A Travellerspoint blog

January 2011

Making Fun Out of Nothing At All......

24 Hours in Prestonsburg, KY

I know I get more than my fair share of travel opportunities. That's why, when a friend needed us to take him to Prestonsburg, KY...which meant spending 24 hours in a place with very little to do and meant giving up a precious weekend....we agreed. Sometimes, you do things for others even when you get nothing out of the deal.

So that's how we came to spend noon Saturday to noon Sunday in Prestonsburg, KY.


Prestonsburg might be a great place to live and work...but not so great for play. There just wasn't much to do, unless you like bingo or bowling, so we decided to eat. You can always eat.

We stopped in old downtown Prestonsburg which had a definite charm. Some cute little shops, a cute park, and a few restaurants.


We chose Billy Ray's. They were home to the "famous poolhouse burger." How could we not?


I liked Billy Ray's as soon as I walked past the dessert counter. Why don't restaurants have these any more?


I had to get the Poolhouse Burger, now didn't I? Seriously....it was fantastic. Thick and juicy, just like a homemade burger on a hot summer afternoon when I was a kid. Pickle juice trickled down my hand as I stuffed another onion ring into my mouth.


Dessert was a tough choice. Everything was made in house and there was a lot to choose from: double chocolate cake, pecan pie, pineapple upside down cake, dreamsicle cake, carrot cake, apple pie, apple dumplins, blueberry pie, coconut cream pie, peach pie, and chocolate pie. I settle on the apple pie and he said, "Do you want it on a hot skilled with chocolate sauce, ice cream, whipped cream and a cherry?"

Why yes, yes I did.


It was good that we had eaten ourselves into a near coma at Billy Ray's because there wasn't much else to do. We strolled through a couple of shops before heading to our lodging for the night.


Prestonsburg had 2 choices: a low end hotel/motel or the Jenny Wiley State Resort Park. So, Jenny Wiley it was. Named after a pioneer woman who was captured by indians and endured the murders of her children and 11 months of captivity before escaping and returning home to KY, this was a right pretty little park. A small lake was surrounded by mountains. There was a rustic lodge with a restaurant and in the summer, a theater that has regular shows that are supposed to be pretty good. We chose a small cabin and we were pleasantly surprised. The cabins were basic, but were cute, clean, warm and had everything we needed. And it was only $80 a night.


It had snowed before we arrived and the cabin was snuggled down in puffy white snow. We spent the afternoon cuddled up with blankets and good books. After a bit, we drove through the park all the way to the Dewey Dam. It has a very pretty, small lake and what appeared to be some pleasant hiking trails.


I had brought a bottle of wine with us, but forgot the opener. That's when Matt decided to use a butcher knife to get it open. Folks...do not try this at home.


Nothing says "ROMANCE" like plastic glasses of wine on a fake log table.


We had decided on a "big night out." We'd hit the Strand Twin, the movie theater with 2 screens and just a few more seats. They had shows at 7:00 and 9:00. If you wanted to see one at any other time, well you were just out of luck. We hit the 7:00 showing of The Green Hornet, since we had already seen the other movie. I was thrilled that they still use old fashioned buckets no matter what size popcorn you got, unlike most theaters now that use flimsy paper bags. Bucket of popcorn in hand, we went and saw ourselves a movie.


I especially loved their movie poster. Particularly the fact that they took the time to put it inside the lighted case.


After the movie, we went to Reno's Roadhouse to throw some peanuts on the floor and eat a good steak. Reno's may not be fancy, but they had amazing yeast rolls and a very tender filet. And I really like throwing peanut shells on the floor.


We turned in late at the Jenny Wiley. The towels were thick and had been washed so many times they were soft, like the towels at my Grandmother Shaffield's house when I was kid that were mustard yellow and that she'd had since 1961. The beds were soft and the sheets clean. The pillows were fluffy and there were plenty of them. What more could you ask for?

On Sunday morning, I made coffee and hot chocolate and we lingered in our cabin as long as we could. When check-out time rolled around, we drove back to "downtown" Prestonsburg for a late breakfast/early lunch.


We were tempted by the Dairy Cheer that was apparently home of the Smashburger, but we ended up at Jerry's because we both really wanted breakfast.


Jerry's was like stepping back into my childhood. Light 70's tunes were playing and the orange vinyl decor was gleaming like it was brand new. Coffee came with only sugar, there was no artificial sweetener on the table. I felt like it was 1977 and I was having Sunday breakfast with my mom and dad. It was awesome.


The coffee was good and hot and the breakfast was as good as granny used to make: scrambled eggs, crispy bacon, and two fluffy biscuits with gravy. No wonder Jerry's has been in business for about 50 years.


As noon rolled around, it was time to say good-bye to Prestonsburg. No, it's not Midtown Manhattan, and yes, it's in the middle of nowhere, but it still had something to offer. Prestonsburg is proof that no matter where you go, you can have a good time if you set your mind to it.


Prestonsburg made me nostalgic for a simpler, easier time. It reminded me of a blend of visits to my grandmothers house, of vacations with my parents in our old Buick where a plain motel with an outdoor pool was magic, of summer camp with rustic cabins filled with polyester bedspreads and soft blankets. It reminded me of times before I became used to sushi and $15 cocktails, when the best meal I could imagine was a juicy cheeseburger and an ice cold coke. It reminded me of popcorn in buckets and movie seats that didn't recline and theaters with walls so thin that you sat giggling with your friends because you could hear the movie next door and when a fun night didn't involve anything more than roller skating and ice cream. It made me miss days when I wore more sneakers than stilettos and a big night out only needed to include Shoney's hot fudge cake.


I think next time, we'll have a Smashburger and play some bingo.


Posted by vicki_h 19:00 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Tick...Tock....A Whirlwind Tour of NOLA

a.k.a., How much can you eat in 40 hours in the French Quarter?

Forty hours.

That's what we had in NOLA.

Doesn't seem worth it, does it?

Have you ever eaten in New Orleans? Oh, it's worth it alright.

We had been invited down to join a friend and her husband in the French Quarter for the weekend. Weather was against us, so our trip was planned for Friday evening through Sunday afternoon. Quick, but long enough to make it worthwhile. Unfortunately, while we were focused on the weather at home, we totally missed the storm clouds gathering to the west......

Hour One

We arrive in New Orleans at the Lakefront Airport, the city's "old" airport, which still services general aviation. This little airport always has great service and they had called us a cab that was actually waiting for us when we landed. Our cab driver was a character. Having driven taxis in NOLA for 52 years, he was full of stories that he was eager to keep us entertained with all the way to our "home away from home," a little historic house on the edge of the French Quarter.


Nestled near the corner of Royal and Esplanade, on the quiet end of the quarter, I can't say enough good things about this vacation rental. What had to be at least sixteen foot ceilings, gorgeous furnishings and art, huge rooms, a "party shower" (I still don't really know what that is .... nor am I sure I want to), and the comfiest bed ever, it alone is a reason to return to this great spot.


Hour Two

We are ahead of schedule and our friends are getting ready. Matt wants ACME oysters, even though we have dinner reservations at Bayona in about 2 hours. We make a short walk over to the French Market streetcar station.


As we wait for the streetcar, I can't help but be mesmerized by the sky before me. The skyline of downtown sits like a shining beacon with an amazing sky of red and purple lighting the night. It's simply amazing.


Our streetcar arrives and for $1.25, we are whisked to the other end of the quarter, Canal Street, in no time and without my feet screaming at me, "Why did you wear those heels, you idiot???"

We get patiently in the line at ACME and I assure Matt that it will move fast. It always moves fast. He's anxious, worried he won't have time for raw oysters, so I send him down the street to Mango Mango for a couple of tacky frozen drinks in giant styrofoam cups. I figure that will give him something to do and hopefully, the Giant-Cup-O-Hurricane will give him a brainfreeze that will make him chill out. He returns and sees that in those 2 minutes, the line has moved about half it's distance. He's all good.


We finally reach the door, after only about 10 minutes, and hear our name being called. Right then he gets ....a look. A bad look.

"I don't have my wallet," he says, "It's gone.'

I can't believe we've been in NOLA only a couple of hours and he's already had his wallet lifted. Seriously? My mind immediately goes to the credit cards and $1000 cash that were in there and I feel sick. He's pacing up and down the street as I tell the hostess to let someone go in front of us...give us just a minute.

"Did you use it in Mango Mango?" I ask, "Go back and see if you left it.

He walks away grumbling something about how he wouldn't have left it in there...it's been stolen...we have no money.....A moment later he comes running out with his wallet in his hand! Thank the lord for the honest girl in Mango Mango! Crisis averted!

Hour three

I no longer allow Matt to hold his own wallet as we are ushered into the madness of ACME Oyster House.


Hour four

It's 3 dozen raw oysters later and we are meeting our friends to head to Bayona for dinner. We arrive early and have a seat in the courtyard patio for drinks. The night is cool, but not cold, and it's nice to be able to sit outside with a cocktail when there was snow falling when we left home. We are seated at an elegant table inside and have a fantastic dinner. A starter of lobster risotto and an entree of smoked pork shank with mashed potatoes go a long way toward making me forget the early troubles of the evening.


Hour Five

It's a quick walk down crazy Bourbon Street to Lafittes's Blacksmith Shop for drinks.


We are lucky enough to score a table and we sip on voodoo daiquiris that taste like a frozen grape crush (or sort of like a Dimetapp slushie if you think about it too much) and watch an odd collection of war re-enactment folks stroll around the bar. The combination of the alcohol, the dark of this extremely old pub, and the historic costumes could almost make you think you had been sent back in time. Thank goodness the really bad pianist in the back of the bar kept playing really bad tunes to remind us exactly where we were.


Hour Seventeen

Oh, if I could only eat in my sleep...so many hours wasted. After a great night's sleep, we took a walk through the French Market and headed down to Cafe Du Monde. I was craving fried dough and chicory coffee. We perused the menu, which didn't take long since it only consists of beignets and beverages, and ordered. Moments later, a plate of sweet fried dough covered with powdered sugar and a strong cup of cafe au lait was set down in front of me. Heaven.


With powdered sugar on my face, my pants, and my fingers....we headed back to the house.


Hour nineteen

We were meeting our friends at Mother's, all the way on the other side of the Quarter, for an early lunch. We decided to walk so that we could enjoy the sights and sounds of the French Quarter.

We must have been enjoying them too long, either that or we didn't realize just how far away Mother's was, because suddenly, we only had 15 minutes to cover a pretty long distance. We practically ran the rest of the way, and arrived at Mother's huffing and puffing about 15 minutes late.


Hour twenty

Mother's was very non-descript on the outside. We were ushered in and stood in line, pouring over menus, paralyzed by indecision, knowing we had to order as soon as we reached the counter. Do I get breakfast or lunch? Do I want seafood? A po'boy? Debris? What about those side dishes? What about dessert? Coffee? When it was our turn, we blurted out our choices, feeling like we were in the Soup Nazi line on Seinfeld, afraid to hesitate lest we be sent to the back of the line. We were handed drinks and our number and went to find a seat. In moments, platters of food arrived. Eggs and grits, biscuits, fried oysters, black beans and rice....it was a mountain of food.


I had the debris po'boy....a soft white bun filled with their famous ham, turkey, and debris (shredded roast beef in a savory gravy) topped with shredded cabbage and creole mustard....and a side of greens.

Hour twenty-one

We spend the next few hours wandering around the Quarter, taking in all that it has to offer.




Hour twenty-three

We walk around the artists of Jackson Square, taking in the colorful offerings. We end up buying a painting from one artist, which she promptly wraps in a sheet and binds with masking tape.



Hour twenty-four

We stand in line at Central Grocery. We look at jars of olives and pickles. We can smell fresh parmesan and baking bread. This wonderful but unassuming Italian grocery is home to one of my favorite sandwiches....the muffaletta.


A round loaf of soft Italian bread is sliced and piled with salami, ham, and provolone, and that is topped with a wickedly spicy blend of chopped green and black olives fragrant with anchovies and garlic. Oh yum. We got our sandwich, wrapped in white paper, a bag of Zapp's, and a cold root beer and headed to find a park bench by the river.


Hour twenty-five

We walk along Royal. It's been blocked off to car traffic in many places and street musicians fill the tiny paved spaces. A variety of music drifts on the air and we simply walk and listen...walk and listen...until we arrive back at our little house.



Hour twenty-seven

We are meeting our friends at the Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone and we decide to walk down Bourbon Street to get there.


It doesn't matter that it's barely evening...Bourbon Street is ALIVE. We hear what sounds like a parade and see a police escort coming toward us. We stop and are treated to an amazing view of an entire wedding party and all its guests being led down the middle of Bourbon by a parade master and a band....all the guests waving white handkerchiefs to the happy march of "When the Saints Go Marching In."


Hour twenty-eight

It's cocktail time at the Carousel Bar. I'm standing trying to talk to my friend who is seated on a barstool. I walk at least 2 miles before I allow her husband to convince me it's okay to take his seat. We sip cocktails as we spin....and spin....and spin.


Hour thirty

I am staring into the eyes of the Stud Lobster...a three pound monster on my plate at Drago's. We've just finished sopping up the last of the butter sauce on the char-grilled oyster plate with the few remaining scraps of crispy baguette. I follow the Stud with the biggest brownie sundae I think the world has ever known.


Hour thirty-three

We are closing down the bar at Pirate's Alley. Who knew they closed so early? We are still trying to figure out what the mysterious paper sign taped to the fireplace means.


Hour thirty-nine and a half

I'm dreaming about where to have breakfast....and lunch....I'm thinking of thick bananas foster pancakes topped with sweet syrup when Matt shakes me awake. "zzzzz....huh?"

Remember those clouds to the west that we hadn't been paying attention to?

"I just called the Weather Center and they said if we don't take off in 30 minutes, we aren't leaving New Orleans today."

He calls our taxi driver and I, bleary eyed, pull on my clothes and stuff all our crap into our suitcase in record time. I don't even have time to brush my teeth, much less get a last cup of chicory coffee to go.....

Hour forty

We fly out of NOLA just as a HUGE storm front is moving in. I can see our flight path as it skirts the edge of the storm all the way above GA. We just made it, but I have been cheated out of my final meals. What about my french toast at Stanley's? What about my Port O'Call burger? What about....

I guess we'll just have to come back now, won't we?


Posted by vicki_h 17:22 Archived in USA Comments (3)

November to Remember...A quick trip to St. Augustine

I'd been to St. Augustine, the country's oldest city, a long time ago....on a spring break trip during my senior year of high school with a friend and her family. I always wanted to go back one day, so when some friends asked if we'd like to go somewhere for a sunny weekend in early November, I said, "What about St. Augustine?"

St. Augustine, Florida is a gorgeous little town perched on the Atlantic coast. Rich in history, dripping with architectural delights, and abounding in delicious food....it was a perfect stop for a fun weekend.

We arrive on Friday morning and decided to tour old St. Augustine since we couldn't check into our beach house until afternoon. We parked near the Castillo de San Marcos and arrived at the old fort just in time for the re-enactment group to fire the canon. BOOM! What a way to start the trip. We did a self tour of the fort before heading over to the Old City.


Old City and St. George Street were like stepping back in time...well...if you pretended the tacky t-shirts and St. Augustine shot glasses weren't lining the shop windows. The old buildings lined the streets for block after block as tropical flowering trees waved in the bright blue sky overhead. Musicians stood on the sidewalk, playing their tunes for a friendly dollar and kids ran laughing with ice cream cones dripping down their sticky hands. It was quaint.



We wandered as far as Flagler College and the architecture simply blew me away. What started as a high end luxury resort back in its hey-day, this college campus is simply beautiful. Red brick lions greet you at the gate and ornate ironwork and masonry are everywhere you look. The cafeteria looks more like the inside of a fine mansion than a place that should be serving mashed potatoes and weak coffee every day.


Shopping bug satisfied, we drove toward our beach house, stopping at Osteen's on the way.


Osteen's isn't sexy. It isn't glamorous or trendy. It's plain. It's simple. It's old school seafood done the way it was when you used to vacation with your parents in 1977 by driving down to Florida in a station wagon that had no air-conditioning and in-car entertainment was a stack of comic books and a barbie doll. We knew it would be good when we parked the car in a lot filled with old Buicks and Cadillacs and saw that no one inside was under 55 years of age. This was the real deal.


The fried shrimp at Osteen's is golden and delicious and served with your choice of old school sides like macaroni salad, greens, or sliced cucumbers with vinegar. Crispy hushpuppies and sweet iced tea topped things off.

It was early afternoon and we headed to Point Break beach house, an absolutely PERFECT little gem that sat right on the sand of Vilano Beach. Most houses are back behind the dunes or across the street, but this one was on top of a rock pile that was so close to the water that when the tide came in, the waves showered the deck. We settled in with books and views for the evening.


The next morning we took a long walk on the beach.


I have never seen so many shells on one beach in my life. It was littered with shells. There were so many that you couldn't walk without shoes. They piled up in bunches along the edge of the seafoam, tinkling like bells as the tide rolled waves across them.


We spent a lazy morning reading at the beach house. The house had a rowboat strung up like a hammock filled with pillows and soft white sheets that made and ideal reading spot....you could hear the waves as they brushed the soft sand near the house.


Lest lethargy totally take over and keep us inside on a beautiful day, we wrenched ourselves from our sun grazed haven and headed to the Conch House for lunch.


One part tiki bar and one part seafood house, the Conch House was just what we needed. We had frosty goombay smashes and fresh seafood with a beautiful view.


After lunch, we headed to see the Lighthouse. We walked up and up. Up and up and up and up. We walked up some more. Two hundred and nineteen steps later, we reached the top of the 165 foot tower. The view from the top was remarkable, and the extremely windy day made it a little...extra exciting.



We spend the afternoon at the house doing some serious seaside relaxing.


and then cleaned up and headed to the Reef Restaurant on Vilano beach. It was quiet and candlelit, and that night had live piano music, when lent it an old style glamour. The food was delicious. I had a Minorcan Clam Chowder...a spicy tomato based soup that lit my tastebuds on fire. That was followed by sesame crusted tuna seared and served rare with wasabi and a soy-ginger dipping sauce. After dinner, we headed to Zhanra's cigar bar for martinis and live music. The band was playing covers of old 80's tunes and we had a blast.....until they closed and made us go home.


Sunday morning brought a glorious sunrise.




It was time to head home. We made a pit stop in Atlanta and borrowed the airport's crew car to run to Flip Burger for lunch. I have never been to a "burger boutique" but it was definitely something special. I had a Krispy Kreme milkshake and a blue cheese and caramelized onion burger with fried pickles. If you are ever in Buckhead, stop by. You'll be glad you did.


Before we knew it, we were back in Knoxville and another adventure had come to a close almost as quickly as it had begun.

Posted by vicki_h 14:38 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Food, Frights, and Fall....Savannah wows me again.

Another great weekend in Savannah.

Savannah has won me over. When a quick weekend trip is needed, she's at the top of my list....luring me in with the sweet smell of golden honey and the crispy taste of golden fried shrimp. This was a quick weekend, but it managed to deliver all that I have come to expect from Savannah's southern hospitality. It was Halloween weekend, so where better to spend it than in one of America's most haunted cities?


We have learned to arrive on Friday. By leaving early, we arrive just in time for Mrs. Wilkes' lunch line, which is important, because Mrs. Wilkes' is only open for lunch and it's only open on weekdays. We have also learned to stay at the Zeigler House...a perfect place, in my opinion, due to the gorgeous rooms, perfect location, great food, and phenomenal hostess, Jackie. It doesn't hurt that it's only a few steps down the street from Mrs. Wilkes'.


We had our $16 in cash (Mrs. Wilkes' doesn't take credit cards) and did our time in line. It was so worth it. Platters of fried chicken and hot biscuits were placed on the table in front of us along with about 25 bowls of indescribably delicious country sides. We washed it down with cold glasses of iced tea and topped it off with banana pudding. Mrs. Wilkes' Boarding House is the perfect start to a gastronomical weekend in Savannah!


We walked the food off with a shopping tour of historic Savannah. We sampled golden sweet honey at Savannah Bee Company and breathed in the scent of handmade lavendar soap in the Paris Market. We lingered over sweet smelling azaleas in the squares and listened to the clip-clopping hooves of the horses as they pulled carriages down the cobbled streets. Matt hid away in the "man cave" in Fab'rik as I browsed racks of trendy clothing.





We made sure we got back to Zeigler House in time for Jackie's evening reception. Delicious treats and wine were waiting for us. We snacked and sipped on the wide breezy porch before heading in for naps.



Still full from lunch and Jackie's amazing appetizers, we decided to head to the Crystal Beer Parlor for drinks instead of dinner. The parlor has been around for ages and you can feel it as soon as you walk inside. It's like taking a step back in time when you slide up on a barstool at the polished wood bar.


After martinis and warm conversation, we walked down toward River Street to meet up with a our "Haunted Pub Tour." What better way to see ghosts than when you are drinking?


This tour should more appropriately be called, "How to get tanked in Savannah in 2 hours," but it was fun. Our Civil War Soldier guide took us through several old haunts and after a drink in each one, I was pretty sure I was seeing SOMETHING.


After the tour, we hit Vinnie Van Go Go's for a slice of the most amazing pizza before running home in the dark, hoping the ghosts weren't following us.


The next morning, we slept late and then enjoyed the delicious baked breakfast goods that Jackie delivers to your room at the Zeigler House. A couple of scones and homemade muffins later, we took a slow walk down to Forsyth Park.


Before heading back, we stopped for a coffee at the Sentient Bean. This place may not have 2 cups that match, but the coffee is awesome and they have a kickin' patio hidden in the back.


In the mood for some seafood, we headed out to find the elusive Despositos Seafood.


It's a little off the beaten path, and fancy pants it is not, but Despositios is worth finding. With simple wooden tables covered in newspaper and a menu that includes only a few selections of steamed seafood (nothing fried here), what you do find is incredibly fresh, incredibly delicious seafood.


We ordered nearly everything on the menu....crab legs, oysters, steamed shrimp....and a shrimp salad sandwich that is served old school style on thick slices of toast with Despositos own home made cocktail sauce with a KICK.




And don't forget the key lime pie. It's home made and it is G-O-O-D.

We drove on over to Tybee Island for a post-lunch beach walk.


The boys hit Bernie's for some raw oysters...apparently the feeding frenzy at Despositos had not been enough to satiate their hunger. They decided to get a bucket of "shuck your own" and watching them nearly made me sweat. It was like a lesson in endurance....the motto of the restaurant was "Shuck me, suck me, eat me raw..." but after watching them battle those oysters it should have been..."Smash me, dash me, then ask for a hammer...."



Eventually they got through the bucket and we wandered the wide sand beach, looking for tiny shells and watching the sandpipers scurry along the edge of the seafoam, looking for something the ocean left behind.



We made it back in time for the reception at Zeigler House and let Jackie do it to us again. We got too full for dinner. We had reservations at Local 11 Ten but had to cancel them, because our stomachs were stretched beyond belief, and nothing else could fit inside.


It was Saturday night and Savannah was celebrating Halloween. We donned minimal costumes and hit the streets. All I can say is that Savannah takes her Halloween quite seriously. We saw things I can never describe. To celebrate the night, we caught a live performance of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, which was out of this world. That was followed by drinks and unbelievable people watching in City Market.


Finally hungry again, we hit the only thing still open....Five Guys Burgers and Fries and found that there is no place quite like a burger joint in Savannah at 2 a.m. on Halloween night.


Too quickly it was Sunday and almost time to go home. We enjoyed a seafood lunch at Tubby's, with crispy fried shrimp and hush puppies, and before we knew it, it was time to leave.


Savannah had shown us a good time again. I don't think it will be too long before we head back. If for nothing else, to enjoy the city that lets us eat 6 times a day.


Posted by vicki_h 13:17 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Rum Days Are Better Than Others: Part I

A second sailing adventure in the Virgin Islands

Sailing. It’s romantic. It’s poetic. It has a charm that wraps around you like a lazy sailor’s knot on a worn red buoy. Visions of crisp white and navy blue canvas, sunsets blazing on the horizon, and gentle salt tinged winds breezing past your cheeks fill your dreamy gaze. You’re ready to hoist the sails, catch the breeze, and let Mother Nature take you where she may.

The beauty of sailing lies in the fact that it can take you anywhere. The possibilities are endless ... you can escape to a world that is as simple or as complicated as you wish to make it. You can cruise, snooze, drift, float, race, relax, work, or do absolutely nothing.
Never mind that you won’t really sleep good for a week or that for the next 7 days simply using the bathroom becomes a unique challenge. Forget that your body and clothes are always going to be slightly sticky and that even when you shower you won’t feel 100% clean thanks to a steady supply of sunscreen, bug spray, sweat, and the forever presence of salt spray. True, your sheets will constantly feel damp and no matter what you do, your cabin will smell funky, much like an old gym shoe you left in the bag a few weeks too long.

None of this matters.

Because you are handed a pass across the open sea where all the cares that afflict you on dry land, all the things you worry about, all the things you were supposed to do but forgot, all the anxiety of your daily existence drops away like a ragged old coat you forgot to remove when winter’s chill was gone. Get ready. You are being given a ticket to a secret perspective of the islands that can only be viewed from the deck of a boat with the salt spray fogging your polarized sunglasses and the wind tangling your hair.


Day One: AntiSEApation

"Oh my gosh! It's 10:00 a.m.! We have to check out...we have to get groceries....we have to get Keith and Sydney at the airport....GET UP!" I yelled as I launched my lethargic body out of the bed.

"Zzz...huh?" was all that Matt could manage as he looked at me like I was from another planet.

We had arrived late the night before on St. Thomas and had such grand plans for how we’d spend the morning before our sailing friends arrived. We were going to have the food bought, the water and drinks purchased, and even get it all put away on the boat. Then, we'd arrive at the airport early to pick them up that afternoon, waiting with big smiles and drinks in hand. We had lots to do and we had organized it well, down to the minute.

But that was before we knew we were going to be lulled into a sleep coma the night before by eating too much of the most excellent pizza at Pie Whole and drinking one too many of their amazing Italian Margaritas (note to readers: Pie Whole. Frenchtown, St. Thomas. Go there).

We threw toothbrushes and jackets we no longer needed in our carryon and rushed out of the hotel about 30 minutes after check out. We picked up the Avis car at the airport and made a quick drive over to Red Hook because I had been given very explicit instructions that the meat was to come from Marina Market. I could buy the rest of the food at the Texaco gas station or from the stand at the street corner, for all anyone cared, but that meat had to come from Marina. Apparently, they had some darn good meat.

It was way too late for breakfast, so we stopped for lunch at Duffy’s in Red Hook. This stop was the second mistake (the first being the pizza induced coma) that derailed our well organized, well thought out, well meaning shopping plans.


Why, you ask?

Have you ever had a drink at Duffy’s? They are so fun that you can’t stop with just one. Who cares that it was only 11:00 a.m. When they bring you a drink in a smiling monkey, how can you not have another? When the second one comes in a hulled out coconut and they throw plastic leis and flowers around your head, how can you not have a third?

And so went another precious hour…or two….of our well intentioned morning.


We staggered out of Duffy’s entirely too late, covered with stickers and plastic shiny things, looking very much like the tourists that we were. And darn it all, we still had to buy that meat.

We found Marina Market and when I saw the meat counter, I understood Syd’s insistence. Good quality products. Bar none. We loaded up and headed out way past our self imposed deadline.

“It’s already 1:00,” I said. “We have to pick Keith and Syd from the airport at 2:30 and we still need to find the Big K-Mart, shop, and get all the way back over to the airport. It’s impossible.”

“Nothing is impossible when you’ve just been leid at Duffy’s,” Matt said with gusto, “Let’s go.”

Miraculously, we found the Big K-Mart without a hitch. We grabbed two shopping carts, split the list and made the most ridiculous mad dash you’ve ever seen. We were most certainly not on “island time” and we drew more than a few looks from the slow moving patrons of the Big K-Mart. I think they were looking for the hidden cameras, thinking maybe we were on that game show that takes place in a grocery store. The one where the people have to get lots of expensive stuff as fast as they can and the most expensive cart wins? Except, instead of lots of steaks, we had about 119 boxes of Zip-Loc bags and 800 gallons of water along with a cart load of chips, sodas, and enough beer, wine and rum to start our own liquor store. And we were still wearing all our Duffy’s stickers, necklaces, and leis. We looked a hot mess.

We flew out of the store in record time and had the car fully loaded when I realized that we had filled every available space with something other than Keith and Sydney and their luggage.


It was 2:00 p.m.


We raced to Frenchtown and tore into the parking lot like our trunk was on fire. We jumped out and saw Jay, our friend at CYOA, the boat charter place. JAY!!!!!

“Aren’t y’all kinda’ late? Sydney said you’d be here this morning…..” he started to say, looking at his watch, as we started shoving soda cases and water boxes into a cart. He got the hint fast and helped us unload at breakneck speed, took the cart to the canopy and let us run to the airport.

We got to the airport at 2:25 p.m. Keith and Sydney’s plane hadn’t even landed. HOORAY!

By the time they landed, we were cool, calm, and collected. We weren’t sweating anymore and appeared relatively normal.

They probably wouldn’t have suspected at thing if it hadn’t been for all the stickers and plastic flowers we were wearing.

We made one final shopping trip that afternoon to get the rest of the food that Matt and I hadn’t been able to pick up because of that darn Duffy’s smiling monkey drink. The only problem with shopping without a list is that you end up with 9 blocks of cheese. Why? Because we kept forgetting how much cheese we had and every time we walked by the cheese cooler, Sydney said, “I think we need a little more cheese.”

We had a lot of cheese.

Shopping done, we unloaded everything onto the boat, got unpacked, freshened up, and met Jay and his wife Deb at Hook, Line, and Sinker for a pre-sail dinner. I decided to eliminate that whole after dinner, “Do I get dessert or don’t I?” pretense (because we all know we are going to get the dessert, don’t we?) by ordering the Complete Lobster Dinner: salad, lobster and sides, and dessert. I was contractually obligated to order dessert. I was locked in. It was a requirement. And oh, was I glad. They have a key lime pie that’s out of this world.


We did a sleep aboard on the boat at the CYOA marina that night….our heads filled with dreams of what the week ahead might hold.

Day Two: Docked and Loaded, Let's Go Anywhere But Down

After a hearty breakfast at the Deli we grabbed a bag of their cold cuts, a roasted chicken, and some fresh baked baguettes to go, said "hello" to the dock iguanas, and we were ready to go. We did the necessary “pre-boat” stuff (like my super technical sailor speak?) and were off by 12:30.



It was a reasonably calm trip over to Leinster Bay, St. John. On the way over we had a snack lunch of salami and cheese, pitas, hummus, chips and salsa, and fresh cut pineapple. We got to our mooring around 3:00 in the afternoon. The sun was already dipping low, so we decided to snorkel immediately. I donned my brand new rash guard and ridiculous wet suit shorts, that truly provided no actual protection and that I am ashamed to admit that I bought simply because I thought they made my 40 year old butt look good. Move over Spanx! Seriously, I think once a woman is over 40, she should be allowed to make all of her pants out of neoprene. We jumped in for a quick snorkel around Waterlemon. I noticed right off that it was chillier than I was used to (primarily because my wetsuit was only about 2 inches long….but I didn’t care because I thought it made my butt look good), but not chilly enough to make it unpleasant.


With the exception of a near collision with a really large barracuda who was in a big hurry to get somewhere, it was good. We didn’t see anything extraordinary, but there were a LOT of fish.

This was our evening to settle down into boat mode so we took it easy, lounging on the decks with books and cocktails (and cheese), playing a little music, and watching the early sunset create a blaze on the horizon. We grilled some steaks for dinner and paired them with a Caesar salad.

It was quiet. It was peaceful. It was perfect.


Day Three: Knotty Buoys and Crazy Gulls

We were headed over to Norman Island for the day to do some snorkeling and to visit the Willy T and Pirates Bight.


The day started off with Vicki’s Famous Pirate Coffee, guaranteed to make you lose an eye, hobble on one leg, and start stuttering like a parrot. It’s strong and dark, bites back, and if you aren’t careful, your cup is liable to just get up and walk away. Thanks to Deb, who loaned us an electric coffee maker, I didn’t have to sit on the counter with vice grips and a percolator this time. This meant I could make my sludge twice as strong in a fraction of the time!

Sufficiently jacked up on caffeine, we made our way to Tortola, where we could clear into BVI customs. We say that’s the reason, anyway. The real reason is because Syd has an unhealthy addiction to Pusser’s wings. So, as soon as we cleared customs, we ran into the brightly tropical Soper’s Hole to grab some painkillers, do some shopping, and grab some wings.


I love how you order your painkiller by number at Pusser’s. I got a #3, mainly because I simply couldn’t bring myself to say out loud, “I’d like a #2.”

Matt decided to be daring and he ordered a #4. You know it’s bad when the server laughs as she writes down your order.

While we were gnoshing on wings and Matt was choking on his Painkiller #4, who should arrive in Soper’s but Jay and Deb! They were joining us for our Norman Island adventure.


We took the boats over to Norman Island and found moorings. We made a lunch of smoked salmon wraps (and cheese) and then Jay and Deb ran us over to the Indians for snorkeling. The Indians are amazing. There is just so much to see. The fish were everywhere. Just like Waterlemon Cay, there were thousands of fish everywhere. I don’t think I have ever seen so many. I felt like I was in a Walt Disney cartoon, except that in a Disney cartoon, I would have been swimming in a princess gown, not in the equivalent of neoprene hot pants.


After boat showers, we had Vicki’s Champagne Rum Punch (don’t ask…all I know is that when I was done, we were less one bottle of rum and one bottle of champagne) and made our way over to the Willy T. It was early evening, but that didn’t seem to slow things down. The Willy T had been cranking out music and producing a steady stream of boats all afternoon long.

I only have a few things to say about our time on the Willy T: 1) The “ski shot” is not made for people of varying heights…designed for 4 people to do simultaneously while standing, the shorties get sticky…that’s all I have to say about that. 2) After a couple of ski shots, songs like “Stroke it,” “Baby Got Back,” and “The Bad Touch” take on a whole new level of fun. 3) I don’t know where my shoes went.


About the time I found my shoes, Syd wisely decided that food was a good idea.

We motored over to Pirates Bight and got another round of drinks. Seriously? Thank goodness we also got food. Lots of food. While we waited for our meals, Deb and I attempted a round of drunk Jenga on their giant sized game (made with 2 x 4s). I think someone needed to tell us the rules, because I am pretty sure that just removing the top until you get to the bottom and laughing continuously is not how the game is actually played. However, that is all we were really capable of and it seemed really fun at the time.


After a heaping platter of ribs and conch fritters, we made it back to the boat for a good night’s sleep. At least I think we did.

Day Four: Another Bad Hair Day


Every day on a boat is a bad hair day. You learn quickly that trying to tame your hair on a boat is fruitless…just as trying to keep your clothes neat is ridiculous and trying to keep yourself feeling clean and dry is impossible. Add to that the fact that my hair was still sticky from a badly aimed ski shot.

We had the traditional Post-Willy T breakfast of water and Advil before we said “Good Bye” to Jay and Deb and prepared for the day’s trip. Weather permitting, we were hoping to make it to Anegada the following day, so we chose Leverick Bay in Gorda Sound as a stopping point for the night. Primarily because none of us had ever been and because Syd got a deal on a slip for the night – same price as a mooring ball.


We made our way to Leverick Bay. It was a long trip, but the sun was up bright and bold so we made our way up front with a little music and settled in for the long ride. “Up front” is my favorite place. On a sailboat, it’s not really about the destination. The trip is the draw. The boat pitches gently under you as the occasional flash of sea spray rises to coat you in a salty kiss. The sun shines warm but the wind blows deliciously across your skin. The world is reduced to nothing more than blue and green, sea and sky, wind and water and you are just a tiny speck in the universe, looking heavenward as the sun travels across the majestic sky. I could lay there forever.


We passed the Indians, the blue waters around them already dotted with white boats. Islands passed like the backs of great green giants rising from the waters…Peter…Salt…..Cooper…Virgin Gorda loomed in the distance. I could make out the boulders of the Baths as we passed but from our distance they were no more than pebbles on the shimmering horizon.

When we arrived, I was sea tossed, sun kissed, and wind blown. I had my sea legs and the breath of the ocean in my lungs. The pale waters of Leverick Bay seemed illuminated as we neared our destination. In the distance, strips of deep blue hugged the shoreline of neighboring cays, bold in the light turquoise of the water that surrounded us.


The water in Leverick looks lit from within, as though light were bursting from the bottom of the ocean to the surface, giving it an unearthly lightness. The bright red of an old phone booth and the happily painted buildings of the marina jumped out in stark contrast to the electric blue of the water.


We made an easy lunch of turkey sandwiches….with cheese….. and chose to spend the afternoon landside, enjoying the pool and small beach at Leverick Bay, a perk that came with the boat slip. We could also have land showers, get some ice, and unload some garbage, if we wanted. We could even use a land toilet. On a boat, it’s the small things that make you happy. Oh Happy Day!

The “star” of Leverick Bay had to be Matt’s girlfriend. He seems to find these girls wherever he goes and they are drawn to him like old ladies to Bingo Night in the church basement. Her soft brown eyes alone were enough to make him fall in love.


She was on the next boat and Matt kept her supplied in turkey and other snacks that her owner likely had absolutely no intention of giving her and no idea she was eating. If the owner of that dog is reading this and if she ended up with severe digestive upset and pooped all over your bunk later that night, all I can say is I told him not to do it.

As evening rolled in, we made taco salads on the boat, opened a bottle of wine, and watched the sky change to colors that one can only see from a boat that is bobbing gently in the Caribbean Sea.


Day Five: Gotta Goto Gada

We woke early to the sound of serious rain. The skies were gray and thick with clouds and they were dumping everything they had right onto us.

Today we were supposed to head to Anegada, the Drowned Island, the farthest of the far, the flattest of the flat, the island with more bottles of beer on it than residents.


With its highest point at only 28 feet, sailors can’t even SEE the island until they are within a few miles of its shore. How the heck were we supposed to see anything in this downpour????? Some charters are told not to take the boats to Anegada because of the shallow waters and tricky entry due to the reefs surrounding the island.

It’s flat and scrubby. There are only a handful of residents and a smaller handful of bars and restaurants. The island has no amenities and the entire island has only one gas pump. If you are lucky enough to score one of the few rental cars, expect it to come with sand already in it as well as a spill of the beverage from the previous occupant still running stick and sweet down the dash. Cows outnumber people and roam freely about the island and poop on the beach.


So why go to Anegada? Because it only has one gas pump and because cows outnumber people. Because the island has a special magic that seems to come from its sheer isolation and limited resources. The beaches are magnificent and seem to stretch to eternity. The people are warm and gracious. The island has a sweet and quiet personality that ebbs and flows with the tide.

Despite the weather, we were Anegada bound, baby. We were not going to be stopped.


We sailed toward the gray horizon, gray water blending with gray sky, misty rain drifting in and out of our path. There was nothing to see. No bright emerald islands dotting our path. No crescents of white sand filled with bright white boats curling into mountainous harbors. No candy colored buildings flowing down happy hillsides. We saw nothing. Just water. And sky.

And then…just as it seemed you couldn’t tell where the horizon even was anymore, Anegada appeared like a whisper, a memory of something carried in on the breeze….you’d see it for a moment, and then it would disappear, you’d see nothing but clouds, and then there it was again. First…a shadow….then a tree…then two trees….. then there was the faint outline of trees…trees that seemed to spring from the very sea because you couldn’t see any land beneath them. Just ghost trees floating on a gray horizon. And then the masts appeared. Bright white sticks in a line, marking the place where the island that you couldn’t see should be.

We carefully made our way in and a thin strip of land emerged, not looking substantial enough to hold the few wispy pines that rose up from it. The island looked like a mirage, just a heat hazed apparition floating in a distant desert, but there it was.

The day was ugly, not an ideal entry for a first view of Anegada. We could see storm clouds rolling in the distance and could see the rain coming down, making its way toward us. Uh-oh.


We knew that for dinner on Anegada, you need to let the restaurant know before about 4 pm that you are eating with them and what you are having, otherwise, chances are good you aren’t eating (of course, we still had all that cheese). We also wanted to rent a car and knew there were only about 3 rental cars on the island, so we didn’t want to wait to try to get one. We had been told about the famed lobster dinners of the Anegada Reef Hotel and knew they rented cars, so Matt and I braved the impending storm and took the dingy over to the hotel dock to make a reservation and to see if we could get a car for the 2 days we were here.


We were able to rent a car (I use that term very loosely) and made our reservation for four lobster dinners. She asked for our boat name to put on the reservation.

“Who Cares,” I said.

She looked at me like she didn’t have time for my funny business, “I cares. I need da name of your boat,” she laughed.

“Who Cares is the name of the boat,” I explained.

“Ah,” she laughed, “I tought you was being smart wid me. I will remember dat name, Who Cares.”


That’s when the rain arrived. We tucked ourselves safely under the Reef Hotel bar as everyone ran that way. If you are going to be stuck somewhere during a rain storm, this seemed to be a fine place to be stuck. We ordered 2 of their famous “Smoodies” and let the slow pace of the place sink into our bones.

When the rain let up, we headed back to the boat and had a lunch of prosciutto wrapped melon, deviled eggs, CHEESE (because we had a lot of cheese), and roasted chicken. The rain stopped but the gray clouds were there to stay. Because the real draw of Anegada is its beautiful beaches, we decided to save the beaching for the next day and do a driving tour of Anegada to fill up our gray afternoon.


We headed to our car. Remember when I said that I used that term loosely? The floorboards were filled with sand. One door was stuck because someone had shut the seatbelt into it. There was something dripping down the dash. And there was no gas. It’s a far cry from renting a car in the US where you have to run back inside to make sure they know the tiny scratch on the door was there when you rented it and make sure they mark it on the little piece of paper. Instead, we just went inside and said, “We didn’t break the door and where do we get gas?”

We were told to go see Jose at “the gas pump” and he’d fill us up. THE gas pump was easy enough to find. The gas pump is the only one. On the island.


We started driving and quickly figured out why the rental car looked like it did. The roads were mostly unpaved and covered with rocks and holes. It was a teeth chattering affair. I think some of my guts even got jiggled loose. Anegada is the only place I have been where a sports bra is more necessary for riding in a car than a seatbelt.

On Anegada, there are no street signs, barely any roads, no landmarks, and no maps, yet it’s nearly impossible to get lost. The road goes in a big circle and in the few places where there is something to see, a little road shoots off toward the edge.

We stopped at Loblolly Bay and headed to the bar at the Big Bamboo for drinks.


We also checked out Cow Wreck Beach. At Cow Wreck, we found Enrique, who immediately grabbed Matt’s hand and didn’t let go until we left. Just as he is a magnet for dogs, Matt is a magnet for children.


With our bones sufficiently rattled and our teeth sore from banging together for 2 hours on the rutted roads, we called it a day and headed back to the boat, at least now having a plan for the following day. We knew what we wanted to see again and what we didn’t.

We were told by the Anegada Reef Hotel that our dinner seating would be at 7:00 pm but that we could go early for drinks. So go early for drinks we did.

“Hello, Who Cares,” the hostess said as she waved and welcomed us over and showed us to our table.


The setting was beautiful. Tables were scattered outside along the water’s edge, warmly lit with candles. After ordering drinks, we were brought salads and bread. These were followed by family style dishes of baked potatoes and green beans. Then each of us was brought a gigantic lobster. The lobster had been seasoned and boiled until it was soft and then grilled to perfection.


Dinner was a long and relaxed affair. They treated you more like visiting family than restaurant guests and no one seemed in a hurry to leave.

When we did return to the boat, we spent a rolling night thanks to the weather, the boat tossing and pitching all night long. It was a very long night.

Posted by vicki_h 07:27 Comments (3)

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