A Travellerspoint blog

Stepping Out of Bounds in Glacier National Park: Day 2

Two Bears and Counting.

Day Two: Two Bears and Counting.

We woke up to a misty morning at the Lake McDonald campground.

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It was a chilly morning so we warmed up with coffee and cocoa by the fire while I whipped up some peanut butter and banana waffles.

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Our plan was to spend the day getting from the west side of the park to the east side of the park. We thought we’d stop somewhere in between and do a light hike to get us warmed up for the big hikes that would start the following day.

First, we had to hike 2.5 miles back to the car. As we walked, we took in the landscape around us. The Robert Fire of 2003 came during the biggest fire season in Glacier National Park’s history. Due to a combination of draught, high winds, lightning strikes, and human carelessness, 136,000 acres burned that summer. The Robert Fire alone burned almost 60,000 acres.

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Despite the fact that this area had been severely burned only 10 years before, there was beauty everywhere. Life was coming back. A sea of charred, black trees was filled in with endless wildflowers, green grasses, and fresh new saplings.

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When we reached the car, we shoved our overstuffed backpacks into our overstuffed SUV and made the short drive to the Avalanche Lake Trailhead.

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Avalanche Lake is a short, but incredibly scenic, hike. It seemed like a perfect warm-up to get our legs ready for something more challenging.

The trail begins with a pleasant stroll through the Trail of the Cedars, an easy, level loop through cedar giants.

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Rather than looping back to the parking lot, we opted to head up the short, but steep, climb toward Avalanche Lake. After the initial climb, the trail was fairly easy. The entire hike was about 5 miles and only gained 500 feet in elevation.

The views, however, were outstanding. The trail took us through an old growth cedar and hemlock forest.

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Avalanche Gorge, a fiercely rushing cascade of ice blue glacial water running through red rock worn smooth by time and force, offered amazing views on our left.

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Eventually, the trail peeled away from the creek and the deafening crash of the rushing water faded, leaving only the sound of our feet on soft pine needles and the small twitter of distant birds. We were walking through a deep, dark quiet forest. Sunlight filtered through the cedar grove, casting dapples of brightness on the mossy ground, looking like a plush velvet carpet through a fairytale forest.

I was lost in my own, dreamy thoughts, picturing elves hiding behind these wooden giants or imagining fairies, light as air, flitting through the dappled sunlight.

It’s amazing how one word, spoken calmly and quietly, can change everything so quickly.

“BEAR.”

“BEAR. AHEAD. BIG GRIZZLY BEAR CROSSED THE TRAIL RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU,” the people hiking toward us said.

My pucker factor instantly went from a 0 to a 12 on a 10 point scale.

Fairies be damned. I spent the rest of the hike looking for bears.

We never saw the bear and eventually reached the clearing that meant we had reached Avalanche Lake.

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The trail dead-ended into the shores of Avalanche Lake. The lake was surrounded on three sides by towering peaks with streaming waterfalls that formed a bowl shape. The lake sat below them like a mirror.

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We took some time to simply sit and take in the peace of the place before hiking back to the car.

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The parking lot sat next to a nice picnic area with tables along the edge of the creek, so we decided to eat lunch picnic style before driving to St. Mary on the east end of the park.

I made pork burritos with black bean and corn salsa. It’s amazing what you can cook out of the back of an SUV.

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It was about 3:00 when we reached the St. Mary Lodge. We got checked in an grabbed some showers and some naps. We’d only been in Montana for a little over 24 hours and we had already hiked 10 miles. Not used to so much activity, our bodies needed a break!

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Matt and I grabbed some cocktails at St. Mary’s lounge while we waited for John and Teresa to get ready for dinner.

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Our favorite restaurant on the east side, the Park Café, had seen a change of ownership since our last visit and the reviews were not favorable. We decided to try something new: Two Sisters.

As we walked from the car to the door, we saw a big grizzly bear running across the field next door. Two bears in one day? I hoped this wasn't an omen.

Two Sisters was funky. Two Sisters was fun. Two Sisters was purple.

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We all ordered cocktails. Here they are. I am going to let you guess which person belongs to which drink.

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If you guessed mine was the girly pink one, you were wrong.

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It takes a real man to drink a pink martini in Montana.

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I ordered the famous “Red Burger,” aptly named for the spicy Creole sauce that was slathered on top of the giant burger topped with cheese, bacon, mushrooms, and onions.

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John and Teresa both got the “Open Faced Chili Burger.” All I could say was, “Thank goodness you two aren’t sleeping in a tent tonight.” They could have blown that tent into the stratosphere.

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Seriously, that was enough beans to fuel the next launch of the space shuttle. And after burritos for lunch. I didn’t even want to ride in the car with them the next day.

There is one rule in Montana that always stands: No matter how much you eat for dinner, there is always room for PIE!

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As we lay in our rooms at the St. Mary lodge that night, I’m pretty sure I could hear John and Teresa’s beans in the next room.

"Beans, beans, good for your heart....."

Posted by vicki_h 06:55 Archived in USA Tagged hiking camping national_park montana glacier_national_park kalispell Comments (2)

Stepping Out of Bounds in Glacier National Park: Day 1

Let the journey begin.

Ahhhh….Montana. Home of big skies and bigger mountains. The state of open roads, endless valleys, and a river running through it. A place where the soup of the day is whiskey and there are more plaid flannel shirts than a 1991 Pearl Jam concert.

Without really meaning to, we seem to wander back to Montana every couple of years. The call of the mountains is more than we can resist. We can only stay away for so long before we yearn for the crunch of the gravel under our boots on a hiking trail, the chirp of a chubby marmot, and a breath of fresh air.

It was the last week of August and temperatures in the deep south were soaring.

It was time to head to Montana and get lost.

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Day One: Let the journey begin.

While we have flown to Montana under our own power on our most recent trips, we decided to fly commercial thanks to an unbeatable fare. Instead of it taking us 2 full days to get to Kalispell, we left early one Saturday morning and were in Montana by lunch, local time.

The first, very miserable, order of business was to buy groceries and then figure out how to fit 4 adults; 2 oversized suitcases; 2 small suitcases; 4 large backpacks; 3 daypacks; 2 tents; a week’s worth of camping gear, hiking gear, and clothing; and 4 coolers filled with groceries into one standard size SUV with no luggage rack.

There was an inordinate amount of cussing, stomping, and gnashing of teeth, but we finally got it all in there.

Sweet Heavenly Moses.

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By the time we were finished, we looked like a Chinese delivery truck.

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Instead of lunch, we decided on a drive to Polebridge for a 4:00 dinner at the Northern Lights Saloon.

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For us, there is simply no other way to kick off a Glacier National Park vacation than with a long drive up a dirt road for a fistful of pastries, a jar of beer, and a giant slab of homemade huckleberry pie.

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Not wanting to waste a minute, we decided to start our hiking that night. What? Who wouldn’t want to do a 2.5 mile hike at 7:00 p.m. in bear country in an outfit that smelled like huckleberry pie? Just to sweeten the deal, the temps dropped into the high 30s even though it was late August.

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The hike to McDonald Lake campground was a perfect, short jaunt to stretch our legs and help our bodies readjust to our backpacks, which had been in storage for 2 years.

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The sparsely visited campsite was positioned on the western shore of Lake McDonald in an area that had been ravaged by the Roberts Fire of 2003. It doesn’t get many visitors, but we chose it specifically because it was a backcountry campsite that we knew we could make it to in about an hour.

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Despite the remains of the burned trees, the view from the lake was spectacular. It was a cold, cloudy evening, so we didn’t get to enjoy much of a sunset, but it was quiet, peaceful....beautiful.

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The best part of the McDonald Lake campground? You can have a fire!

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Do you know what goes perfectly with a campfire?

Wine and cookies from the Polebridge Merc, of course! Nothing says "glamping" like a paper cup of wine and a greasy, brown paper sack full of cookies.

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The sun completely faded from the sky and it was time to retire to our tents. The two hour time difference meant that we were exhausted even though it was only 9:00 in Montana. As I snuggled down into the warmth of my sleeping bag, I wondered what this trip had in store for us.

Bears? Blisters? Blizzards?

We’d seen it all in our trips to Montana.

I couldn’t wait to wake up and find out what was next.

Posted by vicki_h 12:23 Archived in USA Tagged hiking camping national_park montana glacier_national_park kalispell Comments (4)

Come wind, come rain, come dark of night.

Vicki vs. Tropical Storm Arthur

The siren song of the Caribbean in summer has an allure that few of us can resist. The sun is bright, the water is calm and the nights are warm. When the mercury hovers over 80 and there is still a light breeze and you have miles of soft sand with blue waters just waiting to be explored, you just have to go. It’s no wonder Matt and I end up in the Bahamas every summer despite the fact that it is a hurricane hot zone from June to November.

When we decided to fly down with friends for the 4th of July, we knew it was risky, but the forecast looked fine as we loaded up the plane and made our way south.

Saturday:

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Things started off well enough. The sun was shining and the Bahama Mamas were flowing at Curly Tails as we waited for the ferry to Guana Cay.

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By the time we arrived on Guana, the skies had started to darken. This should have been our first clue that something was amiss….but we attributed it to nothing more than a passing tropical shower as we bought our groceries in the pouring rain.

NOTE: A golf cart does not make ideal transportation in a monsoon-type situation.

By the time we got unpacked and had the groceries put away, the sun had popped back out so we loaded up on the boat and headed to Elbow Cay for a dinner at Firefly.

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It was a beautiful night for dinner on their deck looking over the water.

After dinner, the ride home was a perfect chance to enjoy a beautiful sunset.

Rain? Pah. I’m not afraid of no rain.

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Sunday:

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When we woke up, the sun was shining. It was a beautiful morning. See? No rain. We loaded up in the boat to head down to North Guana before the Nippers Sunday BBQ.

As we anchored just off Baker’s Bay, we couldn’t help but notice it was starting to….cloud up a bit.

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The skies started to darken, so we thought it was probably a good idea to head back. There is nothing worse than getting stuck in a rainstorm on a boat.

Besides, it was time for Nippers Sunday Fun Day!

To spare you the gory details, here is the highlight reel:

MMMMmmmm……..ate BBQ.

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Met a Giant.

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Sat next to Steve Spurrier (but no photo, because he scares me).

Had some Nippers.

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Stuffed toilet paper into the back of Matt’s pants when he wasn’t looking. Photographed it.

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Had some more Nippers.

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Danced badly.

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Had more Nippers.

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Danced worse.

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Had tequila shots.

Got rowdy. Found dirty headband on the ground and made Matt wear it.

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Watched lady come down the stairs with a Nipper on her head.

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Went to Grabbers.

Hula hooped.

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Danced some more.

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Drank Grabbers.

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Had a food fight. Told to “calm down” by Irene.

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Asked for more Grabbers. Told “no more Grabbers for you.” (Seriously…how bad do you have to be when they refuse to bring you another Grabber?)

Decided to head back to Nippers where they don’t care if they overserve you.

Wrecked golf cart en route.

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Saw police. Ran home.

(When my mom reads this, I am pretty sure I am going to get grounded)

Monday:

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It had drizzled off and on all day Sunday. This gave way to gray skies and rain on Monday. It was so bad, we couldn’t even go outside. The weather forecast said something about a tropical depression forming near the Bahamas.

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We spent the day checking the weather obsessively, napping, watching t.v., napping, checking the weather, and eating cookies. Matt walked to Dive Guana in the rain to get us a replacement golf cart because we had killed ours. I remembered watching the little wheel roll sadly down the street as the cart sat stuck in the bushes in front of the Art Café. It was now parked sadly next to the ferry dock where pretty much everyone could see it.

Oh the shame.

I started to wonder if I should have paid attention to any of those: Tips for Travel in a Hurricane articles. I hadn’t, so I wrote my own.

Planning Tips for Travel During a Tropical Storm:

1: Choose your destination carefully. If you are worried about hurricanes, go to Boise. I should have gone to Boise.

2: If you still insist on the Caribbean, get travel insurance. Or just bring lots of alcohol. It’s just as good as insurance in the event of a failed vacation.

3: Tell people where you are going. This will help the authorities locate your body when your housemates kill you and bury you in the sand after being trapped inside with you for 3 days.

4: Pack an emergency kit. Mine included rum, tequila, chocolate, and a coconut pie. Oh, and matches. In case the power went out and I couldn’t find my pie.

5: Dispose of perishable foods before a storm hits in case the power goes out. When someone asks you why you just ate the whole coconut pie in one sitting, tell them you are disposing of perishable foods.

6: Make sure you travel with people you really like. Like, enough to be locked inside a 1000 square foot apartment with them for 60 hours with no T.V.

Sigh.

There was nothing to do but wait.

Tuesday:

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Well this pretty much sucked.

We woke up in the middle of a Tropical Storm. Hello, Arthur.

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The rain was blowing sideways. We could hear non-stop thunder and lightning. It had gone on all night, so none of us had slept very well. We’d been trapped inside for 36 hours at this point and there was no sign that the weather was going to break any time soon.

We spent the entire day stuck inside.

How to lose your mind in 48 hours or less:

1. Go to any small island during hurricane season and wait for a storm.

2. When the storm hits, immediately go to the interwebs. See this:

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3. Have a small meltdown.

4. Once your housemates untie you, run out of things to do. In the first 5 minutes.

5. Watch the Travel Channel and cry a little as the World’s Top Ten Beach Bars episode comes on as you look outside your window.

6. Hate the people on the World’s Top Ten Beach Bars episode.

7. Take a nap. Who cares if it is only 11:00 a.m. and you have already had two naps today.

8. Find yourself looking at a roll of duct tape and a few pencils and wonder if you can make a life raft.

9. Find yourself looking at the same roll of duct tape and a few pencils and wonder if you can use it to bind your housemates and put them in the closet.

10. Hide in the closet and eat your coconut pie so that your house mates won’t eat it all.

11. Fight with house mates over who ate the whole coconut pie.

12. Watch a spot on the ceiling for 45 minutes wondering if it's a spider, decide it is not, look away just as you think it moves, and watch it for another 45 minutes to be sure.

13. Pace for 15 minutes.

14. Try not to kill your house mates.

15. Die slowly inside.

16. Repeat steps 5 – 15.

We thought we had a break when the rain slacked off to a drizzle late Tuesday evening. We jumped in our golf cart and zoomed to Grabbers to grab dinner before the gale force winds started blowing again.

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We rushed back home just as this arrived:

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Wednesday:

Woke up to rain. And thunder. And lightning. This is a photo of me from Wednesday morning:

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We were all irritable. We had eaten all our food in 2 days, had bedsores, and would be fine if we never saw another episode of the Real Housewives of New Jersey in our lifetime.

We settled in for what we assumed would be another washed out day, but then….the heavens opened and a glimmer of sunshine peeked through around noon.

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You would have thought I was Noah and a dove had just brought me an olive branch.

Hallelujah!

We looked like a bunch of blind albino mole rats when we crawled outside on weak legs, eyes blinking against the bright light, skin pale and pasty.

Before the rain:

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After the rain:

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We had a few glorious hours in the sunshine before the rain returned and drove us back inside.

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Thursday:

We had been on Guana Cay for 4 ½ days and had only managed a few hours outside by this point. Today was supposed to be the Stranded Naked Cheeseburger Party on Fiddle Cay. An all day event where hundreds of boats descend upon an uninhabited island, pull up along a long sandbar, and party with burgers and margaritas until the sun goes down.

We were thrilled when we woke up to glorious blue skies.

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We boated over to Fiddle Cay, arriving early enough to get a great spot on the sandbar.

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We met old friends:

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And new friends:

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We ate cheeseburgers:

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And then the party started.

Do you know what happens when 4 adults on vacation get trapped inside for 3 days and then attend an all day party on the beach?

They lose their minds.

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It’s all fun and games until someone ends up passed out on top of the chips.

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Friday:

It was the 4th of July and it was our last day on the island. Since we had not been able to do much boating, we decided to put Nippers 4th of July party off until the afternoon and take the boat out for some much needed sun.

First stop was my favorite little cove on Man-O-War Cay.

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Next stop was Lubbers Landing for saltwater margaritas and some of Austin and Amy’s amazing island burgers.

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If you haven’t tried Austin’s cauli-wings, you gotta’ try them.

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Last stop was Tahiti Beach which put on an exceptional display of amazing clear water just for us.

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We decided to do it up right for the Nippers July 4th festivities. I mean, when the red, white, and blue denim vest comes out...you know it is ON.

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We all took it pretty easy that day and did more spectating and less participating. I can only handle so many hangovers in a single week, you know.

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We ended the day with dinner at Grabbers with our good friend, Glenn.

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The best part of the day was the fireworks show at Nippers. Nippers now has these cool wooden loungers down on the beach. We decided to watch the fireworks from there instead of from up on the hill.

The fireworks were literally IN OUR FACE. Like…right in our face.

It was part excitement, part fear, but all amazing. (I have suffered a little PTSD since, but the doctor says I’ll be able to hear loud noises without wetting my pants in about 10 more months).

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Saturday:

Our final morning dawned bold and beautiful.

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Sure, it hadn’t been the ideal trip, but we had maximized the time we had. No silly little rainstorm is going to stop us.

Take that, Arthur.

What's next for us? A return to Glacier National Park to hike 60 miles in 6 days. Hopefully with fewer blisters than last time......

Posted by vicki_h 08:04 Archived in Bahamas Tagged island caribbean tropical abaco elbow_cay guana_cay marsh_harbour Comments (4)

Need more Turks & Caicos?

Posted by vicki_h 10:22 Archived in Turks/Caicos Islands Tagged island tropical turks caicos providenciales provo tci turks_and_caicos grace_bay Comments (1)

Sun Bleached Beaches & Blue on Blue Water

Looking for Luxury in the Turks & Caicos

The sailing trip brought us home a bit bedraggled.

I needed a vacation to recover from my vacation.

What was all that BS I spouted about not looking for trips that are relaxing, self-indulgent, and easy? Well, I just decided that was a load of crap.

I was ready for something with a little less adventure and a little more luxury. Less peanut butter crackers and blisters; more champagne and lobster.

We were going to the Turks & Caicos.

Sure, it was just 2 weeks after getting back from sailing, but when you gotta’ go, you gotta’ go. We wanted an indulgent getaway.

As I always do, I obsessively scoured the internet before our trip. What was going on there? What was the weather going to be like? Was the sun shining? Was it raining? Were there mosquitoes? Was there anything else I needed to pack?

Unfortunately, what I saw was this headline,

ARMED ROBBERS VIOLENTLY ATTACK VICTIMS
Exactly a week after armed robbers raided two homes in Providenciales. Two more frightening attacks have taken place…..masked intruders dressed in black brandishing firearms….at another couple’s rented villa…..struck the victim in the head with a screwdriver….
.

Okay. Getting stabbed in the head with a screwdriver in my rented villa would not be my idea of an awesome vacation moment. That would be worse than having diarrhea on a boat. Twice.

Soon after reading the Headline of Doom, my mom sent me a link to an article about some mysterious virus that had taken over the Caribbean and was heading for Turks & Caicos,

TCI PREPARES FOR IMMINENT VIRUS STRIKE
While no cases of the chikungunya virus have yet been confirmed in the TCI, health experts expect it to strike soon. Residents and visitors are warned to take precautions to protect themselves against the mosquito-borne virus which can leave its victims seriously ill and incapacitated. Director of Health Services Dr. Nadia Astwood told the Weekly News that the health department will continue to periodically check for the disease
.

Really?

Finally, I made the mistake of looking at the weather forecast, even though I know every forecast for every Caribbean island calls for rain and storms every day. Forever. I know better than to look, but I can’t help myself.

And there it was.

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I seriously needed to stop reading the news.

So far, it looked like I could anticipate being bludgeoned in the head with a screwdriver in my villa while a thug tried to wrestle my camera out of my hands as I lay dying of the jungle-rot-mosquito-virus in the pouring rain.

Matt and I crossed our fingers, sent a prayer up, packed the DEET and a steel helmet and hoped for the best. It was too late to turn back now. We were Turks & Caicos bound.

Thursday:

We fell in love before touchdown.

It was the water, you see.

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It was absolutely dazzling. Mesmerizing. Electric. Providenciales sat in the midst of it, a crescent of glorious green in that turquoise sea.

Thanks to a supersaver airmile rate, we were enjoying the view from our First Class seats, a glass of wine in hand. Maybe I would get clubbed to death with a screwdriver before I made it home, but for now, things were looking pretty good from where I sat.

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Pro-vi-den-ci-aaaaaaahhhhhh-les…

I let the word roll off my tongue as we prepared for landing. I just liked saying it.

The Turks & Caicos archipelago is made up of approximately 40 small islands and cays, but only 8 of them are inhabited. Providenciales (better known as Provo) is only 38 square miles but is the most developed island in the Turks & Caicos.

It is home to the international airport, which always seems to be described by words like “nightmare,” “disaster,” and “chaos.” We landed ahead of schedule and deplaned to the ugliest airport I think I have ever laid eyes on.

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Admittedly, the airport was not fabulous, but I have seen worse. At least this airport didn’t have any chickens running around and the baggage claim wasn’t guarded by a feral cat intent on licking its nether regions.

We made it through customs quickly and walked outside. The airport was definitely worse from the outside. The airport parking lot looked like a rock quarry. With dusty cars. In Beruit.

We were impressed when we saw the Avis rep waiting outside of the door with a sign bearing our name. He shuttled us quickly to the on-site Avis office where we were given a brand new Suzuki Jimny within minutes.

Our villa rep, Marjorie, was waiting for us when we arrived at Avis. So far, these Turks & Caicosians Providencialesians Islanders were prompt.

Most people visiting Provo stay in the “resort zone,” a 5 mile stretch along Grace Bay Beach on the north end of Provo.

Matt and I are not most people.

We had chosen to stay on the south end of Provo, on Chalk Sound, a completely enclosed three mile long natural lagoon with turquoise water so insanely bright that you might expect it to glow at night. The water is dotted with tiny mushroom shaped islands. I saw a description of Chalk Sound which described it as, “beneath the radar, untouched, and off the beaten path, the pristine islets in Provo’s Chalk Sound provide an ideal backdrop for expansive thoughts….”

And for enough privacy to get murdered in your sleep with a screwdriver, I thought to myself as we made the drive toward our villa.

I didn’t care. I would take my chances. I am not a hotel person. I loathe resorts where I have to share my every moment with at least one stranger who is no less than 5 feet away from me. I want my own space. I want quiet. I want privacy.

As soon as I saw Rockspray Villa I was not sorry. Screwdriver-wielding thieves be damned. The place was jaw-droppingly amazing.

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Rockspray Villa was a beautiful stone villa built on a small peninsula that was only slightly bigger than the house itself, so the house was literally feet from the water on 3 sides. From every window you could see that blinding turquoise water and could hear small waves washing over the rocks. It had air-conditioning, but a delicious breeze was blowing through so we didn’t need it. With 2 master bedrooms and expansive decks, this house was the perfect place to spend a few days doing a whole lot of nothing.

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( Rockspray also had an amazing security system; a long, gated drive; and was just down the street from the police station. You know. Just in case.)

The place was heaven.

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It was time to officially get the party started, so we make the short drive to Bugaloo’s Conch Crawl on the water at nearby Five Cays.

In Provo, conch is king. Or is it queen? Whichever. There is a lot of it. And it’s fresh.

Fresh enough that the shells are strewn on the beach just feet from your table with a few pieces of quivering flesh still clinging to them.

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Bugaloo has been known as the Conch Man of Provo for a long time, having operated a simple conch shack in the Blue Hills area of Provo for years. In 2012, he moved to a spiffier location with one hell of a view and took his great food and the good times with him. If you like fresh conch, there’s no better place to get sea-to-table dining than Bugaloo’s.

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Matt loves him some conch, so we ordered up drinks and coconut conch.

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When we felt we were sufficiently relaxed, we decided to do the little bit of grocery shopping we needed to do and spend the rest of the afternoon at the house slipping into official island mode.

There was a big, fancy grocery store on the other end of the island near the resorts, but frankly, after a couple of Bugaloo’s mango margaritas, 8 miles seemed SOOOOO FAAAAAAR. We decided to go the local grocery store that was only a mile from Bugaloo’s and very close to our villa.

It couldn’t be any worse than the Exuma Market, right?

The store was plenty big and reasonably well stocked for the few breakfast and beverage items that we needed, and, inexplicably, there was a DJ.

You read that correctly. A DJ. As in Music. Giant Speakers. Sound System. Jamming out at the Quality Supermarket.

It was like grocery shopping in a nightclub. Or visiting a nightclub with a dairy aisle.

I have never had so much fun at a grocery store in all my life.

Then it was back to Rockspray Villa to look at this for the rest of the afternoon:

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Eventually, we roused ourselves enough to get cleaned up for dinner. I can’t tell you how excited I was to actually be somewhere that “getting dressed for dinner” did not involve a cotton swimsuit coverup and rubber flip flops. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Bahamas, but sometimes, a girl wants to dress up.

Providenciales is the place for that. Not too fancy, but just nice enough to pull out the maxi dress and the real sandals.

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We headed to The Infinity Bar at the Grace Bay Club. The 90 foot bar made of black granite reflected the sunset beautifully.

We had only been there for 5 hours, but I was starting settling into the luxurious rhythm of Providenciales. It was just what the doctor ordered. It was an indulgent little slice of paradise.

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As the sun dipped below the horizon, we moved a few feet over to the Lounge, where comfy sofas, outdoor fireplaces, and hanging wicker lanterns waited.

If we couldn’t relax in this environment…..we couldn’t relax.

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We had late dinner reservations at Coco Bistro. No matter what restaurant list you look at for Providenciales, Coco Bistro seems to be on it. In the high season, reservations need to be made several months in advance. I read that they once turned away Bruce Willis and his entourage because….well….he had no reservation.

I had decided to set the bar high and start with the best.

Coco Bistro was the prettiest non-waterfront restaurant I think I have ever been to at the beach. It was set beneath a canopy of tall palm trees. The palms created a waving green ceiling that revealed the stars as the breeze gently blew them about. Twinkling lights reflecting off the brilliant tangerine backdrop of the restaurant building.

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Coco the Cat, who is rumored to wander the property, was sitting in my chair when we were seated. She gave me an annoyed cat stare, but politely moved along.

Coco Bistro is known for its fresh and innovative seafood, so we ….ahem….dove right in.

For starters, we shared the grilled shrimp satay that came on sugarcane skewers with banana chutney, Jamaican curry dip, and a spicy Asian hot sauce as well as an order of the spicy shrimp soft tacos.

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Dinner for me was the local yellow fin tuna, grilled rare with a lime hoisin BBQ sauce that came with a side of spicy wasabi mashed potatoes and a medley of grilled asparagus with sweet peppers. Matt had the penne pasta that came with shrimp, scallops, and arugula in a white wine tomato cream sauce laced with fresh basil grown on the premises and asiago cheese.

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Even though we were bursting, we couldn’t resist trying their signature coconut pie.

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We had only been on Provodenciales since 2:30 p.m., but it was already proving to be magical.

Friday:

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We decided to stick close to home on the first day so we went to Taylor Bay. It was close enough to walk to from Rockspray, but with 2 chairs, an umbrella, a cooler, and Vicki’s giant beach tote, it was best to drive.

Besides, I had read that, just weeks earlier, sunbathing tourists had been held at gunpoint on Taylor Bay while they were robbed of their possessions. I needed the vehicle nearby in case I needed to knock Matt down and make a run for it.

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Taylor Bay is a small crescent of sugar white sand freckled by palm trees and usually fairly deserted. It provided the seclusion that Matt and I craved. The water was so shallow that it seemed we could walk forever without the water ever coming above our knees.

It was tranquil and we nearly had the entire beach to ourselves.

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I could have stayed there all day.

If it hadn’t been for the fact that I need a meal approximately every 3 hours. And that I kept looking over my shoulder waiting for someone to burst out of the bushes with a screwdriver and demand my camera and my berry flavored lip balm.

It took about 2 minutes to drive from Taylor Bay to nearby Neptune Villas where Las Brisas Restaurant sat on one corner of Chalk Sound. The restaurant was slightly elevated and faced the water, so it offered spectacular views of the turquoise water of Chalk Sound.

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Drinks were the first order of the day.

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Matt and I like to get 2 things we both want and share them. I was really happy that we were sharing when I saw the hamburger. If I’d had to eat that entire thing by myself, I think I would have required a stomach pump.

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We also had the fish ceviche, you know, to lighten the meal. It’s kind of like eating an entire pizza and drinking a Diet Coke. The Diet Coke negates the pizza calories.

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After lunch we drove down to the Resort Zone to check out the shopping. On the drive across the island, we were SHOCKED at the amount of trash, litter, and debris that lined the highways and overflowed the parking lots. There was trash everywhere.

There were also dogs. So many freaking dogs. Stray dogs. They would dart out of the bushes in front of your car with no warning. When you weren't dodging trash, you were dodging a dog. We even had one lunge out at our car and start BITING THE TIRES. Seriously. He chewed on the tires.

Madness.

Once we got to the resort area, I was impressed at how beautiful the shopping areas were. Most of the islands we go to consider “shopping” to be a t-shirt counter at the beach bar or a fruit stand on the street with 4 limes, a couple of dusty postcards, and some handmade shell necklaces.

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Our mistake came in when we stopped for ice cream. I blame the cute pillows and colorful menu that simply lured us into the place. It was so bright and colorful, we couldn’t turn away. The menu was decadent. The description of the hazelnut heaven sundae was enchanting….3 flavors of ice cream (including Nutella!), whipped cream, Reece’s Pieces……it looked as good as it sounded.

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Unfortunately, that is where the awesomeness ended. What came out was a giant dish of all vanilla ice cream. I could have lived with just vanilla ice cream if it has been GOOD vanilla ice cream. It was icy. Like ice-cream that had melted and been refrozen. Or just bad ice cream.

Do you remember ice milk from back in the 70s and 80s? That low-fat ice cream your mom would try to pass off to you as REAL ice cream? The ice cream in that sundae tasted like really bad ice milk.

Matt took 2 bites. I had already put down my spoon. “Does the ice cream seem icy to you?” he said, “And where are the other flavors?”

We walked away from a $14.50 sundae after 3 bites.

Dressing it up with whipped cream and candy did not change the fact that the ice cream was just plain bad. Putting a tiara on a pig doesn’t make it a princess.

Vicki walking away from an uneaten ice cream sundae without having a good reason, like a leg that just fell off, is the dessert equivalent of hell freezing over or a pig sprouting wings and flying by your office window. It was just plain wrong. I felt like I did that time I begged my mom for a box of Cracker Jack's at the TG&Y and, after carrying them around in my sweaty little 5-year-old-girl hands, we got to the register and she realized she didn't have any money with her.

So close, but.............. no sweets for you.

I plan to leave the name of the ice cream place anonymous, because they are new and the owner was so concerned when he saw our uneaten sundae that he followed us outside and talked to us for an extended period of time because he sincerely wanted to know what we were not satisfied with. I feel like they deserve another chance, so they shall remain nameless.

Talk about making you feel like a jacka$$.....we felt SO BAD.

But not bad enough to eat that ice cream.

We returned to Rockspray to clean up for dinner, because now we were HUNGRY. What, with the ice cream denial and all.

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We headed to Caicos Café, an open air restaurant that infuses Mediterranean flavors with Caribbean flair. The menu looked amazing.

“Lobster Fra Diavolo….Grilled Lobster Tail with drawn butter….”

I really love lobster.

And every menu so far had teased with the lobster dishes. Lobster, lobster, lobster. Except that it was not lobster season. There were always those maddening little words:

(in season)

It was like dangling a jug of water just out of the reach of a guy who has spent 9 days in the desert and is now strapped to a chair with bungee cords.

SO TAKE IT OFF THE MENU ALREADY.

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No ice cream sundae. No lobster. I needed a fabulous dinner to make up for the food denials I had thus far been subjected to.

Caicos Café delivered.

I started my meal with a salad of arugula, smoked salmon, and mango. For my entrée, I had the tagliatelle pasta with seafood and a lime herb sauce. It was dark, but I think I saw mussels, clams, scallops, fish (grouper), and calamari in there. For dessert, we split the apple and mango tart.

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The botched sundae was forgotten.

We finished dinner around 10:00, and I remembered a sign I had seen earlier for Friday dance night at the Gansevoort. Why not?

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We found ourselves in the uber-posh, ultra swanky playground for the younger set of the rich and famous, Stelle at the Gansevoort Hotel. It was skillfully chic, with palm trees wrapped in twinkling lights, a sleek modern bar, and posh lounges set about. The music was a hip mix of electric grooves, but soft enough for conversation.

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It immediately occurred to us that we were not chic, swanky, rich, famous, or young. I felt as conspicuous as a three-legged Chihuahua-doberman mix at the Westminster Dog Show.

Apparently, we weren’t the only ones who considered us out of place. We could not get the attention of the server. She was occupied with a group of 20-somethings in Herve Leger and 5 inch Jimmy Choo platforms.

Wait. Who wears a bandage dress and a pair of $500 heels in the Caribbean?

When she finished with them, she walked right past us to the table next to us, filled with beautiful young people sharing several bottles of expensive champagne, despite the fact that we were waving her over. When she looked at us, finally, I was just about to tell her my drink order when I realized she was not looking at me, she was actually looking THROUGH me (because I was apparently invisible) and was greeting a oh-so-fabulous young couple that had just walked in.

10 Signs you don’t belong at Friday dance night at the Gansevoort:
1. You are wearing flat sandals instead of platform heels.
2. Your dress is loose enough that you can actually breathe in it.
3. You are over the age of 22.
4. You have no visible breast cleavage and both of your butt cheeks are fully covered by the length of your dress.
5. You are not wearing sunglasses in the dark.
6. You actually ate dinner first. And didn’t purge afterwards.
7. You are not holding a shot of tequila in one hand and a glass of Cristal in the other.
8. You are not 5’11’. Without the platforms.
9. You are not paying with Daddy’s AmEx.
10. The server will actually wait on you.

After 30 minutes of obvious NON-SERVICE (it’s like she wanted us to know she was ignoring us), Matt went and ordered our drinks at the bar.
Sure, we could have left, but what fun is there in that? There was a time in my life that I would have been mortified and would have done anything to fit in. Now, I embrace my I-don’t-belongness.

I’m uncool and I know it.

Just in case you need a reminder of my very uncoolness:

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Unfortunately, owning our uncoolness wasn’t any more successful at getting us a second drink than waving our arms maniacally at the server, so we left.

It was okay. Old people need to be in bed by 11:00 anyway. (I think that is sign #11).

Saturday:

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The goal for our trip to Provo was to do as little as possible, and Matt and I were becoming exceptionally successful at achieving it, managing to do little more than lay around all day, mouths open, rum infused spit dribbling down our chins.

We spent a lazy morning at Rockspray before getting dressed and heading out.

Our first stop of the day was to visit Potcake Place. Providenciales has a well -organized rescue for the numerous strays that exist on the island. They also have a well-publicized invitation to come visit the potcakes or even take them out for a walk on the beach for the day.

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Whoever came up with this promotion is a genius.

Why? Because any dog lover is going to miss his/her pet within days of being on vacation. The promise of getting to snuggle with an adorable puppy is too enticing to resist. So, we show up in droves, begging for a puppy to walk on the beach. Spending time with a wiggling bundle of fur who also happens to be HOMELESS inevitably leads to one of two outcomes: 1) That wiggling bundle of fur goes home with you via POTCAKE ADOPTION! or 2) You feel so guilty that you can’t adopt one that you make a huge donation before you leave.

Positively genius, I tell you.

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We left Potcake Place with our wallets lighter, but our hearts absolutely full of puppy love. I considered that a win-win.

(for more information, visit www.Potcakeplace.com)

It was time to see the famous Grace Bay Beach. Touted as one of the Top 10 Beaches of the World, Grace Bay promised 3 miles of breathtaking surf and sand, a beautiful coral reef, a delightful selection of beachfront restaurants and bars, and crystal clear turquoise water.

It delivered.

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We decided to head to the beachside Somewhere Café at Coral Gardens so that we could combine lunch with a snorkel at one of Providenciales’ two “from shore” snorkeling sights.

Somewhere Café had a Mexican flair and a breezy upper deck that had a stellar view of Grace Bay Beach.

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I love a good margarita, so when I saw the Tres Amigos, with Patron Silver, Anejo, and Reposado tequilas, I had to have it. For $24, it had to be good.
It was a perfect complement to the fish tacos and shrimp ceviche. Actually, it was just plain good because it had all that tequila in it.

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I have always said that tequila makes me think I am awesome.

Apparently, it also makes me stupid.

Matt didn’t feel like snorkeling after eating, so I set out to snorkel the Bight Reef on my own. I saw a roped off area, but wasn’t certain what it was for. Because of the plethora of day boats, giant rafts being pulled by speedboats, and parasailing, I assumed this roped off area was to swim in to keep snorkelers safe from being run over by a giant inflatable banana.

I should have read the rules.

I started snorkeling in the roped off area, taking special care not to get close to the coral, despite the fact that it came closer to the surface than I was used to.

Had I read the GIANT SIGN ON THE BEACH WITH THE RULES, I would have seen that I was in the designated "Reef Conservation Exclusion Zone," a large roped off area of the reef that is considered off limits to everyone.

OFF LIMITS.

TO EVERYONE.

I was just happily snorkeling along when I thought I heard something. I raised my head slightly and didn’t hear anything, so I resumed snorkeling. Then I heard it again, tipped my ear out of the water….nothing. This probably went on for 10 minutes…..as a crowd began to form on the beach around the guy with the whistle and the megaphone who was trying to get the attention of the idiot who was snorkeling through the Conservation Exclusion Zone.

I finally heard the noise again and looked up. All I saw was a guy with a megaphone waving his arms at me as a crowd stood watching.

Holy Dorsal Fin, Batman! There must be a reef shark in the water!

But wait, no one else was reacting. They were all just looking at me. That’s when I realized the man wasn’t waving his arms at me, he was shooing them at me, as in, “Move out of the rope, stupid.” I finally figured it out.

Whistle. Horn. Megaphone. Crowd. It was humiliating.

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There was no way I could stay on Grace Bay after that. Besides, it was a little too crowded for us, so we headed back to Taylor Bay where I could lick the wounds on my psyche in relative privacy.

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That night, we had plans for a sunset dinner at Bay Bistro. I had reserved a table at the water’s edge to celebrate Matt’s birthday. When we arrived, the sun was just beginning to set and it was spectacular. They had set up a table right in the sand below the restaurant, surrounded by torches, and lit by the dying sun.

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We started off with coffee rubbed tuna sashimi and smoked conch chowder. For dinner, Matt had the blackened snapper and I went for the coconut snapper.

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For dessert? Birthday Cake!

It is a scientific fact (um….sort of) that eating enough chocolate cake will eliminate any lingering negative effects of humiliating yourself on the beach.

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Sunday:

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Other than my nearly getting arrested by the Reef Police, our visit to the Turks & Caicos had been just what we were looking for: great beaches, sunshine, wonderful food, and lots of relaxation.

Matt and I simply aren’t very good at too much relaxation, so we decided to take the Rockspray kayak out for a spin on Chalk Sound.

Things started out well enough, if you consider the fact that I contribute about 1% to the rowing effort to Matt’s 99%. In fact, I think when I rowed, we actually moved slower than when he rowed alone.

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The day was beautiful, the views were gorgeous, the water was…..well….choppy.

REALLY CHOPPY.

Ok, not choppy, it was downright rough. By the time we realized the water was entirely too rough, we were too far away from Rockspray, being carried with the current. It quickly went from a leisurely kayak paddle to all out work, with cold, salty water spraying over the top of the kayak into my face while being forced to sit at an uncomfortable 90 degree angle.

Unless you are a fan of salt spray and discomfort, kayaking on a rough sea is just not fun.

KAYAK FAIL.

Since we only had one full day left, we decided to drive to the far north end of Grace Bay Beach which is called Pelican Point. I had read that it was phenomenally beautiful.

Wow. Was it.

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I had also read that the only beach photo more typical on Grace Bay than the group shot sitting on the beach in all white shirts was the classic “ Jump Shot.”

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I decided Pelican Point was the perfect spot for a jump shot. It was going to be epic.

Taking a jump shot using a self-timer and no tripod is not advised.

"Wait for it.....Wait for it.....Waaaiiittttt for it......GO!"

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JUMP SHOT FAIL.

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So far, we were 0 for 2. Matt wanted to do some snorkeling, but no amount of coercion or chocolate cake could make me return to the Bight Reef so we headed for Smith’s Reef instead.

I snapped a couple of photos and we dove into the water. We didn’t see any roped off zones but we couldn’t really find the good part of the reef. We snorkeled around a reasonably decent, but small area, before giving up and getting out.

If only we had realized that sign I took a picture of was a MAP.

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SNORKEL FAIL.

Three strikes….we were OUT.

It was time to do the one thing we knew we could do well. Drink a pitcher of rum punch.

To kick us back into relaxation mode, we made our way to Da Conch Shack, where rum punch comes by the pitcher and the DJ spins Caribbean tunes all Sunday afternoon.

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Of course we started off with a pitcher of rum punch.

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Then it was on to an order of Johnny Fries – hand cut french fries topped with black beans, local pepper gravy, and Turks & Caicos salt.

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We were going through the rum punch pretty quick, so we needed more carbohydrates to soak up all that alcohol. That called for an order of Conch Fritters.

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After the Fritters and Fries, we felt the need for protein, so we got some jerk wings and jerk ribs….but all that mac n’ cheese and peas n’ rice loaded us up on the carbs again, so we needed some more alcohol for those carbs to soak up.

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So we ordered two Perfect Storms.

I should have known better than to order a drink called a Perfect Storm.

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Pitcher of rum punch and 2 perfect storms = Perfect Headache by 5:00 p.m.

An afternoon nap later, I wanted pizza. I desperately needed greasy bread in my stomach. The sooner the better.

We drove to Bella Luna where they were supposed to have the best pizza on the island.

Closed.

Fine. We got back in the Jimny and headed to Lupo’s. They didn’t have pizza, but they had meatballs. Meatballs would do.

Closed.

Really? This was getting absurd.

I was getting frustrated. I only knew of one other place that might have pizza, so we headed to Baci.

Closed.

It was like a universal conspiracy to keep me from red sauce and cheese. Is there some unwritten rule that every restaurant serving pizza on Providenciales must be closed on Sunday? Or maybe it was just restaurants that ended in a vowel?

I gave up and we ended up at the only restaurant that was near Baci: Tiki Hut. It was cute in a kitschy Hawaiianesque kind of way. It would do.

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Guess what they had on their menu????? PIZZA.

Thank you Tiki Hut.

We ended the day with a phenomenal sunset at Sapodilla Bay.

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Monday:

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Our flight didn’t leave until late that afternoon, so we decided to spend our last morning at the beach. We had enjoyed our sunset at Sapodilla Bay so much that we headed there. It didn’t hurt that it was less than a mile from the villa.

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We had time for one final meal before we were relegated to airport food for the rest of the day. A meal with a view sounded like the best way to spend our last meal on the island, so we headed to lunch at Rickie’s.

Or is it Flamingo’s? Flamingoes? Flamingo Café? Ricky’s Café? Rickie’s Café? Ricky’s Flamingo Café? Good Lord, it was simply not necessary for it to be this confusing.

I think it depends on who you ask. Whatever the name, it provided a breezy, relaxed place to spend our final hour on the island.

The bright yellow building faced Grace Bay Beach where bright pink umbrellas stood in contrast to the turquoise water.

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While we were waiting for our food, I couldn’t help but notice this ad for an upcoming father-daughter dance. Let’s play a game called: What Makes This the Creepiest Father-Daughter Dance Ever?

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1) “$75/couple or $40/single” (Translation: if you actually have a daughter, it will cost you $75 to attend; if you are a pedophile that just wants to go it alone and watch little girls dance, you get in for the bargain price of $40).
2) “Ticket includes: Dinner, welcome drink, and a show.” Yes, a welcome drink, because every Father-Daughter dance should start off with a glass of bourbon.
3) “Cash Bar.” You know, just in case the first bourbon isn’t enough, because alcohol and children go hand-in-hand.
4) Daughter = Ballerina. Father = 1978 Gigolo.

I was immediately distracted from the creepy poster when a tray of food headed toward our table.

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Two words: Coconut Grouper. Wait, Curry Grouper. Okay, maybe four words. Coconut Grouper AND Curry Grouper.

Darn it, that was five wasn’t it?

Matt ordered one and I ordered the other. Both were delicious. The fish was melt in your mouth buttery. The rum punch was cold. The sunshine and warm breeze swept in on us while we ate. It was like being in a dream.

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And then we were immediately thrust into a nightmare. The bubble of bliss that the Turks & Caicos had provided was abruptly shattered.

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I now know why the Providenciales airport is always referenced by words like “nightmare,” “disaster,” and “chaos.” It’s not when you arrive at the airport that you are thrust into a small and special slice of hell, it’s when you try to leave.

I have two more words for you: miserable and hot. You can throw rude, ineffective, loud, and crowded in there if you need some more words. I could throw in some other words but my Dad told me I have to clean up my blog language.

The first misery comes in the form of the baggage line. As someone who NEVER flies first class, I was super excited that for once, I actually got to use the dedicated First Class line. I quickly discovered that in Provo, the First Class line actually moves slower than the coach line at the check-in gate because the attendants seem to have some passive aggressive bent that compels them to ignore you while they process 40 other passengers that came in after you. If you actually make it through the baggage check-in, you get subjected to the slowest and most inefficient security line in the history of commercial aviation.

After an hour in a very hot, slow-moving security line, you are thrust in the extremely small departure area where about 700 people are crowded into a space the size of a New York apartment with fewer chairs. The lack of air conditioning provides a special aroma of sweat and desperation.

It was a joyless purgatory where we had to wait for two hours. We had been advised to arrive 4 hours before our flight due to the sheer chaos of the place. I started to wonder if my body would start to decompose before we got on the plane. This photo taken at the self serve kiosk at immigration shows exactly what spending 4 hours in the Provo airport will do to a person. I don't know about most customs agents, but I don't think I would have let this guy through without a body cavity search:

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I guess you need an experience like that after an indulgent few days, otherwise, you’d never want to go home, would you? It worked. I had truly enjoyed my time, but I was ready to go home.

And who knows, maybe if Provo will pick up some trash and spay some dogs, I'll come back one day for a few more $290 dinners.

Posted by vicki_h 18:03 Archived in Turks/Caicos Islands Tagged island tropical turks caicos providenciales provo tci turks_and_caicos grace_bay Comments (2)

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