Taking a vacation from our vacation: A Weekend in Eleuthera!
11.09.2015 - 14.09.2015
Sometimes you need a vacation from your vacation. When the vacation has been spent painting, sweating, getting blisters, and picking up an endless army of millipedes, this is certainly the case.
We decided to treat ourselves for “getting over the hump” by flying over to North Eleuthera for the weekend. I was a little worried that this would stymie our momentum and that we’d return on Monday and never get finished before it was time to go home.
A weekend off turned out to be the best decision we could have made.
I picked Eleuthera because it was close. I picked North Eleuthera because, in true neurotic planning fashion, I knew it was off season, so I had emailed EVERY SINGLE RESTAURANT ON THE ISLAND to see what was open. Most of the places I found open were on the north end. So the decision was made.
I settled on Ocean Tally as a place to stay for several reasons: 1) The website was simply gorgeous; 2) the cliffside location and whitewashed buildings reminded me of Greece; and 3) She said Bella and Rooby could come.
Friday, September 11
The flight from Marsh Harbour to Eleuthera was short and uneventful. Within 30 minutes, we were flying over the north end of Eleuthera and landing at the North Eleuthera airport.
On Eleuthera, you don’t get online and reserve a rental car. You don’t even call a rental car agency. You call a “guy.” Our guy was Wendell and he had left an extremely sandy Ford Explorer at the airport. It even came with shiny beads and a broken stereo remote which, despite its non-working status, was displayed proudly and prominently on the dash with velcro. We paid cash and there was no paperwork. I was pretty sure this car did not come with roadside assistance.
For the bumpy, rough, dirt roads of Eleuthera, it was exactly what we needed.
We arrived a bit after lunch time and we were starving. Thankfully, the drive out to Whale Point was pretty quick.
Upon arrival, we were warmly greeted by the owner, Annette, who quickly took us to our cottage, asked if we needed anything, and left us to get settled, directing us to just come up to the lighthouse bar/restaurant when we were ready.
I knew that Ocean Tally was a fairly new place, but I had no idea we were the first overnight guests EVER. We were also the only guests. It couldn’t have been more perfect.
Our cottage was perched right on the ocean and it was impeccably clean and bright.
We dropped Rooby and Bella off in the cottage and walked up the short, sandy path to the lighthouse where the bar and restaurant were housed. It was stunning.
They started us off with cocktails as we perused the lunch menu. The cocktails were a heavy pour.
I expected the usual Bahamian lunch fare: fish sandwich, hamburger, cracked conch.
I did not expect delicate stuffed crab with pickled red cabbage and butter curry lobster.
The past week had been exhausting. Sure, we were on an exciting new island with new things to see, but all we really wanted to do was sleep. After our booze and lobster filled lunch, we crashed. We all slept for the rest of the afternoon.
We woke up feeling better than we had felt all week. The crisp, fresh linens were soft and cool and the views from the windows that wrapped around 3 sides of the cottage fed our senses.
We were so happy to be here.
We took Rooby and Bella for a walk around the grounds before dinner.
Did you know that you can eat sea grapes? You can. They are mostly pit and taste pretty much like a tart, slightly astringent grape, but you can eat them. You know. If you want to.
(Of course I ate one)
We were too tired to drive anywhere for dinner, so we decided to eat at Ocean Tally again. Our first meal was so spectacular, we couldn’t wait to try another. When the food and view are that amazing, why go anywhere else?
While we were the only overnight guests that weekend, there was a small and lively crowd at the lighthouse enjoying sunset cocktails and chatter.
We started off with spicy shrimp with polenta cakes, followed by blackened grouper topped with fresh mango.
Dinner was absolutely as good as lunch. We agreed that Ocean Tally had the best food we have had in the Bahamas.
For dessert, I had the key lime pie, but for some reason, the photo was blurry. Probably because I was shoving it into my mouth as I tried to take the photo.
Matt had the pastry wrapped banana with ice cream. It was delicious, but there is literally no way you can arrange those three items on a plate and it not look inappropriate…..
Saturday, September 12
Thanks to the hospitality of Annette, we were feeling rested and rejuvenated. We woke up early to watch the sunrise.
Annette showed up at our cottage with a wonderful breakfast tray each morning: cereal, milk, fresh squeezed OJ, fruit, yogurt, spread, and baked goods. I couldn’t imagine a more beautiful place to eat breakfast than the deck of our cottage.
Ocean Tally is located on Whale Point, a finger of land that juts out with the ocean on one side and a calm bay on the other. The cottages are located on the rocky cliffs on the ocean side, but Annette has a little golf cart that guests can use to ride a short distance down the road to their beach.
We found the beach entrance easily enough.
There was no one on the entire beach but us. I spent at least an hour beachcombing because the beach had more beautiful shells and sea glass than any beach I had been on in a long time.
Matt found himself some seats and took a load off. I’m not sure, but I think this means the crates are seats, so don’t steal them. Whatever it means, it gets my vote for best sign ever.
When we felt like the dogs had their fill of beach running, we took them back to Ocean Tally, dusted them off, and sent them into the cottage for naps while we drove a short distance to The Cove resort for lunch.
Developed by New Orleans entrepreneur Sidney D. Torres, IV, the Cove is touted as one of the best resorts in the Bahamas. As we walked onto the grounds, I could see why. Tall palm trees, as lithe and elegant as runway models lined the walkway that led us through grass so green and lush it didn’t look real. Stylishly chic geometric cottages dotted the landscape, separated by clean walkways and beautiful outdoor spaces. A rocky cape separated 2 perfect coves with soft white sand beaches. The grounds were littered with driftwood benches, elegantly crocheted hammocks, and perfectly white sofas. It was white on white with a side of pink sand.
We made our way to the restaurant and bar where a cool blue infinity pool beckoned invitingly. We were immediately greeted and made to feel welcome, despite the fact that we were obviously NOT part of the jet set that frequents this place.
Along with lunch, we were able to pay $35 each for a day pass. This granted us access to all of the luxurious amenities the Cove had to offer. I once paid $50 for two crappy beach chairs and a slightly crooked umbrella pressed against 500 other beach goers in Seaside, FL. $70 seemed like a bargain.
We started off with some cocktails while we decided what to do first: beach or pool?
Not being actual guests of the resort, we were surprised when the beach attendant came running over to open our umbrella, lay out clean, cool towels and bring us ice water before we even set our bags down.
When we wanted a drink from the bar, all we had to do was stick our little Cove flag in the sand and someone showed up instantly.
This drink was champagne with a touch of kiwi puree. Seriously. That must be ½ a bottle of champagne.
We did nothing more than soak in the sun and sip giant glasses of kiwi infused champagne until we were hungry for lunch. Lunch could be served on the beach, but I wanted a clean, cool, fly-free lunch experience.
The restaurant was as elegant as the rest of the property. The interior was decked out in white on white with the occasional dash of driftwood, with floor to ceiling walls of glass that let the beauty of the outside in. I felt transported to another place entirely. Like Ocean Tally, this was not your typical Bahamian dive-y, paper-plate happy, fried food establishment. There was no sand on the floor, no lizards in the bathroom, and no flies on my food.
I dove enthusiastically into the bacon cheeseburger and fries while Matt watched his figure with a jerk chicken wrap.
We spent the rest of the afternoon lounging in the infinity pool.
We made a quick stop at Surfer’s Beach before heading back to Ocean Tally.
Ocean Tally was hosting a birthday party dinner that night, so we got to enjoy the festivities. They had live music and a fire pit on the ocean.
Because of the number of guests, dinner was a set menu: crab cake salad (AMAZING) and chicken piccata (AMAZING).
We agreed that, while the Cove had an outstanding setting, Ocean Tally’s food blew it away.
Not only that, we thought Ocean Tally beat the Cove in all respects. Sure, the Cove had glitz and glamour, but Ocean Tally was intimate and special. It had a beautiful location, spectacular cottages with significantly more privacy, and, because of its smaller size, Ocean Tally was more personal and warm. It suited us perfectly.
Sunday, September 13:
We woke to another outstanding sunrise at Ocean Tally.
We were also treated to another delightful breakfast on our deck.
Rooby believes breakfast should be a shared experience.
After breakfast, Matt and I decided to brave the rocks and walk down to the tide pool below the lighthouse. This was not an easy task in flip flops, but that was all we had, so we just walked very…..very…..carefully.
After a soak in the pool, we walked the grounds and just took in the amazing details of the property. The Cove was like Ruth’s Cris, fancy and upscale, but not particularly unique. Ocean Tally was like that amazing little bistro that you have in your town where the desserts are all made by hand and original art hangs on the walls. There was so much time, effort, art, and love put into every inch of the place.
After taking the dogs for a walk, we loaded up in the car and set out to find Ben Bay beach. We had seen it when we were flying in and knew we had to go there.
The only negative about Eleuthera is that the beaches are hard to find and hard to get to even if you have incredibly good directions. I had good directions, but they looked like this:
From the highway turn right, then left-right-left. And there you'll be, at a really pretty beach.
What the directions failed to mention was that, once you left the highway, the remaining 20 minutes of your journey would be on extraordinarily rough dirt roads that were approximately ¾ the width of your car and that you would scrape against every shrub, bush, and tree that grew beside the road, would come across multiple turns that you couldn’t clearly identify as a road or a driveway or a footpath (is that a turn?), and would encounter multiple spots where the road was submerged under a foot of muddy water. There are also no signs of ANY KIND. None.
We ended up at a dead end, had no room to turn around, and had to back down the road for about ¾ of a mile at one point.
As we scraped past one particularly large bush for the second time, I was suddenly very happy that we had paid cash for the rental car and had no paperwork. Clearly, this was more of an advantage to us than it was to the person that owned this car.
Somehow, we found it.
It was worth it.
Ben Bay was a perfect cove. The water was shallow and clear, the sand soft and white, and no one else was there.
This, my friends, is the beauty of the Bahamas. Where else are you going to have a beach like this to yourselves?
We spent several blissful hours on Ben Bay before we started to get hungry.
Before we headed back, however, I convinced Matt we needed to find the “blue hole.” No, not the famous blue hole on Eleuthera, the other one. The one no one seems to know the location of and the one you can’t find directions to ANYWHERE.
I had used my clever interweb skills and had pieced together what I believed to be a reasonably close, albeit sketchy, set of directions. It was very close to where we already were, so Matt agreed.
God love him.
Leave it to me to bypass the tourist friendly, well mapped Ocean Hole of Eleuthera, a blue hole that has signs, a park, and picnic tables for guests and, instead, head straight for the “blue hole in north Eleuthera that is somewhere in the midst of the ganga fields…be careful that you don’t step into the wrong area.”
Sure, I wasn’t 100% certain where the blue hole was and there were an inordinate number of dirt tracks that all looked the same, but a gun battle with ganja farmers was not on my radar. I wanted to jump into that blue hole!
My directions proved to be spot on, thanks to a little help from a Google satellite image where I was pretty certain I had identified the hole. We found it easily enough.
All of my bravado instantly evaporated, however, when I actually stood at the edge of the hole. I found myself staring at a 25 foot jump into an endless chasm of cobalt water.
How did I know there weren’t any rocks down there? How deep was it? How far was it really? How hard would I land? How would I get out?
It literally took every ounce of nerve I had to jump off that cliff. And it hurt like hell.
The difference between Matt and Vicki can be perfectly illustrated by our jump into the blue hole.
Matt: Jumps off with enthusiasm and confidence. Body is immediately symmetrical and straight as an arrow. Glides into water like an angel. Lands perfectly, feet first.
Vicki: Starts off badly and gets worse. Is she running? Awkwardly starts to slide sideways. Lands on ass.
That's going to leave a mark.
Luckily, there was a rope to help us get out, but it still wasn’t easy. Especially with a 6 inch bruise on my butt.
Fear and adrenaline made me hungry. We decided to drive to the ferry dock and take the 5 minute ferry ride over to Harbour Island.
‘Briland, as it is known to locals, is one of the poshest villages in the Bahamas and caters to the rich and famous with its 3 mile long pink sand beach. Water taxis make the 5 minute, $5 trip all day.
I knew that most establishments would be closed, but we had visited Eleuthera and Harbor island about 15 years earlier and I still remembered that pink sand beach. I had to see it again.
I had found one restaurant on Harbour Island that was supposed to be open, so we grabbed a golf cart at the ferry dock and set off to find Aquapazza, an Italian restaurant with a Bahamian flair.
Sure, it won our lunch business by default, but it turned out to be excellent. It was located on the water, and the views were breezy and beautiful.
I ordered their house cocktail made with Prosecco and Campari while Matt went Bahamian with a goombay smash.
For lunch, Matt ordered the spaghetti aglio with chili and conch and I had the marinated Spanish-style “pil-pil” salad. Both were perfect, and that wasn’t just because there was nowhere else to eat.
As luck would have it, Acquapazza is located next to Harbour Island’s famous “haunted house.” Legend has it that the home was built for a wealthy family in 1945. The tale is that the entire family that lived there simply vanished one night, leaving the lavish dinner table set for the evening meal. They never returned. It sat empty until the 1960’s when a Greek shipping magnate purchased the beautiful mansion for his new bride. The wife left the house shortly after entering it and refused to step back inside. In the 1980’s, looters and fire claimed the beautiful house. What remains today are faded swirling pink walls that make it the perfect place for a post-lunch stroll… as long as you don’t mind the ghosts whispering in your ear.
Back on our cart, we made our way to one of the many entrances to Harbour Island’s famous beach. I couldn’t remember….was it really pink?
Yes, yes it was.
And because it was the off season, we had it completely to ourselves.
We did a short golf cart tour of town before heading back to the water taxi. It was getting late and we had some hungry puppies back at Ocean Tally.
After showers had been taken, dogs had been walked, played with, and fed, and the giant bruise forming on my butt cheek had been inspected to ensure there was no permanent damage, we cleaned up for dinner.
Of course we ate at Ocean Tally again.
We had fully intended to spread our dining love around to the other open restaurants on the island, but we just couldn’t tear ourselves away.
This white dress was exceptionally beautiful before I awkwardly spilled an entire glass of red wine on it. I looked like a scene from Carrie.
After a quick change back at the cottage, I celebrated my new, clean dress with spicy prawns and pasta puttanesca. Matt loved the blackened grouper so much, he ordered it a second time.
A creature of habit (he likes what he likes!), Matt also re-ordered the banana dessert. Thankfully, someone had the sense to put two bananas on the dessert this time so that it didn’t offend my coconut tart.
Monday, September 14
It seemed like each sunrise at Ocean Tally was even more spectacular than the one before it.
Our time on Eleuthera was done. We enjoyed our final breakfast, bid a sweet farewell to Ocean Tally, and headed back to Abaco. The weekend was perfect. Ocean Tally was perfect. It had left us relaxed and refreshed. We were ready to get back to work.
Before we flew back to Abaco, however, Matt flew us over the glass window bridge. I really wanted to see it from the air. The narrowest point on the island, this strip used to be a natural arch that separated the calm, shallow Caribbean sea from the deep, blue, turbulent Atlantic Ocean. The natural bridge washed away in a hurricane and was replaced by a man-made bridge, but it was no less fantastic to view from the air.
We also got a peek at Harbour Island and Ocean Tally from above. Bye-Bye, Ocean Tally! Bye-Bye delicious meals! Bye-Bye rest and relaxation!
It was time to get back to work.