A Travellerspoint blog

Forty is the new F Word.

A friend's 40th in Key West

People can run around saying “40 is the new 20” and “I’m not 40, I’m 23 with 17 years of experience,” all they want. The truth is, turning 40 sucks giant donkey balls.

I know. It happened to me 5 years ago.

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You have to check a new demographic box every time you fill anything out.

Young adults literally start calling you “ma’am” overnight like there’s a stamp on your forehead that says, “I AM YOUR MOM’S AGE.” The cute boy that was flirting with you at the coffee shop? Yeah, he wasn’t. He called you ma'am as he handed you your change. There was no way he was flirting with you. You remind him of his mom.

You have to start getting mammograms.

Even the DMV takes a crack at you by ensuring that your driver’s license expires on your 40th birthday, forcing you to go get a new one with a picture where you suddenly age 5 years.

It can be uber depressing.

Unless you plan something fun.

Something that makes you look forward to turning 40. Something that gives you an opportunity to look 40 right in the eye and say, “BRING IT.”

My 40th birthday in the Bahamas made turning 40 one of the most fun things I ever did.

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When my friend Alison’s husband was trying to figure out what to do for her 40th birthday, I offered him 2 suggestions: 1) hire Stephen Tyler to serenade her with “Walk this Way” as Channing Tatum provides a personal lap dance or 2) do a destination birthday.

And that is how we ended up planning a surprise trip with her husband and 8 friends to Key West.

(Personally, I was hoping for Channing Tatum)

We spent 6 months planning and scheming….. quietly, carefully. Finally, the big day came. Alison was blindfolded and told she was being taken to see a car. Instead, all of us were waiting to surprise her.

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You have to be careful surprising an almost 40 year old woman like that. At our age, we could lose bladder control. Or spontaneously break a hip.

We expected screams. We expected fainting. We expected tears of joy. Instead, we heard, “You mean I’m not getting a car?”

(I told him he should have gone with Channing Tatum)

It was time to load everyone up in the Chieftan and head south.

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It was Key West or BUST, baby.

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Day One: Key West in June....Hotter Than Georgia Asphalt

My planning was impeccable. I had the perfect place to stay. Groceries and drinks were being delivered before we arrived. A beautiful cake and balloons had been ordered. An awesome itinerary had been planned. Every detail was accounted for.

Or so I thought.

I missed one tiny detail.

It’s really HOT in Key West in late June.

Like…really, REALLY hot.

I have had some hot vacation experiences. Like that time we thought it would be a good idea to go to Texas in the summer and eat tacos with hot sauce from a street vendor on the sidewalk. That was just before we caught on fire.

But Key West in late June? It was like walking through a furnace in a gasoline suit.

Even my fingernails were sweating.

There you are, innocently waiting in line to eat when it happens. One minute, you are smiling and enjoying a beautiful day. The next minute, you burst into flames.

It’s called Spontaneous Key West Line Combustion and it can really happen. It’s science, people.

And there is only one remedy: mimosas!

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We found them at Blue Heaven. We also found lobster & grits with toasted banana bread, BLT benedicts, and PIE.

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It was early in the day, and some of our group had never been to Key West, so we thought we'd do some walking around, maybe some shopping, and let everyone get a feel for Key West.

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Within 5 minutes, we said "Screw it." It was too hot to do much walking, so we only made it as far as the Rum Bar. Bahama Bob was behind the bar doing his thing.

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The group quickly became addicted to painkillers. We had to get them out of there after the 3rd round. We had been up since 4:00 a.m. and we didn’t want anyone passing out before we even got checked into the house.

Palm Gardens was PERFECT. Two, 2 story houses, each made up of 2 independent condominium units with a king bedroom, kitchen, den, bath, and porch. We had rented all 4 which gave us private access to the pool.

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Which was good, because no one else would have fit in that pool.

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We spent the afternoon cooling off before heading to Half Shell for happy hour. It was time for oysters!

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And shrimp.

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And drinks.

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And unfortunately shaped shadows.

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Having done the “booze cruise” with the Fury catamaran a couple of times, I had decided we needed something a little classier for the birthday girl. I didn’t want Alison’s pre-birthday filled with memories of overcooked chicken wings and cheap margaritas.

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I had booked us on the sunset sail with Floridays. It was a smaller boat, a more intimate crowd, and a more relaxed atmosphere.

It was an AWESOME boat. Service was impeccable. The boat was classy and refined. The mood was relaxed.

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But, as we sipped our champagne in the sunset, I couldn’t help but wish I had a couple of those greasy chicken wings.

You can take the girl out of the trailer park, but you can never take the trailer park out of the girl.

To prove that point, I forced tequila shots and tater tots on everyone after the sunset sail.

We had drinks at Agave 308. It’s dark. It’s classy. It’s filled with tequila. What’s not to like?

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Afterward, we stumbled over to Amigo’s. You can’t beat Amigo’s for late night eats.

The pork carnitas nachos were simply a thing of beauty. Not to be outdone by the amazing tater tots and street corn.

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And just to be certain that everyone barfed before they went to bed, we stopped at Better Than Sex for dessert.

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Then we all ate a handful of Tums and called it a night!

Day Two: Happy Birthday!

We’d had enough drinks the day before to give an aspirin a headache.

There is only one remedy for that: mimosas!

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What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. This especially applies to alcohol and fried foods, so we headed to Camille’s for a deliciously boozy breakfast.

Every time I walk into Camille’s, I feel like I am visiting 1984. From the orange sherbet walls and colorful vinyl tablecloths to the barbies and fornicating ceramic pigs to the Pet Shop Boys pumping out of the stereo, it screams "Hello, Vicki, this is your adolescence calling." However, despite how awesomely eclectic it is, one does not come to Camille’s for the décor, one comes for the breakfast.

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Matt went snazzy with the chorizo benedict and I went old school with a fried egg, grits, and Cuban toast.

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We had rented a deck boat for the day. Destination: Boca Grande, a small uninhabited island about 14 miles from Key West with a pretty nice little beach. Renting a boat was significantly cheaper than taking a boat out for a day with a captain, and it eliminated the embarrassment of acting like total idiots in front of a stranger. When we act like idiots, we prefer to do it in privacy.

We were armed with sandwiches and adult beverages. It was time to get our boat day on.

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It only took about 40 minutes to get to Boca Grande.

As we pulled up to the beach, I noticed a lot more seaweed than usual. It wasn’t quite a pretty as it usually was, but it still beat any beach on Key West.

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We poured up some beach drinks, found ourselves a shallow spot in the water, and made a day of it.

We proceeded to go through the 5 stages of beach drinking:

Stage 1: SUNSHINE AND HAPPINESS. This is the pre-drinking stage. Everyone is basking in the golden sunshine, cup in hand, marveling at how simply amazing it is to be right where they are.

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Stage 2: LET’S GET THIS PARTY STARTED. There is always that one person that gets a little louder sooner than everyone else. A little rowdier. A little OUT THERE. That person is usually me. This time, it was all 10 of us.

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Stage 3: DUDE, THIS IS AWESOME. This is the full-buzz stage. Everyone is having a killer time. Everything is the most fun thing EVER. Especially more drinks.

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Stage 4: HEY, Y’ALL…WATCH THIS. You have arrived. You are fully intoxicated and it seems really cool to do really dorky things. Like try to put your glass in your swimsuit and try to drink out of it. Or do synchronized swimming. This is the stage where you are most likely to get a black eye or lose a tooth.

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Stage 5: I LOVE YOU, MAN. We’ve all been there. This is the stage where you love everyone. They love you. These people are your BEST FRIENDS EVER. At least one person usually cries. Personal space ceases to exist as everyone talks too close, hugs too much, and generally climbs on top of each other like a bunch of puppies in a too small box. At least this is what happens when women drink.

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It is best to follow the “I love you, man” stage with food, lest you end up in the dreaded 6th stage of beach drinking: Puking like a kid who ate all of his Halloween candy in one sitting.

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We had an amazing lunch spread. We had it all: Champagne, coconut rum, and beer. Sodas. Chicken salad, tuna salad, and turkey and Swiss sandwiches. Chips and dip. Fresh Fruit. Cheese. Crackers.

Know what we didn’t have?

A knife.

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(I realize there is a "cut the cheese" joke just dying to come in here, but it's just not going to happen, folks)

And then, somewhere in the alcohol fueled haze of the beautiful afternoon….we ran out of alcohol. Just. Like. That.

It was probably a good thing. Otherwise, we’d probably still be sitting on that beach.

Time to go!

Back at the house, we had an AMAZING pina colada birthday cake from Key West Cakes. The cake was delicious, beautiful, and they had even delivered it to our fridge before we even arrived.

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Then it was time to head to Alison’s birthday dinner.

I was not about to let my girl spend her 40th birthday somewhere mundane like Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville eating a “cheeseburger in paradise” while sipping a watery cocktail and listening to “Fins.”

I wanted her big day to be exceptional and memorial. What better way to do that than with a dinner on the beach at a private island resort?

Ask anyone “Where is the best place to have a special occasion dinner in Key West?” and you will almost always get the same answer: Latitudes. Jet Set dining at its best, Latitudes is located on the private island resort of Sunset Cay, just a five minute ride on their private ferry from Key West.

As we pulled up to the dock, we knew we were in for a very special evening.

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And we were. It was called “Heat Stroke.” And it was very special.

I had made reservations in February so that I could secure a table in the sand about an hour before sunset, knowing that the restaurant was known for its unobstructed sunset view.

“It’s going to be really hot,” the girl on the phone warned me when I made the reservation. “It’s late June and you’ll have literally NO PROTECTION from the sun. It’s brutal.”

I looked outside my office window. It was snowing. I pictured a beautifully set table in the sand.

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“We’ll take the 7:00 reservation,” I said. What did she know? WE LOVE SUN. Sun is awesome. Sun is our friend. Too hot? Pfffffft. There’s no such thing as too hot.

I remembered that conversation as I sat sweating through my tank dress, gulping down a coconut martini as fast as my throat could swallow while silently apologizing to Mother Nature for making all those snide comments about global warming. Then I started sucking down Matt’s frozen bushwacker, promising God that I would purchase some solar panels and trade in my Land Rover for a hybrid as soon as I got home if he would just cool it down a few degrees.

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Heat be damned, we had an excellent dinner. Even though our faces were sliding off into our laps, the food and setting were hard to beat.

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The cool wedge salad was a perfect first course, with fresh Florida oranges and chilled melon topped with gorgonzola cheese and a papaya dressing.

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Matt had the seafood pasta: fresh tagliatelle pasta with Key West pink shrimp, lobster, and scallops tossed in a parmesan pesto cream sauce with heirloom tomatoes and roasted mushrooms.

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I couldn’t resist the honey and ancho chile crusted waygu beef skirt steak, primarily because it was topped with two big, fat onion rings (remember what I said about the trailer park?).

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Finished up with a mango martini, the dinner couldn’t have been better.

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Cooler, yes. Better, no.

We enjoyed the amazing sunset before catching the ferry back to Key West.

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Now that the sophisticated part of the evening was over, it was time to get the party started. In order to protect the guilty, I shall not divulge the intimate details, but there may have been lots of shots, dancing on tables, a couple of male dancers and a significant loss of one dollar bills, and we might have gotten thrown out of a bar by a guy that looked just like Vanilla Ice (but not before I told him how much I loved Ice, Ice, Baby….which he did not seem to think was as funny as I did)…..but I’m not confirming nor denying anything.

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Day 3: Wakey, Wakey, Eggs & Bakey

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We woke up s-l-o-w. I don't mean slowly. I mean slow. We were slow. We had no aggressive plans for the day so everyone slept in and got up at their own pace. It was a perfect morning to do nothing more than lay around in the air conditioning eating aspirin for breakfast.

Everyone finally roused around noon, so we thought we’d take everyone to the Southernmost Point for the “photo op” since some of our group had never been to Key West.

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We severely underestimated how heat can affect a hangover.

There are many who say that heat is a good remedy for a hangover. These people say you should “sweat it out” and get rid of the toxins in your body.

These people are stupid.

And are masochists.

We should not have tried to beat the heat. We needed to sit in the shade and drink a lot of Gatorade. And think about our life choices.

Instead, we were on bicycles, sweating it out on top of pavement that had to be at least 147 degrees. As we pedaled from our place on White Street toward Duval Street, there was absolutely no shade to be found. At the 4th traffic light we were forced to stop at, we started to die slowly.

It was so hot, my biggest bicycle wreck fear was, "What if I fall off my bike and cook to death on the pavement?"

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By the time we reached the Southernmost Point, we sent the strongest of our bunch in search of water while the rest of us lay limply on the sidewalk, begging for a quick and painless death. When Matt returned (did you really think it was anyone else?), we didn’t even bother to drink the water, but simply poured it over our heads. I think I saw steam.

And yes, we got the photo op. Unfortunately, Matt was buying water and I was taking the picture so I had to Photoshop us in. I don’t think you can tell.

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When we realized we were not, in fact, going to die, we made a mad dash to Deuce’s Off the Hook Grill for some lunch in the blessed air conditioning.

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This was a first time at Deuce’s and it was a WINNER. It instantly became everyone’s favorite, and not just because of the air conditioning.

Because of the amazing fish tacos and sweet potato tater tots.

SWEET POTATO TATER TOTS, y’all!

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The food at this small restaurant was outstanding.

Go here. Now.

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We were loath to leave the air conditioning, and the tater tots, but I don’t think Deuce’s was willing to let us stay for the next 7 hours, so we had to pedal on out of there.

It was just too hot for shopping, and no one had seen the beach at Key West, so we took them to Fort Zachary, thinking we might be able to dip in the refreshing water.

Unfortunately, the refreshing water was filled with seaweed and smelled like farts.

So we sat in the shade and ate giant pickles and popsicles instead. Have you ever noticed how many penis shaped foods there are in Key West? I’m just making a point, here, people. Just making a point.

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There was nothing left to do but spend the afternoon in our pool. Even though the pool was heated, it was the coolest we’d been all day.

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Seriously….who heats a pool in Key West in the summer??????!!!!!

It was our last day, so heat or no, we were going to make the most of it. We decided to do a Happy Hour crawl for dinner, starting with oysters and margaritas at Pepe’s.

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Then, it was on to Kelly’s for wings, nachos, and more margaritas (and maybe some nachos and fish dip).

I have a tidbit of advice for Kelly's: Maybe if you let people sit OUTSIDE in your pretty courtyard during happy hour instead of making them sit INSIDE....your pretty courtyard wouldn't be TOTALLY EMPTY.

Just a thought.

Especially considering the courtyard was the only really good thing at Kellys.

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Then we did a little Duval Street Strolling. It was finally cool enough to shop!

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The final stop was at the Little Room Jazz Bar for what was supposed to be one drink. You know, since we were flying out in the morning.

One drink did not happen.

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As a dog returns to its vomit…….

Some of us never learn.

Home again, Home again!

We filled ourselves with doughnuts and bacon before heading home.

I learned that a “side of bacon” at Sandy’s means “a pound of bacon.” It was a thing of beauty.

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It had been a whirlwind, but it had been fabulous. It had been hot, but it had been fun. It had been exhausting, but it had been worth every second.

There was nothing left to do but put the inflatable margarita in the trash and fly home.

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What's next? Why, getting stranded naked in Abaco, that's what!

Posted by vicki_h 12:39 Archived in USA Tagged key_west florida_keys duval_street conch_republic Comments (4)

It's official: I am boring.

ANOTHER trip to Guana Cay.

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It’s official: I am boring.

I knew this would happen eventually. In fact, I saw a list online (which means it must be TRUE) titled, “How to know if you are boring.” Number 4 on that list? “Boring people always do the same thing.”

I went to Guana Cay again.

So, I am definitely boring.

In fact, you’ll probably fall asleep before you finish reading this.

What can I say? I LOVE IT THERE.

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I promise, there will be some more exciting destinations coming up in the fall and spring, but for now, please indulge my dreary, mind-numbing, repetitive vacation obsession with this little island.

This trip was short and sweet. It was also completely unplanned. That’s the beauty of going back to a place again and again – you really don’t need to do much more than throw a swimsuit and some flip flops in a bag and head down.

That’s pretty much what we did.

With less than a week’s notice, we decided to head down to Guana Cay for Memorial Day weekend.

You see, I was on a mission.

I was looking at houses, folks.

Yes, I know all of the reasons NOT to buy a vacation home.

First, there’s simply the fact that it costs a lot of money. Money that I could spend on other important things, like food and health insurance. Or lots of shoes.

Then, there are all of the unnecessary headaches. Maintenance, repairs, supplies. No longer is my vacation a carefree experience but it will involve things like buying toilet paper and fixing door hinges. Not to mention rusting appliances, mildew, bugs, and lizard control.

And what about the loss of the “freedom to travel?” I mean, having a house somewhere will make me feel OBLIGATED to vacation there, won’t it? Can I really enjoy myself in a mountain cabin when I know that I am paying exactly $2.74 per minute for a house that is sitting empty on an island somewhere?

Not to mention the feelings of extreme guilt and regret.

Every time I see a homeless person on my way home, I’ll have to think about the fact that I have TWO houses and they are sleeping in a tarp.

I also know that every time I look at my mom I am going to know she’s wondering why I didn’t spend that money on something more worthwhile.
Like a kid.

And let’s be frank, in the event of a zombie apocalypse, we all know that I am going to be sorry I didn’t use that money to buy machine guns, gold, and dehydrated foods and bury them in the back yard.

Sure, I know all these reasons. I know a vacation home is a poor investment. I know it is a headache. I know I could rent a house 10x nicer for way less than the cost of ownership.

But I went and looked at houses anyway.

I mean, it’s Guana Cay. Boring or not, I love it.

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Day One:

We headed down on a Friday afternoon. This was the first time we hadn’t left in the wee hours of the morning, in time to make the first ferry of the day at 10:30 a.m. Instead, we barely squeaked onto the last ferry at 5:45 p.m.

But not without a Bahama Mama from Curly Tails!

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We made it to Grabbers just in time for sunset.

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Then, we dumped the dogs off so that we could go eat dinner without 4 beady little eyes boring a hole into our very souls with their pathetic looks.

Instead, we drove away on our golf cart with 4 beady little eyes boring a hole into our very souls with their pathetic looks. Unfortunately for them, the soul-penetrating pathos they were beaming at us failed to make us realize how selfish we were being by wanting to go get food without them instead of recognizing their emotional agony.

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We went to dinner.

We decided to try Kidd’s Cove, a simple bar with a few inside tables. I had noticed their chalk board menu on our previous trip and everything sounded pretty good. It’s run by born and bred Guana Cay residents Forrest and Edmond Pinder, a father and son duo who cook up some mean mahi-mahi and also run a charter fishing business by day.

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Forrest wasn’t on island, but his dad was running the show in the kitchen in his absence.

The bad news was that Edmond was only cooking one thing that night: Drunken Mahi-Mahi.

The good news was that he was a pretty good cook!

While we waited, we ordered the house drink, "the mosquito." They also brought us out some of their sushi to try.

Sushi?

On Guana Cay?

Sure, this was the equivalent of getting a Chicago deep dish pizza in Mud Lake, Idaho, but it was free. Why not?

You know, it was pretty good.

I mean, they do catch their own fish……

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We all had the drunken mahi-mahi – tender fish stewed in a bowl of black beans, tomatoes, rice, and topped with a scoop of homemade potato salad.

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It was FANTASTIC.

Day Two:

So far, this trip had not followed the “rules of Vicki’s Guana Cay vacation.” We flew down in the late afternoon. We didn’t eat our customary first dinner at Grabbers. We ate SUSHI at a bar, for goodness sakes.

This trip had been the Bizarro version of the Guana Cay experience.

So, it came as no surprise that I didn’t wake up in time to see the sunrise.

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Bella didn’t mind.

It was Saturday and the weather was glorious, so we decided it would be a perfect day to take the boat all the way down to Little Harbour and visit Pete’s Pub.

This required a stop at Pelican Cay for beach drinks.

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Then it was on to Pete’s for lunch.

Thankfully, there was no live band and we knew exactly what the Blaster would do, so we had a nice, peaceful, relaxing, quiet, non-dancing, non-drunken lunch.

I told you this was the Bizarro trip, didn’t I?

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This gets my vote for “Worst Car Choice Ever.”

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And we’ll just call these “Boats I’ll Never Own.”

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On the way back, we made a stop at Lubbers Landing to see Austin and Amy. Guess who else we got to meet? Tiki Tim!

Yep. He’s a real person.

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If you don’t know, Tiki Tim provides a daily weather update on the Lubbers Landing Facebook page. You should check it out. Nothing says, "crazy" better than incessantly checking the weather for a place you don't actually live.

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Then it was back to Guana for a Grabbers sunset and some ribs with the dogs in tow.

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It was a quiet end to a calm and uneventful day.

Bizarro, no?

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Day Three:

The upside to spending the previous day like geriatric patients at a nursing home and being in bed before dark was that I was able to make it up in time for sunrise.

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We took a quick boat ride over to shell island where the dogs insisted on following me all the way around, forcing me to spend an inordinate amount of time shooing them away from dead things and old seaweed.

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After collecting some shells, we boated to the other end of Guana to take a second try at the Scotland Cay lagoon. We wanted to see if we could manage NOT to get stuck in the sand.

SUCCESS!

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Even Rooby, aka Cool Breeze, thought it was pretty awesome.

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In keeping with our Bizarro trip, we went to Nippers Sunday Fun Day and did nothing but watch. No nippers. No mac n’cheese. No dancing. No toilet paper on the head.

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Normally, THIS would be our golf cart. Not this time.

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Seriously? This was getting weird.

We grabbed a pizza and wings at Grabbers and called it a day.

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There was all kinds of dancing and mahem going on, but we just sat back and watched. Maybe we are getting old.

We had enjoyed Kidd’s Cove so much the first night, we went back for a late Sunday dinner. This time, there were TWO choices: Drunken Mahi or a Mahi plate.

After I got the mahi plate, I figured out it was the exact same thing as the Drunken Mahi, only it was all separated on a plate instead of in a bowl.

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That Edmond is very clever.

Day Four:

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Before we knew it, we were headed home. The trip came and went pretty quickly, but we accomplished what we had come to do. We looked at 4 houses and satisfied the ever-nagging question: Do we want to buy a house on Guana?

You’ll have to stay tuned for the answer.

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Posted by vicki_h 08:16 Archived in Bahamas Tagged islands tropical bahamas nippers abaco elbow_cay guana_cay grabbers marsh_harbour lubbers_landing Comments (6)

Guana Cay: Same Time. Same Place.

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It starts off with a Bahama Mama from Curly Tails, complete with exactly one orange slice, a cherry, and a colorful umbrella. I know exactly what it will taste like as I take the first sip…part coconutty, part fruity, and part sunshine. Later, I’ll dig my toes into the sand, scrunching my feet until I get past that warm upper layer and reach the cool sand beneath, ruining my new pedicure and not caring. I’ll do it watching the sunset with a frozen Grabber in my hand as Glen, my favorite waiter, patiently waits for me to decide between conch fritters, lobster bites, or wings.

It’s a first day of vacation that I know well, because I have repeated it almost 20 times.

Sometimes you crave the excitement that can only come with a new destination. You want that thrill you get when you step into a new environment, not knowing what is around the next bend, but feeling like anything is possible.

It’s a rush.

In my younger days, I was puzzled by people who returned to the same place again and again. What was wrong with them? Were they afraid? Or were they simply unimaginative? Didn’t they know there was more to see? Travel was supposed to be about finding something new and undiscovered. It was all about the passport full of stamps.

Part of me still believes that, otherwise, you wouldn’t find me dragging myself down to Brazil, wondering if I’ll make it home with all of my fingers.

While I still crave the new and exciting, as I have grown older a part of me has recognized the soul-soothing joy of returning.

There is definitely something to be said for the “Repeat Vacation.”

Going back to the same place again and again has the comfort of slipping into your favorite pair of slippers. It’s like curling up with a warm blanket and a favorite book. It’s as sweet as getting a warm hug from your grandmother.

Consistency is the most underrated of virtues, especially in vacations. I can visit NYC over and over, only to find that it is an entirely new city each time, but returning to Guana Cay, I find everything just as I left it. Milo is selling seashells and limes on Front Street. Glen and Irene are handing out frozen Grabbers as the sun sinks on the horizon. Music pumps out of Nippers as bodies slathered in suntan oil scatter onto the beach below.

No matter how long we are away, when we return, we feel like we just turned our head for a moment to watch a boat pass by, and, turning back, everything is the same.

It’s why I return to Guana Cay again and again.

It’s a sweet relief. There is no planning. No anxiety. No pressure.

It’s coming home.

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Day One:

As soon as our feet hit Marsh Harbour, we grabbed a Bahama Mama at Curly Tails, jumped in the boat, and headed toward Lubbers Landing. We were early enough for lunch and I was craving some fish and chips.

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The place was just as we had left it….Amy’s colorful signs decorated the bar….fresh squeezed margaritas flowed like water…..the fries were still hand cut....and you still earned a nipple shot of Patron if you mastered the “around the pole hook and ring game.”

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We stayed long enough to detox from travel day, but left before the saltwater margaritas incapacitated our boat captain.

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Before we knew it, we were sipping that first frozen Grabber. It was a little overcast, so there was no sunset, but that didn't make the Grabber taste any less delicious.

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For dinner, we headed to Sunsetters. Not fans of the Orchid Bay restaurant in the past, we had heard good things about it recently. Especially “wing night,” where they served up a plate of wings for $4.

With a fried lobster and an order of mac n’cheese on the side, those were some mighty good wings.

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The boys had scheduled an early morning fishing trip with Henry Sands, so we arm wrestled for the check and called it a night.

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Day Two:

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I hate fishing.

I simply don’t understand the allure of getting up in the dark to go sit on a boat in the hot sun for hours doing nothing but watching a string.

There are flies. And unpleasant smells.

Don’t even get me started on the bait.

So, when I found myself awake at an ungodly hour to go fishing….I wasn’t the happiest camper.

I tried everything to get out of it.

"It looks like it's going to rain," I said.

"You can go inside the cabin if it does," Matt replied.

“I don't fish,” I told Matt.

“You’ll enjoy the boat ride,” he said.

“I’d really rather just stay here and read on the beach,” I pleaded.

“Our friends want to go. If you don’t go, they’ll feel bad,” he said.

“I really think the dogs will be lonely,” I whined.

“They have each other,” he said.

“What if I told you I have diarrhea?” (It was the first time in my life I actually WISHED for diarrhea….)

“You don’t.”

Sigh.

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So, I found myself on Henry Sands’ big fishing boat heading out into the open ocean at early o’clock.

Surprisingly, I also found myself having a pretty good time.

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The sun hid behind the clouds all morning, so it never got hot. It didn’t stink like I thought it would. The fish were prettier than I thought they would be. There was more action than I expected. And the rocking of the boat with nothing to do but listen to the music playing on the radio was pretty darn relaxing.

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Like a little gift from God for being a good sport, the clouds started to break and the sun came out just as we headed back into the marina. It was turning into a beautiful day.

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The fish were cleaned and the scraps were tossed to the cats, the sharks, and the rays.

All in all, it wasn’t so bad.

Don’t get me wrong, I still hate fishing.

But I didn’t die.

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We decided to eat lunch at Grabbers before heading out on the boat for the afternoon.

After a frozen Grabber and a coconut fried fish sandwich, I had forgotten all about the fishing.

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We grabbed Rooby and Bella and headed to the beach at Man O’War Cay where we stopped for some boat drinks and a quick swim.

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While I appreciated the effort, I don’t think Matt understood the concept of portable kitchen accessories when you’re on a boat. I wasn’t sure if he intended to grate some nutmeg on our drinks or shred an entire coconut.

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It was Friday and that meant Pizza Night at Lubbers Landing. We hadn’t made it to Pizza Night before, because we needed enough daylight to get the boat back to Guana before dark. With a late sunset time and Austin agreeing to make our pizzas a little early, we finally made it.

I had been tormented ever since watching Austin build his super grouper pizza oven, knowing that, if their island burgers and house made drinks were that good, the pizza had to be PHENOMENAL.

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I was excited.

I love pizza.

We had let Austin know in advance how many pizzas we wanted, a requirement since Austin makes all the dough fresh. If he doesn’t know you are coming…..no dough for you!

When we arrived, we ordered up some saltwater margaritas and caiproskas and just enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere that only Lubbers Landing can serve up so perfectly.

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When we were ready to order, Austin gave us our choice of toppings. Within 5 minutes, we had a hot, fresh wood oven pizza in front of us. The crust was crisp and chewy, perfectly charred, and topped with savory salami, mushrooms, and black olives.

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What can I say? It was pizza perfection.

The girls gave it two paws up.

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When Austin and Amy do something, they do it right.

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We headed back toward Guana with an hour of daylight left. It was perfect timing to see a beautiful sunset on the ride home.

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We were welcomed home by the moon and a fresh baked key lime pie.

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With an ending like that, I had already forgotten the day started with fishing.

Day Three:

We started the day with the sunrise and two happy dogs.

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It was going to be a long boat day, so we left the girls inside, packed up the boat, and headed south.

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In 10 years of trips to Abaco, we had never made it to Pete’s Pub. Every time we tried, there was a problem. The weather was too bad. The sea was too rough. It was too windy. Someone had a hangover.

Apparently, getting our group to Pete’s was as likely as finding a unicorn.

We were determined this time, and the conditions were perfect. Sunny skies, not too much wind, and full tank of boat gas.

It was Little Harbour or BUST.

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From Guana to the Tahiti Beach on the end of Elbow Cay, it was the usual sights: beautiful water in ever changing shades of blue and green and bright blue skies.

As we passed Tilloo Cay, things were new.

When we reached the shallow area of Tilloo Pond, we were mesmerized by the changing colors of the water.

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Before we knew it, we were pulling up to a beautiful deserted beach on an uninhabited cay. There were two curved crescents of beach with one finger of the softest sand sticking out into perfectly clear aquamarine water to separate them.

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It was the perfect place to anchor and enjoy some beach drinks.

We were lucky enough to have it to ourselves for a while.

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Eventually, we heard the rumbling of a boat motor. Make that 3 boat motors. Before we knew what was happening, 3 boats absolutely LOADED with bodies pulled up and started spilling people into the water.

It was like watching a bunch of red ants attacking a bowl of potato salad at a picnic and just about as welcome.

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That was our signal that it was time to move on.

Besides, we were hungry and Pete’s Pub was waiting!

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As we pulled into Little Harbor, I could tell this was going to be something special.

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I immediately loved Pete’s. A broken down, rambling structure with everything from t-shirts to traffic lights hanging from every available surface, it reminded me more of something from Jost Van Dyke than Abaco. Barely propped up in the sand, it more closely resembled a randomly tossed together house of cards than an actual structure.

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We ordered the BLASTER, the signature drink, and checked out all of the fish specials on the menu. I opted for a ginger garlic tuna sandwich that was served with corn and rice and walnut cole slaw.

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While we waited for our food, I wandered around and took it all in. This place was AWESOME. The floor was sand, the views were amazing, there was even a live band (High Rocks from Eleuthera).

A quick walk over a boardwalk revealed a wild ocean side just on the other side of the palm trees.

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I’d like to say we spent some time in the art gallery, appreciated some fine music, and behaved like civilized, sophisticated adults.

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I don’t know what was in that Blaster, but it rendered any semblance of maturity impossible.

The Blaster at Pete’s should come with a warning label:

WARNING: The excessive consumption of Blasters may lead to bad dancing with strangers and awkward limbo contest participation; it may impair your ability to eat walnut cole slaw without seeing it again later; and may be generally hazardous to your health.

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That’s all I’m saying about that.

The good news is that we made it back to Guana Cay intact, and in time to see the sunset at Grabbers.

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Day Four:

We took the girls for an early morning run on the beach.

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Apparently, Rooby can’t read.

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Then, I tortured them with dog hats. Bella was a good sport. Rooby was not.

By way of silent protest, Rooby wouldn’t move. She lay immobile on the deck, peering at me out of the side of her hat to make sure I was seeing her misery and understanding that I had ruined her entire life. There is nothing funnier than a concentrated display of overly emotional suffering in a dog.

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She got me back by chewing up the hat when I wasn’t looking.

We had decided to do a few hours on the boat before heading to Nippers for a Sunday lunch filled with all manner of people watching.

Our caretaker had told us that his favorite place to go in all of Abaco was “the lagoon.” I was immediately intrigued.

“Lagoon?” I asked, with visions of a Gilligan’s Island style swimming hole, complete with coconut trees and monkeys. Okay, maybe not the monkeys.

He directed us toward the shallow area just between the south end of Guana Cay and Scotland Cay.

“Isn’t that a little shallow?” we asked.

We had been tempted by this incredible little turquoise hole before, but the super shallow water and a healthy dose of fear had always kept us out.

“Nah,” he said. “It’s fine.”

“It’s fine,” I said to Matt.

Famous last words.

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The lagoon was beautiful. Shallow water filled with starfish and stingrays, a small sandbar, and a deep blue hole in the center. The gorgeous palm fringed beach was private, being part of the private island of Scotland Cay, but the water belonged to everyone.

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I loved watching as the little sandbar started to emerge.

That should have been a clue.

Shallow water. Sandbar emerging. Low tide coming.

But we just kept playing blissfully in the water.

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And that’s how we got stuck in the sand.

Do you know how easy it is to pull a deep V boat that’s really big and heavy off of the sand when it is in really shallow water?

Not.

We felt incredibly stupid.

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There wasn’t a soul around, which was good for allowing our stupidity to remain anonymous, but bad for getting some help.

We pulled.

We pushed.

We did a “get the boat unstuck” water dance.

We cried.

We shouted.

Just as we were giving up and resigning ourselves to being stuck for the next few hours until the tide came back in….another boat pulled into the lagoon.

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Hot damn and hallelujah!

Sure, it was humiliating, but being towed off the sand was better than sitting in the heat for the next 5 hours.

Thanks to the little boat with the big heart, we still had time for a stop at Shell Island before calling it a day.

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Having walked the circumference of Shell Island before, I decided this was a good plan for the day. It was low tide, so it should be easy.

Apparently, this wasn't my "smart day."

You know how, when you make your mind up to do something, even once that little voice in your head keeps saying “This is stupid,” you keep going? Like turning around will somehow make you a quitter, doomed to fail at everything for the rest of your life?

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That’s what happened to me as I got past the halfway point, only to realize that the last time I did this was several years ago, and that a number of storms had washed a number of dead trees into the path that weren’t there before. The beach route was blocked.

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This was further complicated by the fact that the water route, while shallow, was filled with sharp, jagged rocks and I was barefoot.

But I was already more than halfway, I told myself. To turn back now would take longer than to just power ahead. It had to get better, right?

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It didn’t.

After 30 minutes of alternating between walking gingerly on sharp rocks, praying there wouldn’t be a sea urchin, and picking my way through an entangled maze of downed trees, all pointing at my internal organs like spears, I emerged on the other side….sunburned, sweaty, dehydrated, and exhausted.

But triumphant!!

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This victory called for a Nipper.

I am happy to report that we finally had a calm, low-key Sunday at Nippers. We were spectators, not participators. Sure, that’s only because we were all still a little fuzzy from the Blaster Debacle the day before, but I’ll still claim it as a sign that I am slowly moving toward true adulthood.

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Nah.

Although, it was nice actually remembering most of my Sunday afternoon and not emerging at 6:00 p.m. from a frozen Nipper fog, covered with sand and glow sticks, wondering where my other flip flop was.

And just as we started the trip the way we always do, we ended it the way we always do: late night pizza at Grabbers with a sunset fading into the starry night.

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Maybe we are boring for always going back to Guana Cay.

After all, “going back,” means retreat, doesn't it?

However, “retreat” doesn’t always mean surrender.

It can also mean haven, sanctuary, refuge.

I have found my sanctuary.

I’ll see you there again next time.

Same time. Same place.

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Posted by vicki_h 09:51 Archived in Bahamas Tagged islands tropical bahamas nippers abaco elbow_cay guana_cay grabbers marsh_harbour Comments (0)

Almost Roughing it in Ellijay, GA

A glamping anniversary

Have you ever thought about camping but decided that a weekend in the woods in a leaky tent that smells like plastic and mildew with absolutely no creature comforts and just the clothes on your back does not sound like a good time? Maybe you’re not really into eating just what you can carry on your back, hunt, or catch? Foraging for food and clean water, building a fire from twigs and rocks, and finding your way with a compass does not sound appealing? And you definitely draw the line at pooping behind a tree?

Do you crave a oneness with nature but are too afraid of literally becoming “one with nature” (as in becoming bear poop and decomposing under a pine tree) that you just take a pass?

Is this how you feel about camping?

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Well, I have found the answer.

It's called "glamping."

Yes. You read that right: GLAMPING. As in Glamourous Camping.

Gone are the days where a campsite is simply a place to pitch a tent and dig a hole to poop in. These days, camping can mean plush bedding and gourmet food.

Glamping is not for the die-hard, freeze dried food eating, REI shopping, ultralight backpacking group of outdoors-people. No, glamping is for those of us who love nature, but do not love sleeping on the ground and trying to pee while holding oneself upright with a tree branch and praying you don’t dribble on your pants leg.

I have paid my dues. I have hiked 15 miles into the wild with a pack loaded with crap on my back in the snow with wet feet and blisters only to sleep on the ground with one eye open all night wondering if a bear was going to smell the cherry chapstick I forgot to take out of my pocket.

I learned the hard way that a two man pup tent does not come with two men. Or any puppies.

THIS is not fun:

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Neither is this:

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Nor this:

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Okay, this is a little fun, but not when you are doing it because you are in so much pain that you decide 6 miles of drunk hiking is worth the risk:

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I was ready for a different kind of camping experience.

Sleeping bags and granola bars are so 20th century.

Glamping is nature served on a silver platter.

Pack the fur throw and champagne, friends…..we’re going glamping!

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For as long as I can remember, the Resort at Paws Up just east of Missoula, MT has been on my wish list. A ridiculously indulgent blend of unsurpassed luxury and pristine wilderness, this glamping resort offers guests a stay in a posh safari-style tent with jaw dropping views and a plethora of wilderness experiences, not to mention a private chef and butler to draw your bath in your outdoor copper bathtub and lay out the s’mores while they pour your wine.

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Stolen Shamelessly from the Paws Up website

However, the $1800 a night price tag is likely to keep it on the wish list for a while.

Like, forever.

So, imagine my delight when I discovered a glamping resort just 93 miles (as the crow flies) from home, thanks to JoAnn Antonelli and Rick Lucas, who have created a whimsical retreat in the north Georgia mountains called the Martyn House.

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The Martyn House was born when JoAnn and Rick first stepped foot onto the 18 acre property in Ellijay, GA in 2007. The 1930’s farmhouse became their home. Later came Rick’s photography studio. Later came JoAnn’s art studio, lovingly built from the old barn that was in the final stages of collapse.

A trip to India provided the final inspiration, as Rick and JoAnn decided to bring their experience with the luxurious sleeping tents they stayed in in southern Rajistan to Georgia. Their bohemian chic tents are made from intricate Indian fabrics, with details like hand sewn mirrors and meticulous embroidery. The colors are bright and festive, giving an air of magic to each unique tent. Each tent is complete with antique furniture, cozy linens, working lights, bathrooms with on-demand hot showers and running water, a propane heater for extra cold nights, an in-room French press along with a supply of coffee and tea products, wine glasses and JoAnn’s handmade pottery mugs, and soaps that JoAnn makes herself. Each tent also has a covered front porch with twinkling string lights, perfect for curling up with a glass of wine at night or a hot cup of coffee on a chilly morning.

Rick and JoAnn are also amazing cooks and make incredible meals for guests, using many of the ingredients from their own garden.

I ran across the Martyn House totally by accident in my never ending search for “someplace new” on the interwebs. As soon as I saw the fairytale destination that Rick and JoAnn had created, I knew it was the perfect place to spend our 15th anniversary.

“We’re going GLAMPING!” I shouted enthusiastically at Matt as he came home one evening.

“For our anniversary. GLAMPING!”

He stared at me, obviously not comprehending how stupendously awesome this decision was.

I heard crickets.

“GLAMPING!” I said again, arms wide and waving with all the enthusiasm I was trying to shove from my brain into his brain.

“Huh?”

He blinked.

It was like I was speaking Chinese.

“Fancy camping. We’re going fancy camping.”

“Yeah, okay,” he said as he went back to checking the mail.

Okay, so maybe he wasn’t as inspired as I was, but that was just because he didn’t know yet.

Martyn House was going to be perfect.

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The first thing I saw as we pulled down the driveway was the lion that was charging our vehicle.

“OH MY GOD!” I shouted to Matt. “Roll up the window!”

It was too late. Within minutes, I saw nothing but giant golden paws and fur and teeth mauling my husband of 15 years.

As I looked over at Matt’s grin, I remembered we were not, in fact, on our way to our Abercrombie & Kent campsite in the Serengeti, but were in Ellijay, GA and this was not a lion, but the biggest golden retriever in the universe with his wiggly body halfway inside our rental car while giving Matt a tongue bath.

We had just met Hank, the 91 lb. baby of the Martyn House family.

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Just behind Hank were Maya, the yellow lab, and Grace, the black lab…just as wiggly and welcoming.

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Off to the side, a flash of yellow caught my eye. No, not a tiger, but I don’t think he knows that.

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Milo the cat was hiding in the grass watching from a distance.

Otis, the other cat, was not as shy and immediately came to say “hello.”

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Throw in some heirloom chickens, one giant rooster, and a couple of unconventional artists and you have the wonderful cast that makes up the Martyn House.

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It was the opening weekend of their glamping season and we were the only guests. We had the entire place to ourselves.

As Rick gave us the grand tour, a parade of dogs and cats trailing behind us….I knew this was going to be a wonderful weekend.

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On the way to our tent, we stopped at Rick’s studio where he had Matt sample his new beer making project. As Matt two fisted some craft beer, I knew Matt thought this was going to be a wonderful weekend too.

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Rick also gave us a tour of JoAnn's studio, where she makes pottery and handmade bath products, or whatever suits her creative fancy. The studio was warm and inviting. As it turns out, guests can even stay in the studio.

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We also visited the chicken coop and the outdoor tent where JoAnn and Rick have created an amazing outdoor living space. They host many of their group dinners here. It had an outdoor bar, a dining area, a cozy hammock, and a living area with vintage pillows and throws. Next to it was a colorful fire pit for chilly nights.

Seriously, could this place be any more awesome?

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Even the port-a-potties were cute. I never thought I'd find myself thinking the words, "I can't wait to use that outdoor toilet."

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As we wandered down the wooded path away from the main house, I could see 4 tents scattered at a distance from each other in the woods. Each one was placed to allow it ample privacy from the others.

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I immediately fell in love with our tent: Ridge Roost.

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The gorgeous black and white striped tent stood in fanciful contrast to the early-April forest around it.

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With a cozy porch, a king sized bed covered with beautiful linens, a free cat, a full bathroom with running water and a hot shower, and a jovial guard dog to keep the raccoons at bay…what more could we want?

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How about an outdoor bathtub?

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The spell was complete. We were enchanted. Even Matt was excited. Probably because he realized at some point I was going to take off my clothes and get in a bathtub in the woods…but whatever. He was excited.

Unable to tear ourselves away from our glampsite, we did nothing but chill out in our tent for a while.

No TV. No internet. No sound but the wind in the trees and an occasional bird.

It was perfect.

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We were having dinner at the Martyn House that night, so we decided to grab lunch in the nearby town of Blue Ridge. We have eaten at Harvest on Main, a wonderful little restaurant there, on several occasions and always try to stop in when we are anywhere nearby.

Blue Ridge is a charming little mountain town. It’s adorable streets are lined with quaint shops, art galleries, and cafes.

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Harvest on Main is a cozy, rustic restaurant that reminds me of something we’d find in Montana, not in north Georgia. The first things you smell when you walk inside are their house smoked meats. The scent mingles with the smell of fresh baked bread and creates the most welcoming atmosphere you can imagine.

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We started off with their baked brie, blue crab, and cilantro casserole served with warm corn chips.

Just as we were licking the last of the warm, creamy melted sour cream, cream cheese, and brie from the dish, we were brought two house salads with their delightful pickled green beans.

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For entrees, I had the amberjack over their house chickpea stew topped with sauteed spinach, and Matt had the local trout served on top of their house-made corned beef hash (house-smoked corned beef, sweet potatoes, & onions) and topped with lemon-pickled onions and arugula.

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Just to make sure we didn’t leave before eating everything on the menu, we had the chocolate pudding cake with vanilla ice cream. The moist cake was layered with what tasted like a hazelnut cream cheese filling and topped with caramel drizzle and pecans.

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Because a day of sloth and gluttony is best enjoyed with a glass of wine, we headed back to the Martyn House and took a take a pre-dinner walk down to Grace’s pond with a bottle of wine to find the “outdoor living room” Rick had told us about.

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Rick and JoAnn have taken “creative loafing spaces” to an entirely new level. In every nook and cranny of their property, there is another cozy place to curl up with a glass of wine, a good book, or a wet dog as the case may be.

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Maya was obviously embarrassed by her overly exuberant leap into the pond, so she put herself in time out in the corner until she was dry. Sweet Maya.

We had opted for a private dinner on the farm that night, but the weather forecast was calling for storms and I couldn’t help but wonder if we’d get rained out. We pulled on the wellies, grabbed the umbrella, and hoped for the best.

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We shouldn’t have worried. Rick and JoAnn had us set up in the dry on their porch, complete with vintage linens, a glowing chandelier, and the romantic flicker of candles.

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The rain held off as we enjoyed a starter of roasted red eggplant with feta cheese. The eggplant was perfectly charred on the edge, soft in the center, and topped with savory cheese.

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This was followed by what Matt referred to as “the best salad I’ve ever had.” The salad had pickled garlic, local smoked bacon, olives, goat cheese, sundried tomatoes, and fresh green beans.

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This is Matt’s “stop taking pictures of me while I eat” face:

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For our main dish, Rick brought us a deliciously fried chicken breast on top of rustic mashed potatoes with roasted broccoli and cherry tomatoes.

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Dessert? Of course we did. A raspberry sorbet with chocolate.

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As we scooped the last of the sorbet from our dishes, Rick was lighting a fire for us where we enjoyed champagne and roasted marshmallows as we watched the distant lightening grow closer and closer.

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We ran back to the tent when the thunder started, wondering if we’d make it back before the storms. The tent looked even prettier at night.

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We turned on our electric candles (because real candles and cotton tents go together like Kanye West and Taylor Swift) and climbed into the big, cozy bed. The sheets were soft and smelled like fresh laundry. The down pillows were perfectly plush. The tent had flaps that could be lowered with ropes and secured for windows and a door if we wanted the tent secured, but we wanted to feel the cool night air so we left them open, leaving a secure mesh screen to keep the bugs out.

When the rain started, I worried we might get blown away. This was no 10 minute rain shower. This was a full-on, raining-like-there-was-no-tomorrow downpour that lasted for hours with wind and thunder and lightning. We couldn’t have ordered a more magical experience if we’d had the weather gods on speed dial.

It was remarkable. The sound of the rain pounding on the roof of our tent and the fresh-electric smell of the storm outside while we were cozy and warm under piles of soft blankets was simply mind blowing.

The best part of glamping vs. camping in a rainstorm? The story doesn’t end with ….”and then the tent blew away.”

We were snug as two bugs in a rug.

We fell asleep to the sound of the rain beating rhythmically on the roof.

It was around 2:00 a.m. when I was awakened by a sound under the bed. My first thought was, “Rooby and Bella might need to go outside,” and then I remembered I wasn’t at home.

I was in a tent.

In the woods.

And something was thumping around under my bed.

It’s all fun and glamping until you wake up with a possum under your bed.

I did what any strong, modern, capable woman would do.

I woke Matt up.

“There is something under the bed,” I hissed, shoving the flashlight from my nightstand at him.

“What do you want ME to do about it?” he hissed back.

“Get it OUT,” I whispered.

As I sat holding my electric candle, prepared to beat something off his face should he come back up with fangs and claws attached to his skull, Matt peered cautiously over the edge of the bed.

And laughed.

“It’s Hank,” he said. “He must have snuck in after we went to sleep.”

I never thought I’d be happy to have a 91 lb. dog under my bed. At least I didn’t have to worry about possums.

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The next morning was a chilly 48 degrees. We had slept with the windows open so that we could enjoy the cozy bed and the storm. The morning air was crisp and cool, so Matt fired up the heater. The tent was warm in minutes.

Our tent had an electric pot for heating water and a French press with coffee, hot teas, sugar, and creamer. We had coffee and cocoa on the front porch watching the sun peek out through the trees.

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Breakfast is provided by Rick and JoAnn every morning, so we made our way to the farmhouse around 8:30. Because it was only the two of us, Rick served us breakfast on the cozy porch again.

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He started us off with homemade smoothies and fresh fruit.

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Then it was hot coffee and toasted English muffins with jam and butter.

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Finally, he brought omelets made with cheddar cheese, spinach, and mushrooms and a platter of local bacon. There is no picture of the bacon because I ate it all.

I really like bacon.

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We didn’t have a very ambitious itinerary, which was good because I was lethargic from all the bacon.

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We strolled around the quaint town of Ellijay, checking out its cute shops.

There are a lot of things to do near Ellijay – countless wineries, farms, orchards, and scenic drives….but we managed not to do ANY of those things because we really just wanted to get back to the Martyn House.

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There was an outdoor bathtub with my name on it.

But not before we had lunch. What? Do you think we are CRAZY?

We stopped in at 1907 for a wine-fueled lunch of smoked trout dip, a fried green tomato burger with bacon and pimento cheese, and apple crumble with salted caramel sauce. No, that was not shared. That was just MY meal.

Matt had some more trout. I was starting to think he had a trout problem.

When in north GA.....have the trout?

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This is the owner, Wayne Sloop. He came out to pose for a very enthusiastic photo.

Whew.

I was worried that he knew I had stolen 10 of those delicious burgers and had them in my pocket.

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Oh wait. That was only in my head. Kind of like when someone runs over you in the grocery store aisle and you cuss them out in your head but in reality you find yourself apologizing to them for being made of actual matter and for not being able to read their mind so that you wouldn't be standing where they wanted to walk without looking first.

All I really had in my pocket was my lens cap. Darn it.

When we got back to the Martyn House, the sun was shining on a beautiful 80 degree afternoon. We took advantage of the beautiful weather and just enjoyed our surroundings.

With wine.

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And then there was that bathtub.

I could not pass up the opportunity to take a bath in the woods.

Bathtub in the woods + bubble bath + champagne = best bath EVER

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Seriously one of my favorite life experiences of all time. It was like skinny dipping, but with bubble bath and warm water. And without my irrational fear of leeches.

A couple of years ago, Rick and JoAnn bought an old building in downtown Ellijay that became one part coffee shop, one part art gallery, and one part live music venue. On Saturday nights, they host live music and dinner in their “listening room.” We had decided to have dinner there that night because it gave me a reason to pack boots with 4 inch heels on a camping trip.

Seriously, what's the point of glamping if you can't pack heels?????

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In Towne, their coffee shop and bistro, was as charming and visually appealing as the Martyn House. Each space was unique and eclectic, filled with original art, their own special style, and a sprinkle of sunshine.

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On Saturday nights, they offer a small menu for dinner to be served while you listen to a 2 hour live music show. It’s BYOB, so we were able to take our own wine for a modest $5 corking fee. We ordered at the counter in the coffee shop, dropped off our bottles of wine, grabbed some lemon infused water in colorful mason jars, and found our way to the cozy listening room. When we ordered, we were given a table number. The tables were covered in brown butcher paper with the numbers on top and warm, inviting candles beckoning us inside.

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Still pretty full from that mammoth burger at 1907, I thought I was “ordering light” (yes, I know – Vicki Ordering Light is as much an oxymoron as Vegetarian McDonald’s) when I asked for the “fish stew.”

The hearty stew had 3 giant fillets of meaty fish in it and was topped off with a crazy good slab of buttery toasted bread.

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That's when I remembered that eating light is for wimps.

So I ordered dessert.

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Matt had the trout and double chocolate cake, but I didn’t get a picture because because all the trout was getting weird (and maybe because I had whipped cream all over my hands).

Nate Currin, the artist of the night, entertained us for two hours with his warm stories and wonderful music. Maybe it was the second bottle of wine talking, but we thought he was pretty darn good.

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When we cozied in for the night in our tent, we decided to close the windows and zip the door because it was going down to 32 degrees. While we liked sleeping in the cool air, 32 degrees crossed the line from “cozy” to “crazy,” so we turned the heater on low enough to keep it cool, but ensure we didn’t wake up with icicles in our noses.

The zipped door kept Hank out, but it didn’t keep Otis out. Otis made it immediately clear that he'd be sleeping with us thankyouverymuch.

I guess he doesn’t like icicles in his nose either.

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We woke to another perfectly beautiful day. Our days had been warm and sunny, our nights cold and crisp, perfect glamping weather!

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Rick had breakfast waiting for us on the porch again.

More homemade smoothies:

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Then it was stoneground grits, local sausage, focaccia bread, and scrambled eggs with avocados.

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Martyn House had been everything I hoped for. It has been magical, fanciful, and enchanting. It had been luxurious and indulgent. It was romantic and private. We ate meals on a fantasy porch, we sipped wine in fairy tale tents, we snuggled under fur blankets while listening to the sound of the wind and rain whipping through the trees, we woke to the sounds of birds and had coffee with the forest, we followed paths to secret corners with tree stump tables and crystal chandeliers, we found our way home at night guided by twinkling string lights and the full moon.

I ate slowly, not wanting to break the spell.

It was almost midnight and my carriage was about to turn back into a pumpkin. A quick flight home would bring work and deadlines, a house that needed to be cleaned, and groceries to buy.

But it was still morning, and I was still Cinderella and I was going to live like there was no midnight.

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Posted by vicki_h 13:00 Archived in USA Tagged camping georgia glamping blue_ridge ellijay martyn_house Comments (3)

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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

Which is exactly what we did.

Absolutely.

Nothing.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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

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Or a conch fritter.

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Or a lobster dinner afterwards.

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Or playing the hook and ring game.

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Okay, it was all good.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

“NO DOCKING.”

Wha??????

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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:

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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.

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It was also perfect for rum punch and Kalik!

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

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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.

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We enjoyed.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Sigh.

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.

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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.

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

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

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

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(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)

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