boat, and went down to change before heading to Lubbers Landing.


That little gate thingy (is it obvious I am not the boat Captain?) that is between the inside of the boat and the platform on the back of the boat was missing.

"Watch her," I told Matt as I went down into the cuddy cabin to change.

"She won't go off the boat," he said smartly just as we heard a loud SPLASH!!!!

Poor little widget had never seen a large body of water. She thought she could just step off.

Might as well start things off with a BANG!

The good news: Rooby can swim! After that, she had to wear her life jacket.


It was a challenge getting changed.

First, it is not our boat, so we are not in control of the condition it is in when it comes to us. This time, the bottom 2 feet of the cabin were filled with water. So, our luggage was piled on top of the bed thing (again, I am not a "boat person," I do not know the proper names for "boat things"). Every woman knows that putting on a swimsuit under the most agreeable conditions is not easy. It's like trying to put an elephant inside a rubber band. In this case, I was balanced precariously on top of our luggage, a chip bag shoved up my butt crack, while trying to get out of 19 layers of winter clothing without exposing my girl bits to the luggage boys on the dock or falling into the fuel infused water that filled the cabin floor, complete with 12 sodden life jackets in varying stages of disintegration floating about.

Somehow, I managed to get changed without getting arrested for indecent exposure or pulling a hamstring and climbed out of the cabin, sweating profusely and cursing, so that the next unlucky person could go in for a turn.

It was time to get this party started.





Within minutes, we were at Matt’s favorite place in the entire world: the dock at Lubbers Landing. It gets our vote for Most Relaxing Spot, Best Drinks, and Best Food. You simply can’t beat it.

And they even had a friend Rooby’s size! Well, almost.



Honey is Austin and Amy’s super sweet Chihuahua. The Roobs is only 5 lbs., but next to Honey she looked like a GIANT. I think this did a lot for Rooby’s confidence.

Lubbers Landing has the coolest Bohemian Chic vibe going, thanks to Austin’s flair for building and Amy’s flair for decorating. It has an exotic, yet casual feeling that immediately puts a smile on your face and a Reggae wiggle in your booty.

Okay, the drinks might have something to do with it.








AND........It’s the perfect place to spend an entire day doing absolutely nothing.

Which is exactly what we did.












Except sample nearly every drink from the bar and gobble up some delicious island burgers and cauli-wings.







As the sun dipped lower in the sky, we reluctantly pried ourselves off the deck so that we could boat to Guana Cay before sunset. We hadn’t even been to the house yet. We still had bags to unpack!

The views from the house were almost so good we stayed to watch the sunset from the deck.




But I always look forward to that first sunset with a frozen Grabber in my hand, so we got the bags unpacked and the dogs settled in with plenty of time to catch the sunset at Grabbers.






There is nothing like watching the sunset with a frozen grabber in your hand.





Okay, maybe watching it with a lobster bite in your hand.


Or a conch fritter.


Or a lobster dinner afterwards.


Or playing the hook and ring game.


Okay, it was all good.



The next morning, we woke up early to take Rooby and Bella to the beach for sunrise. It was Rooby’s first time to see the ocean.

She was an immediate fan.




One of my favorite things about the Bahamas is that you can take your dogs on the beach. Without a leash. And there isn’t even anyone there for them to bother.

There is no way to describe the joy of a small house dog that has been turned loose on a beach. With a ball.



This must be how people with kids feel on Christmas morning. Except that I didn't have to clean up 7 bags of wrapping paper while listening to the unholy noise of a new Barbie Microphone accompanied by screams of "MAKE ME SOME PANCAKES!!!!"

I could just take my kids home, spray them off with the garden hose, and put some food in the floor.

The sky was cloudy on one side and clear on the other, which made for a spectacular morning sky.













The day looked beautiful, and we had never taken John and Teresa to Treasure Cay, so it seemed like a good plan for the day. The boating from Guana to Treasure isn’t the easiest, so a good weather day is essential.






The ride over was gorgeous…..crazy blue water as far as the eye could see, the color of the water growing more and more intense as we got closer to Treasure Cay.





The water was a dazzling electric blue as we motored slowly toward the dock at Treasure Sands Club.


We had never been to Treasure Sands and decided today was the day. Partially because I had heard good things about the restaurant, but mostly because they had a dock and I was tired of wading in with my clothes wrapped around my shoulders and my bag on top of my head.



That’s what the big sign on the dock said.

At least there were mooring balls we could tie up to nearby, but I still had to wrap my tunic up around my shoulders and balance my 18 lb. beach bag on my head like a Sherpa toting a load up Mount Kilamanjaro.








As we approached Treasure Sands, I heard music playing, I saw brightly colored curtains billowing in the breeze, I saw colorful drinks carried on trays, I saw a sparkling pool surrounded by loungers with candy colored cushions.


Treasure Sands was a little more South Beach than Abaco, but in a place where paper plates and faded picnic tables are the norm, it was a fun change of pace.





As I sat down to lunch in my rubber flip flops and sun dress, I noticed another patron walk by in skin tight jeans, a long sleeve silk blouse, more jewelry than the display counter at Cartier, blonde extensions, and 5 inch platform Perspex stripper heels. I watched with a mixture of horror and giddy expectation, waiting for the moment when she would fall over and sand would stick to her super tight jeans and her ankle would expand to the size of a beach ball……….or her enormous silicone breast. Wait, same difference.

Why, why, why, why, oh why must women wear stilettos at the beach? For that matter, why skinny jeans? Or Night at the Roxbury makeup? Isn’t it bad enough that we have to fall to these masochistic trappings in “real life?” MUST we bring them to the beach? Isn’t that the one sacred place where a ponytail, flip flops, and a little lip gloss is enough?

I looked at Matt, “We’re not on Guana anymore….”

Sure, it was a little pretentious, and the hamburger cost $25, but the drinks were strong, the lobster club was to die for good, and we got to waste our afternoon beside the pool listening to superb DJ tunes.











Worth. Every. Penny.

I just gotta’ remember my stilettos next time.

It was around 2:00 p.m. when we noticed the sky had started to darken. It also happened to be one hour from low tide.

Anyone who has made the boat trip from Treasure Cay to Guana knows that these were not ideal circumstances.

We debated staying or going. Staying? Going? Staying? Going?

Every 15 minutes, I’d look at Matt and say, “I think the sun is about to come out.”

When it failed to make an appearance, Matt said, “I think you can stop saying that now.”

The sky continued to get darker. We could not see any end to the darkness creeping our way, so we decided to hurry home before we ended up boating back in the rain or the dark. Power boating on the ocean in the rain just plain sucks.

Now it was actually low tide.

And the wind was picking up.

Matt was a tense bundle of nerves as he carefully piloted the boat back toward Guana. He was white knuckling it as the waves soaked us with water again and again. I could tell he wasn’t having a lot of fun, so I thought I’d lighten things up.

“You know what……” I ventured, as the waves rocked the boat again and again, water spraying into our faces and soaking our already wet clothes.

He looked at me and unleashed all the fury he wanted to hurl at the ocean and the sky and the wind and the waves.

“What I NEED is for you to be quiet. All of you. TO BE QUIET. You’re all laughing and giggling and having a grand old time while I am trying to drive this boat. Do you want to drive this boat? Huh? Do you?” he shouted as I sat still and quiet as a statue.

He sighed.

“I’m sorry. This is intense. What did you want to tell me?” he asked.

I pointed at the sky, completely filled with ominous black clouds in every direction.

“I think the sun is about to come out.”

He laughed.

And we survived.


The sun never did come out, so we got cleaned up and headed to Grabbers for a NON sunset, which, with a frozen grabber in your hand, is just as good as a sunset.




We discussed where to have dinner. When you only have 3 restaurants, it should be easy. Right?

(There are actually 4 restaurants, but we don’t really like the 4th one…so we don’t count it)

Not really.

You already ate at Grabbers on the first night without planning things out properly. Now, what about the other two nights? Do you do Grabbers, Grabbers, Nippers? But you’re having lunch at Nippers on the 3rd day, so that doesn’t work because you’re double Nippering.

Double Nippering [duhb-uh l] [nip-er-ing]
the practice of eating a sequential lunch and dinner at Nippers

Fine then. What about Grabbers, Nippers, Grabbers? No, lunch on Sunday is at Nippers, so you are still double Nippering.

Well, we haven’t tried that new place yet. Okay, how about Grabbers, Island Flavors, and Nippers? No, we can’t eat at Nippers Sunday night because we are eating at Nippers on Sunday for lunch and we always get Grabbers pizza on Sunday night.

(The apparent lesson here is: if you only have 3 nights and the 3rd day is Sunday, you should eat at Nippers first, otherwise, you over Grabber yourself. Write these things down, people. This is sound advice.)





We ended up at Island Flavors.

To avoid any double Nippering.

We had never been to this relative newcomer , but had heard good things about it. I immediately liked it when I saw the bathroom sign.


There were some plain tables scattered around under a garden style canopy next to a simple shack with a gas grill outside. A brusque woman who offered no greeting of any sort put several menus on the table and walked back into the kitchen without a word. She returned several minutes later to take our order. We ordered. She left to go back into the kitchen. A few minutes later, she returned with our food.

What Island Flavors lacked in ambiance and congeniality, it made up for in flavor.

The food was REALLY GOOD.

I had some loaded fries that were basically nachos with French fries instead of chips. Holy Jalepeno, they were good.


Just in case a basket full of French fries, taco beef, and cheese slathered in sour cream wasn’t enough to sufficiently clog my arteries, I also ordered the grouper sandwich.


It was a mile high, delicately fried, and unmistakably fresh.

We decided to have a late night Nipper, because when there are only 3 restaurants on the island, it just makes sense to visit them all in one night.



We took the girls for another run on the beach bright and early the next morning.


Rooby can get an entire day’s worth of exercise in one hour of running on the beach because she takes 4 steps for every one step we take and, while we walk in a straight line, she looks like a drunken sailor zigging up this way and zagging down that way, making sure not to miss a thing, with Bella as her ever-loyal sidekick.






When we felt like we had sufficiently worn them out, we loaded up the boat to head out for a while before the Nippers Sunday pig roast.

Back when we were Guana Cay newbies, we thought you had to get to Nippers at 10:00 a.m. and stake out a table. That lead to early drinking.

Which lead to early drunkenness. And we all know where that gets you:


These days, we like to boat for half a day and get to Nippers in the afternoon, just as things are getting interesting. We have found that it keeps US from being what is interesting.

It was a beautiful day to boat over to Shell Island. The tide was up, so it wasn’t the best for shelling, but it was perfect for soaking in the sunshine and amazing views.










It was also perfect for rum punch and Kalik!



And for fishing Matt’s hat out of the water!


After Shell Island, we boated over to Bakers Bay. They can keep me off the land, but they can’t keep me off the beach.

Thankfully, there are still a few “house free” stretches of beach where you can enjoy one of the most beautiful spots on Guana Cay.









We enjoyed.
















But my love of the beach is no match for my love of a good burger, so we eventually made our way to Nippers to enjoy some lunch, some frozen Nippers, and some fun.



Every time we go to Nippers on Sunday, I promise myself this is going to be THE DAY.

THE DAY that I only have one or two frozen Nippers. THE DAY that I don’t get out there and dance badly. THE DAY that I just sit on my rainbow colored bench and watch the fun rather than bursting into the middle of it like a 5’4” roman candle.

It was a gorgeous day. Things started off with grilled burgers and ice cold Nippers.















Everyone was having a good time. The sun was shining. We were all laughing.

Next thing you know I’m clutching a water bottle like it’s an Oscar and screaming with toilet paper wrapped around my head on top of a table.



Maybe next time.

After some naps, we made it to Grabbers in time for sunset.

Apparently, I didn’t get the “we must all wear orange” memo.










The sunset was memorable, the pizza was just as good as it always was, and I no longer had a toilet paper turban.

It was a good night.



A bold pink sky greeted us as we piled up our golf cart and headed to the ferry.



As we rode to Marsh Harbour on the ferry, Rooby gave Guana two paws up.


It had been short, but sweet, and just long enough to get rid of my Rickets.


(Don’t worry….we’ll be back on Guana next month! See you soon!)

Posted by vicki_h 13:00 Archived in Bahamas Tagged island caribbean tropical abaco elbow_cay guana_cay marsh_harbour treasure_cay lubbers_landing Comments (3)

Key West.... One Bite at a Time


To everything there is a season.

A time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

There is also a time to eat.

Let's face it, I love to eat. Especially on vacation. When I am on vacation, I eat like a bear that has just come out of hibernation. A bear with a sweet tooth. And who may be a wino.

When we found ourselves in Key West for a long weekend in January, it seemed like the perfect time to do just that. Temps were balmy, in the mid 70s. Warm enough for shorts, but not warm enough for the beach. So, unless we wanted to spend 3 days looking at Hemingway's 6 toed cats, we had a lot of time to fill.

I had planned the trip to coincide with the annual Key West Food and Wine Festival, but after realizing our travel companions don't really like wine, I decided to forgo most of the Festival events and create my OWN Food and Wine Festival.

It was to be 3 days of strategic eating. I had an EATING ITINERARY, people. The food fest was about to be ON.

There is nothing better than an eating vacation.

Let the eating begin!


"Pace yourselves, " I cautioned. "You don't want to eat too much at any one place."

We were behind schedule.

We had arrived in Key West on time....landing just before noon on a clear, breezy Wednesday.


The trouble came in when Key West Hideaways couldn't seem to send the shuttle picking us up to the right place. Key West Hideaways had convinced us to let them arrange for our bicycle rentals, telling us they would send a free shuttle from the bike place to pick us up from the airport. As soon as I heard the words "free shuttle," I was convinced.

They sent the shuttle to the commercial airport, although we had told them we would be at the general aviation FBO. After several confused phone calls between me and the shuttle driver, he finally found us.

However, the real confusion came in when he turned out to be from the wrong bicycle company. He dropped us off at the bike office and left. Unfortunately, no one at the bike company had any idea who we were. There was no record of our reservation. I had paid a deposit, so simply changing rental companies wasn't an option. Six very unproductive phone calls back and forth with an extremely rude and unhelpful young lady at Key West Hideaways who kept insisting "that is the only bicycle company we do business with so you must be mistaken about your deposit," and we were unceremoniously dumped on the sidewalk with our luggage like hobos.

With no ride.

As luck would have it, I got a call from the ACTUAL bike company that Key West Hideaways had booked us with asking what time we wanted the bikes delivered. And it WAS NOT the one the young lady kept insisting "is the only bicycle company we do business with." I asked him if he could pick us up. He said he would be there in 5 minutes.

Fifteen minutes later, we were still on the sidewalk with our luggage like hobos.

I called him back.

He said Key West Hideaways had called him and told him not to come pick us up. They were sending someone.

Son of a B*%$#.

Two more phone calls to Key West Hideaways, and a rangy late model mercedes with a "For Sale" sign tacked in each window pulled up.

Thankfully, it was not the young woman I had spoken to, because there would have likely been bloodshed, right there on South Street in front of all the nice people who were sipping their Cuban coffees at the cafe next door.

He was polite and apologetic and made several lame excuses about the confusion. And about the fact that we had to cram our bodies in on top of our luggage in the tiny back seat. Steve's leg was at an unnatural angle that I was pretty sure was going to cut off the circulation to his foot. I hoped the ride was short so that amputation of a limb wouldn't be necessary.


As we rode through the streets of Key West, someone from the bicycle company called me again.

"I'm over here at 828 Olivia to deliver the bikes, but no one is here," he said.

"That's because Key West Hideaways gave you the wrong address. We are at 1019 Varela," I sighed.

We were finally dropped off at the correct house and got our bikes at the correct address, no thanks to Key West Hideaways. But we had lost an hour.

Our eating schedule was now behind.

Oh, the horror.

"Where are we going?" Matt said as we walked down White Street, "I'm seriously hungry." In anticipation of the impending calorie-fest none of us had eaten breakfast and it was going on 2:00.

"Not far," I responded. "See? Right there." I pointed to the Chevron Station.

"What? Where? I only see a gas station," Matt said. He was getting grouchy, like a hungry toddler that missed out on the graham crackers during story hour.

"Yeah. The Chevron Station," I said.

"We're not eating at the gas station," Matt replied.

"Oh yes we are."


At the corner of White and Truman, right next to the bathrooms in the Chevron parking lot, we found White Street Station, a colorful food truck surrounded by tropical plants and brightly colored drums in the parking lot of the Chevron Station. We put our things on a yellow wooden bench next to a red ironing board that served as a table and walked up to the window to order.

"All of our fish is fresh, just caught," he said, "The fish tacos are excellent. I also recommend the Orzo as a side today. It's really good."





Matt couldn't resist the fish tacos. The fish was insanely fresh and was prepared Caribbean style, topped with mango and black beans.

Fish Tacos almost sounded healthy to me, so I opted for the daily special: the Grilled Mac.......two giant crusty slices of Texas toast layered with American cheese and wrapped around a creamy slab of macaroni and cheese atop a pile of tender, braised short rib.

Oh my yumminess.



Matt stopped complaining about the Chevron Station when he realized he could run inside for a beer.

With the hunger monster quieted for a few hours, we took the time to head back to Mango Cottage and settle in. Despite being less than pleased with the rental company so far, we did love the cottage. It was squeaky clean, newly renovated, and cute, cute, cute.






Until we lifted the cover on the hot tub. It was filled with funky green water.

Have you ever heard the story about the farmer and the mule?

A farmer had a really stubborn mule. He was out trying to plow the fields one day and the mule wouldn't budge. He looked at the mule and said, "That's one." After the plowing for a while, the mule stubbed up again, refusing to move. "That's two," the farmer said. As the day grew long and the mule grew tired, he bucked up on the farmer again. This time the farmer didn't say anything, but pulled out his shotgun and shot the mule dead. As the farmer came into the farmhouse that night, tired and dirty, he looked at his wife and asked for dinner. "It's not ready," she said flippantly. The farmer looked at his wife. "That's one," he said.

Key West Hideaways? That's two.

The one absolute when we are on Key West is Matt's daily visit to some place for oyster happy hour. It's as certain as death and taxes.

So we found ourselves at the White Tarpon late in the afternoon. The oysters are no longer 50 cents all day, but $1 an oyster still wasn't too bad, especially considering how large and fresh the oysters were. Matt was definitely in his happy place.

A key lime martini quickly put me in my happy place as well. Although, my happy place is pretty easy. It pretty much includes any place with cupcakes, cocktails, pork rinds, or half price shoes.



We had early dinner reservations at Hot Tin Roof, hoping to eat dinner to a beautiful sunset.



The meal started off with delightful cocktails: a Hemingway daiquiri and the best caipirinha I have had outside of Brazil.




As we perused the menu, the sun began to sink its way toward the sea. Seated on the outdoor porch, we watched it go down in a blazing ball of orange.


Then the food orgy began:

We started with creamy melted manchego cheese topped with spicy chorizo and pico de gallo served with warm tortillas and a steamy bowl of mussels.




As the sky turned from fiery orange to cool shades of blue, we discovered that our menus were illuminated. After a couple of cocktails, a lighted menu is fabulous entertainment.


Next up was the lobster cocktail with roasted corn guacamole, cumin crema, and yukon chips; caramelized grouper with chorizo, corn, carrots, red pepper, poblano, and coconut; and a pan of lobster mac and cheese with creamy manchego cheese.





After dinner, we headed to The Porch for cocktails. Even though it was located right off crazy Duval Street, it seemed a quiet oasis far from the throngs of people with their big gulp frozen daiquiris and Sloppy Joes t-shirts. As we entered the front door of the old house, a bar to the left was serving up craft beer and a bar to the right was dreaming up creative craft cocktails. This made everyone happy.

This bar was different from the "Duval Crawl" bars of Key West. It was cozy and cool, quiet, and the cocktails were a knockout. My banana bread bourbon old fashioned was crafted slowly, with care, and was absolutely fantastic.




Did a man in a sparkly tutu walk into The Porch while we were enjoying our cocktails? Maybe he did, but we were still in Key West, after all.

We decided to make one final stop before heading home, and the Green Parrot it was. I needed popcorn, bad lighting, a hint of danger, and an atmosphere that promised at least the chance of a bar fight to make my evening complete. The Green Parrot is the perfect dive bar. It's a dive, without being too, well, divey. It's just gritty enough to be interesting, but still more charming than squalid.



In hindsight, we probably should have skipped that final stop. I think that "one last drink" was how I ended up with a gorgeous headache the next morning and a tote bag filled with popcorn.


I woke up early the next morning. It was before sunrise so I decided to grab some Cuban toast and cafe con leche at Sandy's on the corner and pedal my way down to White Pier, just a few blocks from the house.




I would love to show you some glorious photos of that sunrise, but, while I managed to lug my 7 lb. camera all the way down there, I forgot the battery.

I blame it on the Green Parrot.

All I have is this crappy iPhone photo:


Before long it was time for second breakfast, or was it pre-lunch? Whatever it was, we were going to do it up proper at Blue Heaven. I never tire of the colorful courtyard atmosphere and lively bar. On this particular morning, they had live Reggae and for a moment, I felt like I was in the breezy Caribbean.






While we waited for our table, I wandered upstairs, simply curious what was up there. It turned out to be the overflow seating area. Colorful tables, eclectic decor, and this super cute little private room:




We were seated in the courtyard with chickens running nervously around our feet, cats lazily sunning themselves on the metal roofs, and the sounds of the Reggae band drifting over on air that smelled like pancakes and home fries.





Matt had the BLT Benedict. Not to be confused with the traditional meaning of BLT, at Blue Heaven, BLT means "Bacon, Lobster, and Tomato."


Because I felt like I had already eaten breakfast, with the thick slices of buttery Cuban toast I scarfed down on the pier, I opted for lunch. The Caribbean plate came with tender lobster cooked in wine, butter, and spices and served with Blue Heaven's key lime hollandaise sauce; savory black beans; rice; asparagus; tangy cole slaw; and a slab of moist cornbread.


Of course we couldn't leave without a couple of slices of their mile high key lime pie.


We then took Steve and Alison on a bicycle tour of Key West.












We ended up at the Martello Tower where we took a quick tour of the Key West Garden Club's beautiful oceanfront garden.









All that pedaling made us hungry. It was oyster o'clock, so we headed back to the White Tarpon. This time, I got my own platter of ice cold oysters and washed them down with a hard cider.


Matt is going to be sorry he encouraged me to eat oysters. If I really get hooked on them, he's either going to get to eat 1/2 as many or pay twice as much.

Truth is, I didn't really even WANT the oysters. I don't LIKE oysters. I was just eating at this point to be eating. A vicious cycle was starting to take hold: get up, eat, ride bikes, eat, walk around and shop, eat, drink cocktails, eat, watch the sunset, eat. Before it was over, I would be eating in my sleep.


That evening, we had tickets to one of the two Food and Wine Festival events I had decided our friends would probably like: Henry Flagler's Welcome Party at Casa Marina.

Okay, who am I kidding? I didn't care if they liked it or not, I just wanted to see the beach at this gorgeous resort. It was not disappointing.





The KWFWF had set up a nice soiree right on the beach at sunset, complete with live band, wine flowing like water, and twinkling lights hanging from the palm trees.








The snacks were pretty good too: a pastry of baked brie with figs, specialty pizzas, cheeses, and a carving station with mountains of fried onions. Yes, there was some meat too, but did you see all those fried onions????? Who can concentrate on meat when there are UNLIMITED FRIED ONIONS?








After a dozen oysters, two slices of pizza, countless glasses of wine, tender beef with a crusty roll, a mountain of fried onions, and enough cheese to constipate a horse, most people would have called that dinner.

But we were on a mission.

So we waddled our gluttonous selves away from Casa Marina with no shame and headed to the Rum Bar to sip their delicious painkillers until we thought we could handle more food.





It wasn't long before we were ready for dinner at Square One, a short walk from the Rum Bar.



Their creative cocktails were a hit. Mine was a Bufala Negra: fresh basil, balsamic vinegar (yes...vinegar!), agave nectar, ginger beer, and bourbon. It was quirky, but delightful.




We then severely overordered. And overate.

There were soft little pretzel bites with savory herb butter.


There were pork potstickers with pineapple hoisin sauce and a massive platter of lobster cobb salad with arugula, fresh tender lobster, crispy pancetta, egg, avocado, roasted corn, manchego cheese, and a togarashi ranch.



There were pulled cuban pork sliders with sweet plantains and red onion marmalade on pretzel buns with crispy fries and a lobster roll with shredded lettuce on a pretzel hogie.



There were shrimp and grits with spicy poblano peppers, manchego cheese, and caramelized corn butter and a pound of drunken mussels cooked in vermouth, fresh herbs, and shallots.



Too full to go to bed, we ended the evening with cocktails at Point5, the upstairs bar at Nine One Five on Duval Street. The breezy front balcony was a perfect place to watch all that was coming and going along Duval.




Eventually our choices narrowed to 1) stomach pump or 2) go to bed, so we called it a night.


We woke up the morning and did a group cheer to get us psyched up for the day's eat fest.

It started at Firefly on Petronia. Their menu promised all manner of fried goodness, and they delivered. We started off with mango mimosas, to wash it all down and then ordered all the fried things we could find on the menu.




Fried okra, deep fried mini corndogs, and deliciously cheesy stuffed peppers.

Then fried chicken and waffles, fried chicken and biscuits, and fried crab beignets on a bun with crazy good garlic fries.









Oh....and then there was that one person who ordered a salad. I think she was starting to feel guilty about what she was doing to her internal organs, but never mind her. We would get her back on the food train before the day was over.


The will is weak.

Especially when tater tots are on the menu.

The guys had decided their new favorite place was the Rum Bar so we headed that way. If I learned one thing on the island of Jost Van Dyke, home of the Soggy Dollar Bar and home of the painkiller, it is that it is never too early for a painkiller.




We spent the day shopping up and down Key West's quaint streets in between snacks. We had decided that the best way to see the sights was on the way to and from our eating opportunities. If we followed the food, we'd naturally see the sights along the way. We wanted to see Hemingway's House. Did we pay admission and take a tour? Of course not. We snapped a selfie by the gate on the way to Firefly for a mango mimosa and a plate of fried okra. Just like we grabbed a walking photo of the harbor and the boats as we made our way to Half Shell for a pound of beer steamed shrimp and grabbed a glimpse of the Southernmost Point as we made a quick detour on our way to the Rum Bar for painkillers.









It had been almost 3 hours since we'd had anything to eat and it was making me nervous. Certain that my stomach would shrink, we needed food and we needed it fast. As luck would have it, it was oyster happy hour.

We decided to try Pepe's for oysters just for a change of scenery, if nothing else.



I liked Pepe's oysters best. They were served with lime instead of lemon and their house made cocktail sauce was so thick and chunky it was more like salsa. Paired with one of Pepe's hand squeezed margaritas, it was afternoon perfection.




Since it was their first visit to Key West, we wanted Steve and Alison to enjoy a proper Key West sunset. That meant NOT at the sunset celebration where they could only catch a brief glimpse of it obstructed by 27 boats as they peered around the back of a guy with a combover and a Patriots jersey who was busy watching a guy juggle fire. Don't get me wrong, I love the festiveness of the sunset celebration, but it's not ideal if you actually want to SEE THE SUNSET.

We had done the Commotion on the Ocean sunset cruise on our first trip to Key West and, despite the total cheese factor of it, I loved it. It was not a classy affair, but I knew that. Bad wine and cheap beer were served in plastic glasses, cheap deli trays from the local supermarket lined the counter promising "free eats" as the smell of old grease filled the air. I was pretty sure I could smell cheap meatballs and frozen chicken wings cooking somewhere. The boat was also crammed with bodies. Bodies everywhere and all of them clutching a plastic solo cup of boxed wine.

I still loved it.




The band was good, the sunset was amazing, and the atmosphere was the kind of cheap fun you can only have at a frat party or, if you are over 22, on a cheesy party boat. I can't explain it. I loved it the same way I love the $1.09 bean burrito at Taco Bell or the way I love watching Keeping Up With the Kardashians when no one is looking.

As we boarded the boat, I promised myself I would enjoy the band and the sunset but I would not drink the bad drinks on the boat.

Three glasses of boxed wine in a solo cup later I found myself enthusiastically accepting a crappy margarita like it was heaven's nectar handed to me from an angel. It was even worse than the boxed wine. I drank it anyway.

We watched the sun as it made its way toward the horizon.





Before I knew it, I was drinking cheap champagne out of a plastic cup.

What is it they say? Wine before liquor? Never been sicker? Or is that beer? Did it matter? I was pretty sure I was going to be sorry I drank from the "Cup of Gallo" no matter what order I did it in.










As the boat made its way back toward the harbor, the band cranked out oldies. Everyone was smiling and drinking champagne, snapping selfies in front of the fiery sky, laughing, having a good time. It was lovely.








And then they played Rocky Top.

My friends, you always know who the hillbillies in the group are when the band starts to play Rocky Top.

If you are from East Tennessee, and you hear Rocky Top, it doesn't matter where you are or what you are doing. You can be in church, at a funeral, or walking through the mall and you are instantly and inexplicably compelled to start singing at the top of your lungs and throwing in a lot of "Yee Haws" for good measure.

Or maybe it was just the boxed wine singing.


There was only one thing that could follow Rocky Top: tequila shots.

I mean, what better to do after drinking cheap wine, cheaper champagne and a margarita made with bottom shelf liquor?

We got off the boat and found Agave 308. The decor was creepy and dark, but in a fun way. I liked it.







With absolutely no plans for dinner, we wandered in search of Garbo's. Or was it Grunt's? Garbo's at Grunt's? We weren't sure. I just knew they were supposed to have great tacos. We found what we thought was Grunt's and wandered around looking for something that appeared to be serving tacos. I did see what appeared to be a stand of some sort in the back, but there was nothing making it obvious that you could get food there. I also saw a sign shouting "Tennessee Steve's BBQ" with an arrow that confusingly terminated in a chain link fence.


Unfortunately, the Grunt's / Garbo's set up seemed designed for those in the know and was simply confusing as hell for a group of people who had consumed entirely too much boxed wine and cheap tequila, so we made our exit, and headed straight for the predictable safety of Amigo's.


Not only did they have tacos, they had tater tots.

And fire roasted corn.

And GOOD margaritas.




Because we NEEDED another drink.


The following morning, we all made it a point to get up in time for the sunrise. This is not hard to do when you fall asleep at 10:30 pm. It is hard to do if that early sleep was induced by a tater tot and tequila coma.

We grabbed hot coffee at Sandy's and rode our bikes to the pier to watch the sunrise.

It was spectacular.











A sunrise that spectacular called for a hearty breakfast, so we headed to Camille's at the recommendation of our surly waiter at Pepe's the night before.

We hopped on the bikes and headed that way.





Camille's was kitschy cool. With orange sherbet walls, vintage movie posters, and a smattering of quirky nicknacks, Camille's was one part crazy old Aunt Hilda's house, one part 1950's Hollywood diner, and one part Old Florida Retirement Community Party Room. Camille's had also stolen my 1984 high school mix tape collection.





We ordered mimosas and bacon bloody marys, diving into the menu with gusto.




Matt had the carb cake benedict. No, that's not a typo. Sure, there were some crab cakes in there somewhere, but it was really a carb cake. Especially with that pile of cheesy delicious grits.


I went for the omelet special which was loaded with sun dried tomatoes, bacon, asparagus, and lobster. It came with a side of perfectly toasted, buttered Cuban bread and crispy home fries.


Then we all went home and took a nap.

I wish I was joking, but I'm not. It was only 10:00 a.m. and we needed a nap. This eating quest was wearing us out.

It was when I woke up from my late morning nap at Mango Cottage that Key West Hideaways got their final strike. We ran out of toilet paper.

Now....I am not one of these "high maintenance" rental people that has unrealistic expectations of a vacation rental. But when I pay $2471 to spend 3 days in a 765 square foot house.....I should not have to go buy my own toilet paper.

We were up and at 'em in time to ride our bikes to catch the 11:45 a.m. shuttle to the second KWFWF event I had purchased tickets to: The Hogfish Grill Shrimp Boil on Stock Island.



I loved almost everything about the Shrimp Boil.

I loved the table of endless wine.


I loved the appetizers of ceviche and coconut shrimp.



I loved the giant bowl filled with amazing shrimp, lobster, sausage, corn, and potatoes topped with the most delightful cornbread square I have ever had the pleasure of eating. The food was FANTASTIC.




I didn't like being seated at cheap, crappy tables with no shade in the broiling sun in the freaking parking lot. It was almost as "unclassy" as the Commotion on the Ocean. At least the boat had a band.

It had all the atmosphere of a potluck in the church fellowship hall or dinner at a table set up outside of Lowe's selling girl scout cookies.

We left on the first trolley.


We wasted the afternoon sipping painkillers at the Rum Bar and eating shrimp and oysters at Half Shell.








Now that they had seen a proper sunset, we wanted Steve and Alison to experience the Mallory Square Sunset Celebration. We headed that way just as the sun was making its way toward the horizon. It was the usual assortment of fortune tellers, fire eaters, magicians, and pigs in top hats. There were popcorn carts, mojito carts, and guys whacking into green coconuts so passers by could grab a straw and sip them as they watched a guy on a unicycle juggle swords.






We hadn't made any plans for our final dinner. I like to leave the last night open so that we can see what catches our eye during the trip. What caught our eye was the promise of "all you can eat crab legs" at Camille's that morning.


We should have felt ashamed. We had been eating about 8,000 calories a day. The last thing we needed was "all you can eat" anything unless it was Lipitor or a colonic.

That didn't stop us. We dove in with enthusiasm, like we had not already eaten 3 times that day. The crab legs were large, perfectly prepared, and Camille's was generous. Of course we all had to get at least two orders lest we violate the secret code of "all you can eatness" which says you must get at least 2 plates of whatever it is or be forced to spend the rest of your existence as a chump who didn't get her money's worth.



We decided to go out in a blaze of glory. It was time for dessert.

We stopped at Better Than Sex Desserts on our way home.

Walking inside was like entering a whore house, but one that traded chocolate instead of sex. It was dark and sexy. You could catch glimpses of the red walls from the dim lighting cast by the ornate chandeliers.





From our illuminated iPad menu, we chose our desserts. For Matt, that was their signature dessert, the "Better Than Sex," which looked like a deep, dark chocolate bread pudding. I ordered the "Jungle Fever." It was described as, "Smooth. Soft. Supple. A warm airy chocolate cake full of body that’s oozing a subtle chocolate pudding underneath. Rubbing up against cool white vanilla bean balls." And vanilla bean balls they were.....



They also served wine in glasses rimmed with dark chocolate. The chocolate was soft and melty, but didn't slide down the glass. As Matt sipped, I figured out why it was so dark in here. When he looked up, he had a line of melted chocolate across his forehead from the glass. If they didn't dim the lights, no one would leave this place feeling sexy. Instead, they would look like a 4 year old that got into the Halloween candy without permission.

It was uniquely indulgent and delicious. I was a fan.

Who am I kidding? I am a fan of sugar. Period. It could be a cheap, stale donut on a paper plate in the Kroger parking lot and I'm going to like it.

But throw in some red walls and velvet curtains and you make my day.

Or night.


I woke up the next morning knowing it was time to pack up and head home. It had been a ridiculously indulgent few days.

I decided to take a total body inventory to assess the damage.

My mouth felt dry, like I had spent the past 10 hours snacking on cotton balls. Woman can not live on wine alone, I supposed.

The back of my throat was a little sore. I attributed that to belting out Rocky Top loud enough for folks in Michigan to hear.

My chest felt normal, but that was only because the fat had not yet had a chance to harden and make it's way into the lining of my arteries. It just needed a little more time.

My stomach was physically protruding over the elastic band of my PJs. I could poke it. It felt soft. Much like I imagine the Pillsbury doughboy would feel if you could poke him for real.

My butt cheeks were sore. No doubt because my butt was at least two sizes bigger than it was when we arrived, which made my bicycle seat increasingly uncomfortable as the trip wore on.

I was very sleepy from going to bed at midnight and getting up at 6:00 a.m. every day to see the sunrise.

And, inexplicably, I was hungry.


I'm back home now and I am paying the price of gluttony.

I'm not as young as I used to be. My 44 year old metabolism can't quite keep up with a 9,000 calorie a day diet. The only cure for the food vacation hangover is, of course, lots of deprivation and raw vegetables.

I’ll keep telling myself that the miles and miles we walked and biked more than made up for our obscene caloric intake, but really, deep inside, past the thick layers of adipose tissue, I know better.

Was it worth it? Was 3 days of gluttony worth this horrible kale and spinach juice that is serving as my lunch today?

Yeah. It was.

Bottoms up!


Posted by vicki_h 07:29 Archived in USA Tagged food island tropical wine key_west kwfwf duval_street Comments (2)

What I Did On My Christmas Vacation.

Decking the Halls in Sapphire, NC


For all our love of travel, Matt and I have NEVER gone away for Christmas. It’s just not what we do.

As a child, my family spent Christmas driving. We’d drive from our home to my grandparents in Tennessee, which was 4 hours in one direction. Then we’d load up and drive to my grandparents in Alabama, which was 4 hours in another direction. Instead of hot chocolate by the fireplace, my Christmas was more vinyl car seats and Waffle House.

This is why I declared, upon becoming an adult, that I WOULD SPEND CHRISTMAS AT MY HOUSE. ALWAYS.

It's a rule.

I decorate our big old Victorian house with all manner of glittery, twinkly, pine-scented things. I bake cookies. I make candy. I play Christmas music until Matt is singing Bing Crosby in his sleep.

Christmas is my thing.

So, when Matt asked if I’d be willing to go away for Christmas this year, I am pretty sure I started to hyperventilate.

Before I managed to work myself up into a full blown panic attack, I stopped to think what it might be like to go away. Maybe I could make this awesome? Maybe this could be even better than being at home? Was it possible?

Could I go away for Christmas?

After looking at hundreds of potential Christmas options, all of them wooing me with their cozy cabins and snow laden streets…..I decided on the mountains of North Carolina. In the end, being able to take the dogs and go somewhere we could drive to in case the weather was too bad to fly was more important than whether or not the destination guaranteed me a white Christmas, actual reindeer, or had “tap your own” maple syrup farms.

It was Christmas Eve and we were headed to Sapphire, NC.

Because we were driving into the mountains, I had stocked the car with anything we might need in the event of a snow storm: a shovel, sleeping bags, hats and gloves, a gallon of water, flares, and 18 granola bars.

Given that it was about 50 degrees outside, this was probably unnecessary.

What I should have packed were paper towels because we discovered on the winding, twisting, mountain roads that Rooby is prone to car sickness. She is also unable to hold her 5 month old bladder for 2 hours. We arrived at the cabin with Matt still trying to wipe the dog vomit off his arm with an old Dunkin Donuts napkin we found in the glove compartment. I arrived with a lap full of dog pee.

Things were off to a rough start.

But all that changed when we pulled up to the cabin.

I knew I had chosen the perfect place.

It was rustic, but luxurious. Crafted out of 150 year old hand hewn historic timbers salvaged from two old barns, one of which stood on the battlefield at Gettysburg prior to and during the Civil War. The other barn was built by Amish craftsmen. The salvaged materials were lovingly crafted into a cabin that can only be called a work of art.

















While Matt got a fire going in the enormous fireplace, I set up a Christmas tree that I had brought with us. The end result was cozy Christmas perfection.



We had Christmas Eve Dinner reservations at Paoletti’s, an intimate Italian restaurant that has been a favorite in the small town of Highlands for over 28 years.


I wasn’t sure how I would feel about eating out on Christmas Eve, but we threw on something festive and stepped out into the crisp December air.



Paoletti’s was a warm and indulgent experience.

The restaurant was PACKED. All of the people made it lively and festive. There was warmth and laughter from every table. Candles glowed. Lights twinkled.

Seriously…..it was merry and bright! Corny, but true.

We started off with cocktails while we looked over the menu.

Dinner started with a tomato caprese, with fresh basil and balsamic, and an arugula salad with goat cheese and pecans. We followed the salads and cocktails with a bottle of red wine and some hearty pasta. I have a weakness for meaty red sauce, so I dove into the Spaghetti alla Bolognese while Matt opted for the Penne alla Vodka. We wrapped up the evening with tiramisu and chilled limoncello.

I genuinely thought I’d be a little sad that I wasn’t at home, but I can’t remember a Christmas Eve I enjoyed more.




We woke up to the smell of woodsmoke and had coffee and cocoa by the fire. The only thing that would have made it a more perfect Christmas morning was snow.


Christmas Day was a warm and cozy affair. There were presents and new toys for the dogs. I baked cookies. We simmered mulled wine. We took a soak in the big teak tub on the porch beside a roaring fire.








I made a big Christmas dinner: rolls with olive tapenade, a pear and goat cheese salad, green beans with bacon and mushrooms, honey glazed carrots, parmesan crusted mashed potatoes, and the two biggest filets I could find grilled perfectly on the outdoor barbecue.








Oh, and don’t forget the red velvet cake with a giant layer of cheesecake filling that I made.

Oh yes I did.



We wrapped up the night with snacks by the fire while we watched old Christmas movies.


The next morning brought a beautiful clear sunrise over the mountains and a hearty breakfast by the fire.



Thinking we would be cabin crazy by this point, we had decided to drive to Asheville for some massages, shopping, and food.

Things started off well with massages at the Grand Bohemian hotel spa in their rustic luxe surroundings.





We followed that by the best barbecue known to man at 12 Bones in the River Arts District. It didn’t look like much, but any place with a line has to be good.




Matt’s ribs were fall-off-the-bone tender and his smoked potato salad had chunks of smoked meat that made it maddeningly good. The jalepeno cheese grits were delicious. My pulled pork was so juicy it made my mouth water, making it hard to remember I also had mac and cheese and sweet vinegar cole slaw. The square of cornbread was so moist and so tender it was more like cake.



My favorite had to be the wedge salad, though. The menu described it like this:

Iceberg wedge with sugar bacon, tomato, cucumber, fried onions & spicy ranch.

What it didn’t say was that there was a plethora of crispy bacon…..that it was drowning in the most savory, spicy dressing that has ever existed…..and that it was BURIED UNDER A MOUNTAIN OF FRIED ONIONS.


This ridiculous pile of awesomeness is only $5.


Oh, wedge salad, will you marry me?

After the high of fried onions left us, things started to go downhill. Quickly.

Remind me NEVER to go to Asheville on the day after Christmas again.

Asheville, a tranquil bohemian downtown that I have come to love, was a thriving, fire breathing monster. There were so many bodies on the sidewalks, that you couldn’t move from one location to the next without getting jostled and shoved like you were trying to get the last loaf of bread at the Piggly Wiggly on a snow day.

It was horrifying.

We quickly cancelled our dinner reservations for that evening, ran screaming to the car, and made our way back to the peace and serenity of the cabin.


Were we becoming home bodies?

Why yes, I think we were.

A few more days and we'd be spending all day in elastic waist sweatpants and eating Little Debbie's while we watched the Home Shopping Network.

The cabin called to us like a siren. We couldn’t escape it. It was warm. It was cozy. The fire crackled and the sun glowed on the horizon as it set over the softly rolling mountains. The dogs sat curled up on the floor chewing all their new toys at once.

It was just a wonderful place to be.


So, instead of a dressed up night on the town at Limones in Asheville, I got creative and tried to figure out what to make from our Christmas leftovers.

Filet, mushrooms, green beans, and carrots were quickly sauteed in a skillet with some fresh rosemary I had from the potatoes:


Cream and butter were added, along with some spices, to make it creamy:


Then the parmesan mashed potatoes were placed on top, it was baked, and VIOLA!

A Shepherd's Pie, y'all.

Top that, Paula Deen.


Oh.....and smoked salmon canapes!



Not bad, if I say so myself. Maybe if Shelley Duvall has made Jack Nicholson something like this in the Shining, he wouldn't have gone cabin crazy and tried to murder them all.




Another beautiful sunrise greeted us the next morning. We knew better than to make plans that didn’t include spending 95% of our day at the cabin, so…..we didn’t.

Matt chopped wood. We ran around in the woods with the dogs. We read by the fire.










We made a quick run into Cashier’s for pizza and wine at Slab Town pizza. We even managed to stroll around in a few of the quaint shops before we literally ran back to the cabin.






Seriously. We loved it there.

In hindsight, we should have just had our last meal at the cabin, but I had only brought enough food to make one meal and we had already managed to get two out of it. Three was simply out of the question unless we wanted sugar cookies and scrambled eggs for dinner.

We had made reservations at the Brown Trout, primarily because I saw lots of white twinkly lights and a fireplace when I searched it out online.

And it did indeed have lots of twinkly lights and a fireplace.



Unfortunately, that is where the awesomeness ended.

The food was fine….spaghetti and meatballs for me (hey, there is nothing wrong with spaghetti, pizza, and spaghetti a 48 hour period….nothing…it was my Christmas and if I wanted to spend it eating spaghetti every day, I could) and the trout for Matt. It was good, not special, but good.



The problem was that it took an hour and a half to get our meal served in this very uncrowded restaurant.

An hour and a half for average food is not fabulous. This is Matt's "I'm unimpressed" face:


Maybe if my plate had been covered in fried onions when it arrived……

Our last morning dawned misty and cool. The fog rolled over the mountains and into the valley as we packed up Christmas and headed home.


When all was said and done, did I like being away for Christmas?

So much that we are already planning for next year.

Happy New Year!


Next up? We’re heading to Key West to EAT ALL THE FOOD.

Posted by vicki_h 13:40 Archived in USA Tagged mountains christmas highlands north_carolina asheville blue_ridge cashiers Comments (0)

Turkey & Pineapple: An island-style Thanksgiving Day 7

All Good Things Must Come to an End.

Going home is always bittersweet. I never want to leave, but I'm itching to get back to my house and my dogs.

We had an afternoon flight, so we were at least able to make a leisurely departure.

Of course, I had to take one more photo of the Trunk Bay overlook....or two:



And the Cruz Bay overlook:


We made a final stop at Mongoose Junction to look for those final few things we couldn't live without.






And one final painkiller at the Beach Bar to ensure I had consumed the appropriate amount of rum on this vacation.




Okay....and maybe a bushwhacker too!



To ensure we didn't get to the airport an earlier than was absolutely necessary, we made a final meal at Pie Whole in Frenchtown on St. Thomas.




And then......just like that.....it was over.

Sure, the trip started off a little rough, but in the end, it was everything we wanted it to be.

And yeah, it kind of sucked leaving the balmy warm beaches for the 24 degrees that were waiting for me at home, but you know what else was waiting for me at home?


At least we were returning to the season of twinkly lights and sugar cookies. A time when excessive shopping is allowed and binge eating is practically required. I was ready for glitter and peppermint mochas.

Bring on the eggnog!

Posted by vicki_h 12:10 Archived in US Virgin Islands Tagged island caribbean tropical coral_bay stj st._john virgin_islands usvi cruz_bay Comments (5)

Turkey & Pineapple: An island-style Thanksgiving Day 6

Gobble Gobble!


It was a beautiful morning to give thanks. No rainbows this morning, but the clouds reflected in the water were a nice touch.



And it was Thanksgiving! I started thinking of all the things I was thankful for. Of course, I was thankful for my wonderful husband, sweet parents, my dogs (on days when Bella hasn't shredded a roll of toilet paper on my bed and I'm not running after the puppy trying to get a piece of dog poo out of her mouth), my job (at least on Friday afternoons), great family and friends, my health....... but on this particular day there were so many extra things to be thankful for:

  • I was thankful that I hadn't ordered that last plate of all-you-can-eat shrimp the night before.
  • I was thankful that Matt hadn't decided we needed to bring running shoes on this vacation.
  • I was thankful that, as much as I love them, my dogs were with my mom and I didn't have to pick up one single dog turd all week.
  • I was thankful for turkey. And for the fact that I am not one.
  • I was thankful that I didn't have to cook a turkey because Sam and Jack's Deli was doing it for me.
  • I was thankful that I was stuck on an island so that I wouldn't feel compelled to go out at 2:00 a.m. in my PJ pants & Uggs with no bra so that I could fight all the other women for $5 scarves at the Old Navy Black Friday sale.
  • I was thankful for RUM. (and Advil)
  • I was thankful for pumpkin pie. And thankful that I didn't feel a compulsory urge to Google "How Many Calories Are In a Typical Thanksgiving Meal?" Seriously. Who cares?
  • And Maho Beach! This morning I was thankful for Maho!













We dropped the ladies off at Annaberg and we headed to Francis Beach. I decided I was also thankful for Francis Beach.

And a couple of hours alone with Matt!











Francis was lovely. And not just because we didn't have to tote 4 beach chairs up and down the sand. It was just a perfect day. It was early, so there weren't many people on the beach.

We had a "let's try to eat all the leftover food since we are leaving tomorrow" picnic at the beach. I think my favorites were the bastardized deviled eggs I made with spinach dip and cream cheese because there wasn't any mayo.


Before long, it was time to collect Elaine and the MIL from Annaberg. The views across the water were spectacular.



We stopped for more photos at the Trunk Bay overlook, because I only had about 986 Trunk Bay overlook shots so far on this trip and everyone knows you can never have enough photos of the Trunk Bay overlook.





Then it was on to Sam and Jack's to pick up our Thanksgiving feast. We had ordered the traditional Thanksgiving dinner for 4 and when she brought out the food, I was sure there was a mistake. It was enough food to feed a family of 20.

We dropped the food off at the house and left the ladies to rest while we decided to take advantage of our last beach day and hit Cinnamon Bay until the sun sank low in the sky.






Still not ready to give it up, we made a quick stop at Gibney / Oppenheimer. It was my last beach day, after all.





Enjoying some alone time, we headed to Caneel Bay Beach Terrace for a cocktail before calling it a day.






It was getting late, and I had a Thanksgiving affair to put on, so we headed back to Azul Peter Bay so that I could rummage around in the kitchen to see what sort of Thanksgiving table I could set.

It wasn't too shabby.


The food was RIDICULOUS. It was enough to feed an army and it was outrageously delicious: Red Bliss Mashed Potatoes with Roasted Garlic, Brown Sugar Glazed Carrots with Tarragon, Green Beans with Crispy Fried Onions, Ciabatta Stuffing with Caramelized Onions, Apples, and Sage, Rosemary Cranberry Relish, Garlic Buttered Rolls, an Herb Roasted Turkey with gravy, and a Pumpkin Pie. We also had a dish of plantains that Elaine had cooked up using some plantains the landscaping crew had whacked out of a tree and left laying outside.














As the sun set on our Thanksgiving and our last night on St. John, I WAS thankful.

I was thankful that I could be here and spend this week with family. I was thankful for my sweet husband who loved his mother enough to make her this promise. And keep it. I was thankful for a MIL that loves me and accepts me as her daughter and is a delight to have in my life. I was thankful for sweet Elaine who had been a joy all week.

I was also thankful that I had brought a pair of elastic waist pants.

Posted by vicki_h 05:51 Archived in US Virgin Islands Tagged island caribbean tropical coral_bay stj st._john virgin_islands usvi cruz_bay Comments (1)

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