05.06.2019 - 09.06.2019
There was no beautiful breakfast on the patio on Wednesday because we were meeting a boat very early that morning.
In my customary neurotic fashion, I had contacted Michael Tours MONTHS before our trip to inquire about booking a day trip to the Tobago Cays and Mayreau.
They found it hilarious and basically told me to calm down, crazy lady.
Who knew if they would be going, when they would be going, or where they would be going this early? I was told to check in with them when we arrived on the island and they’d let me know what they had based on weather and other interested parties. Despite the fact that this gave me heart palpitations and required deep breathing exercises, this is exactly what I did.
We had managed to work out trip for Wednesday because another group was interested in going and that gave them enough people to justify the trip.
This required us to actually set an alarm on vacation.
Oh the horror.
Even with the alarm and no breakfast or coffee stop…we were late. Not only was everyone waiting for us when we arrived, but we had forgotten our money.
We were total losers.
They let us go anyway and told us to just “come by and pay them later in the week.” Seriously laid back, these Bequians.
Much to my delight, there was coffee and banana bread on the boat. This was actually good for everyone, not just me, because there are those people who can wake up, chug nothing more than a whey protein smoothie, run 10 miles, and go about their day. Matt is those people. I, on the other hand, wake up with the speed of a sloth and do well to get my pants on right side out and find matching socks before I have had a cup of coffee. Until I have coffee, everyone is in danger.
I arrived at the boat a tousled mess. Every yawn was just a noiseless scream for caffeine. I think I heard angels singing when I saw the coffee set up.
In cute little handmade pottery cups that looked like the ocean, no less!
The captain let us know it would be a long ride to the Tobago Cays and told everyone to just find a spot and settle in. It was a really big boat and there were only 6 of us, so finding a private space wasn’t hard to do.
Shortly after leaving, we cruised past the Moonhole, an abandoned dream found on the secluded western end of Bequia.
In the late 1950s, Tom and Gladdie Johnston retired from the rat race and decided to go all in and move to Bequia, a quiet tropical paradise they had come to love. In their exploration of the island, they visited a geological arch formation known as the Moonhole, far on the very western tip of the island. At the time, that end of the island was accessible only by a wet hike along the bottom of the cliffs.
They began to spend time there, picnicking and camping out, and it quickly became their favorite spot on the island. In the 1960s, they impulsively bought the entire 30-acre tract and started constructing a house underneath the arch, working with local masons from a nearby village who walked in daily with food and supplies.
Tom and Gladdie worked side by side with carpenters and masons from the island and created an architectural wonder, a house literally built from the rock, surrounded by the sea, fashioned out of only natural materials, built into the hillside, and completely reliant on solar electricity, rainwater and propane tanks. The architecture was open-air, with lines blurred between indoors and out. It was their dream.
Before long they started inviting friends and relatives, entertaining them at the huge bar made out of a recovered humpback whale jaw bone. Everyone was enamored with their Robinson Crusoe lifestyle and natural home and they wanted it too.
This might be where the Johnston’s “paradise found” began to become their “paradise lost.”
Persistent dream-seekers urged Tom to build houses for them. Soon, the former ad man who had no architectural or building training, was an in demand architect on the island of Bequia. He agreed to build more houses and wanted to develop the Moonhole as a preserve for writers, artists, friends and others who wanted to get away from it all. Over the next thirty years, he built sixteen more houses, a commissary, office, living quarters for Moonhole staff and a gallery where the community could congregate every Sunday.
Tom died in 2001, and things went south pretty quickly. Moonhole began to lose its once devoted but now-disillusioned staff, and many of the houses became seriously neglected. People left. Homes fell into disrepair, and the dream was lost.
Today, only a few homes remain habitable and the original Moonhole house is in total disrepair and, unsafe to enter, can only be viewed from the sea.
Looking at that house was like facing a ghost. It was eerie and sad.
As we pulled away from Bequia, the rest of the boat ride was just a smooth passage filled with beautiful water and colorful islands.
We sat back, relaxed, and simply took it all in.
The family of four wanted to snorkel for turtles, but Matt and I opted to be dropped off on a deserted little island to explore. I had seen more than my share of sea turtles and prefered to snorkel where there aren’t gobs of life-vested people bobbing about in the water. The Tobago Cays, while lovely, were quite overvisited. In my experience, snorkeling with groups typically resulted in your peaceful experience, gliding through the calm water admiring the beauty of the underwater world, being abruptly interrupted at some point by some person in a bright yellow vest flapping around, half swimming, half drowning, definitely scaring away all the fish, and more often than not, standing upright on the coral to get their breath.
I would save my snorkeling for the beautiful reefs of Abaco, where I didn’t have to share it with hysterical people screaming because a fish nibbled their leg hair and relentlessly kicking me in the face mask with their fins, completely unaware of their surroundings.
Being marooned for an hour on a deserted island sounded infinitely more entertaining.
Especially one this beautiful.
Deserted island + Matt + Yeti thermos filled with (VERY STRONG) rum punch = Bliss.
After the Cays, we were going to stop at Salt Whistle Bay on Mayreau. I was pretty excited about this – actually, more excited than seeing the Cays. The beach looked lovely and I knew there were several good bars and restaurants scattered along the crescent of palm filled beach.
En route, one of the deck guys handed us a laminated menu and told us we were eating lunch at the Last Bar Before the Jungle and they would call in our order in advance. Wha….??
Not wanting to rock the boat, we complied and gave him our order, only to be told they were “out of that.”
We made an alternative selection. No worries. No vex. It was all good.
When we arrived on Mayreau, a long beautiful beach stretched out before us and, inexplicably, the boat pulled up onto the dirtiest, rangiest, most seaweed littered section on the far end and let us off. Because THIS is where the Last Bar Before the Jungle was located.
Matt and I gave each other a look as we walked warily up to the bar/restaurant. We’ve enjoyed our share of dilapidated, disheveled, and less-than-sanitary beach shacks. We’ve loved them. This one…gave us pause.
Nonetheless, our food was ordered so we powered on. We went up to the bar, which actually had an impressive drink menu, only to find that they didn’t have the ingredients to make most of the drinks. We ordered two painkillers and were brought something extremely NON painkiller like. Whatever it was, it was TERRIBLE. When the Hatfields refuse alcohol, something is amiss.
The final blow came when I decided I’d like to wash my hands and made the mistake of going BEHIND the bar in search of a bathroom. What I saw was a grill and counter set up underneath the trees in the open air. Our fish sat there, waiting to be cooked, as large black birds hopped about on the counters, picking at things and pooping as they pleased. Flies covered everything. A guy stood mixing a large bowl of salad with his bare hands.
Y’all…..I can eat in some unsanitary conditions. I have. I do. I am the person that gets diarrhea from the street vendor on almost every vacation. I nearly died from food poisoning on the way home from Honduras because, against Matt’s warnings, I ate an inordinate amount of one restaurant’s house made hot sauce as their pet pig watched. My standards are extremely low.
When I say that “kitchen” made me feel nauseous, you know it was bad.
I walked out and told Matt to pay for our food and drinks and leave.
And that’s exactly what we did.
STRIKE THREE…..AND YER OUT!
We walked to the opposite end of the beach. The walk itself took us past several little shacks of bars and racks of colorful beach sarongs.
At the very far end, we found a beautiful oasis at the Saltwhistle Bay resort. The setting was lovely, the menu was varied and upscale, the drinks were perfect, and the food was amazing.
Happy with our choice, we worried about those two poor kids that were down there eating that fish. Those parents were going to have a long night.
We enjoyed our remaining time on Mayreau at the Salt Whistle Bay beach before we knew it was time to head back to the boat. I can’t resist a low slung palm tree. Can anyone??
It was pretty late when we got back, and we still had to pay the Captain for the boat day. The Captain knew the house where we were staying and told us he’d just swing by on his way home and grab our money.
SO LAID BACK, these people.
We got cleaned up, got him paid, and headed to …..where else…..Da Reef for sunset.
Again, we had no plans for dinner. Bequia was managing to calm even my over planned, neurotic brain. We headed toward town, the post-sunset views literally igniting the sky.
We had seen Laura’s on our previous stroll along the Belmont Walkway and decided to give it a try. It was open!
Wine, salad, pasta and a beautiful view of the harbor ended a long day on the right note.
BREAKFAST! I loved having breakfast on the patio at the villa. The views never stopped being amazing.
On every vacation, Matt and I like to take at least one day to explore and drive around. We decided this would be the day. Bequia was so small, it would take no time at all to drive the entire island.
So we did.
Our first stop was to drive over to a relatively new resort called “The Liming.” Located on the southwestern tip of the island, the Liming was situated on lovely Adams Bay between the airport runway and the Moonhole. I had gathered from my browsing of the interwebs that this was a relatively controversial development.
Promoters of the resort and travel articles touted it as the “next best thing” on Bequia, an uber luxury resort situated on a beautiful beach. However, devoted fans of Bequia, locals, and long time visitors obviously considered it a blight, a development that virtually destroyed one of the most beautiful and pristine stretches of Bequia. It reminded me very much of the struggle between Bakers Bay and the Guana Cay community in my beloved Abaco. I could feel their pain.
I was glad it was the off season, because I wasn’t sure how I felt about supporting the development by visiting the restaurant, but I really wanted to see the beach. As we drove up, a guard stood at the entrance. We simply asked if it was okay to drive inside and he motioned us in. He did keep an eye on us the entire time, however, like we were going to grab a light fixture and make a sudden run for it.
The beauty of the place didn’t disappoint, but it did make me sad to see what was probably much more lovely before someone decided to gobble it up and put a resort on it.
We decided to continue our drive out toward Hope Bay, Industry Bay, and Spring Bay. The beaches on the southern side of Bequia were wild and wonderful. They weren’t the calm, turquoise, gin clear beaches that you find on many Caribbean islands, so probably not the best bet for a swim or a beach day, but for exploring and just soaking in their sheer beauty, they were perfect.
The biggest drawback to visiting the south side in the off season was that the one or two restaurants and bars on that side were closed for the season, forcing us back into Port Elizabeth for lunch.
We found ourselves at Mac’s, just a short hop along the Belmont Walkway, for their famous pizza and what should be famous margaritas.
And sweet dogs. So many sweet dogs.
Dogs are ever present on Bequia and we loved this. These weren’t sad and thin island dogs, strays looking for love or a handout, these were fat and happy island dogs, ready to eat your pizza crust, follow you down the beach, or just lick your face, whatever the moment demanded.
Then it was back to the villa for naps.
We had noticed a great happy hour was held each night at The Firefly, so we decided to forgo sunset at Da Reef and partake in Firefly’s two-for-one happy hour. Not only did it give us a chance to see this lovely, tropical restaurant and bar in the daylight, it allowed us to sample their house special, the “praying mantis” martini, made from a bottle of house infused vodka stuffed with lemongrass and ginger... TWICE!
I’m not sure what I loved more, the martini or the bar dog. Both were delightful.
For dinner, we decided at the last minute (I was really starting to get into this “fly by the seat of my pants” vacation) to see if Fig Tree on the walkway was open. Once again, we found ourselves to be the only patrons of the restaurant, but this time, we also had an ENTIRE BAND to ourselves. It was like a private serenade.
We clapped, we whistled, and we enjoyed a delicious dinner of local island specialties. As we got up to leave, the members of the band told us for our last song they would play anything we wanted.
Anything? Never say that to someone from Knoxville, TN.
It was our last day on Bequia. That meant it was our last lovely outdoor breakfast.
I wanted to spend my last day at my favorite spot, so we headed to Princess Margaret Beach to see if I was so captivated by it earlier in the week because it was truly lovely or because I’d had one too many margaritas.
It was definitely the beach.
The Belmont Walkway ends at Jack’s, so we decided to walk up and over to see the views, landing us at Bequia Plantation Hotel, which was closed for the season but a beautiful spot, nonetheless.
We sunned, sipped, and slothed until lunch and then….margaritas!!
Along with Jack’s amazing burger and fries.
All week, we had seen a little floating houseboat in the bay that we knew to be Bar One, a super cool floating bar that was purported to have very unique cocktails. The bartenders at Jack’s called them up and before we could say “Duck Fart,” a dingy from Bar One was at the dock at Jack’s ready to take us over.
The little floating bar was a whimsical delight. Beautiful views, fun swings, and really unique cocktails like the mango black pepper gin and tonic, the ultimate dirty bloody Mary, and, yes……the duck fart, which was crazy good.
Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.
It was our last night, so obviously we had to experience just one more, VERY STRONG rum punch happy hour at Da Reef.
Do you realize that $5 EC is $1.85? Just want to make sure that is clear.
We had seen the restaurant at Frangipani several times as we wandered up and down the Belmont Walkway and I had heard they were supposed to have the best pie, so we headed in and scarfed down mile high crispy chicken sandwiches and weird green pie for our final dinner.
Weird green pie was good.
It came and went so fast. Bequia has been all we had hoped for and more. It reminded us of all the things we loved about our old favorite haunt, St. John, and a more recent favorite, Jost Van Dyke, without the things we didn’t like. It was beautiful and offered stunning beaches but wasn’t overcrowded or overdeveloped. The pace was easy and the people were kind. The food was good and the drinks were strong. Dogs slept under your beach chair as you wasted the day doing nothing more than staring at the sky. It was peaceful, quaint, and hit a sweet spot that we hadn’t anticipated.
Unfortunately, to be cliché, all good things must come to an end. But in true Bequian fashion, even the end was sweet. How better to see us off than with a box of puppies on the ferry!
Thank you, Bequia! You’ll see us again.