A Travellerspoint blog

August 2013

I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.

5 hours in Charleston with nothing to do but eat.

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Having a husband who likes to fly other people around for money in his off-work hours is proving to have distinct advantages. Not only has the airplane started to pay its own way instead of simply being a large sucking sound in my bank account, every once in a while, I get to tag along somewhere cool.

Usually, Matt finds himself flying to not-so-exciting places like Dothan, AL or Willoughby, OH. No offense to Dothanites, but I am not yet dying to visit the Peanut Capital of the World.

To this point, I got the following text from Matt a few weeks ago:

“You know you are in Pine Bluff, Arkansas when you’re sitting in the airport lobby and a snake crawls past you and you tell the airport manager and he shrugs his shoulders and says, ‘That’s the eighth one we’ve caught in here this year.’”

Yeah, charter flying isn’t always exciting.

But every once in a while, he gets to fly somewhere cool, like the Hamptons.

Or Charleston.

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And when you only get to spend a few hours in a place, there is really nothing to do but eat. It’s kind of obligatory.

I remember reading an article a couple of years ago called, “101 Things to Savor, Slurp, and Suck Down in Charleston.” I decided to see how many I could consume in 5 hours.

Just how many meals can you eat in less than half a day, you ask?

More than you think.

We started off the morning at Hominy Grill.

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Do you see this? This is the Big Nasty Biscuit. A fluffy buttermilk biscuit topped with sausage gravy. And if that wasn’t enough, they throw a juicy hunk of fried chicken on there. Oh, but wait. They are done yet. They finish it off with some cheddar cheese.

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Typically, after eating a breakfast like that, I wouldn’t be hungry again for about 3 days, but I was on an eating mission here, people. I only had a few hours. So I did the only thing I could do. I ordered another breakfast. Matt had gotten some kind of egg hash, but we both had a hankering for the blueberry pancake special.

So we ordered some blueberry pancakes.

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Does that count as 2 meals?

Our plan was to walk it off until lunch, so we parked downtown and hit the sidewalks.

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Unfortunately, in less than an hour, it started raining. The closest thing to us happened to be a chocolate shop.

I couldn’t make this up if I TRIED.

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So, here we are, trapped inside Christophe Chocolatier for over an hour, surrounded by all manner of artisan chocolates and pastries. We did the only thing we could.

We ordered some chocolates and pastries.

I mean, they weren’t going to let us sit in there and wait out the rain without ordering SOMETHING. Right?

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Not willing to be deterred by something as silly as a severely distended abdomen, indigestion, or the fear of spontaneous stomach rupture, we powered on toward lunch, determined to get in another meal before we had to leave.

On the recommendation of our passenger, we headed to 82 Queen for some of their famous She Crab Soup.

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Apparently, this was my day for stacked up food topped with impossibly rich gravy, so I dove fearlessly into the chicken breast and lowcountry crab cake with fried green tomatoes, cheddar grits, and she crab gravy while Matt tried to tackle the jambalaya.

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Christmas on a cracker.

We were done.

It finally happened. We couldn’t finish our meal.

Which, apparently is totally humanly possible.

I really had no idea.

Posted by vicki_h 09:19 Archived in USA Tagged charleston 82_queen hominy_grill Comments (1)

Going to Philly to Hear the Best Band You've Never Heard Of

A nerd and her music: 24 hours to eat, shop, eat, and get your 80’s geek on in Philadelphia

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I’m going to let you in on a dirty little secret: I am a big, fat nerd.

Okay. You probably already figured that out.

I was that kid in school that got hit in the face when a member of my own team served the volleyball. I was picked last for any and every sports activity. I had an electric organ in my room and would play Neil Diamond songs on it when I was 12. I had a 4.0 GPA and was in the Latin Club. The LATIN CLUB, people. I never learned to do a cartwheel, but I conjugate a verb like nobody’s business.

Things didn’t improve in high school. I wore clothes that were too big and out-of-style and I pulled my hair back in barrettes. Barrettes. IN HIGH SCHOOL. Even being in the band wasn’t nerdy enough for me. No, I was a Band Aide. That’s someone that’s not even cool enough to play an instrument. I carried the instruments.

The only time I ever skipped school, on Senior Skip Day….I asked my parents for permission.

Yes. I have always been a nerd.

When the other kids were out at parties, going to football games and dances, or trying out for cheerleading, I was writing bad poetry in my room while listening to obscure British bands that even my friends would make fun of.

Now that I am an adult, I desperately try to hide my nerdiness behind designer outfits, high heels, and blonde highlights, but, on the inside, I am still that dork sitting in her room with a bad perm, a spiral notebook, a pencil, and a mix tape full of OMD, New Order, and the Cure.

That’s why, when I saw that one of my favorite bands from the 80’s was going to be in concert in Philadelphia this summer, I immediately bought tickets. Chances to let the nerd inside come out and wave her geek flag are few and far between. The OMD concert was a chance to let her fly.

This is the point where most of you are going, “Who is OMD?”

Duh. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.

If you didn’t think I was a nerd before, I bet you do now.

OMD was not a mainstream band in the U.S. They did have one big hit, however, and I bet most of you have heard that. Any 40-something woman is going to remember the prom song to the John Hughes movie, “Pretty in Pink,” right? Who can forget Molly Ringwald and Andrew McCarthy kissing in the parking lot at the prom? Sigh.

That is probably the only experience any of you have had with OMD.

Oh, but to Nerd Girl Vicki, OMD were Gods of Music.

I remember my Honors English class in 1985. Yes. Honors English. Where else would a nerd be? Anyway, back to the story. Our teacher, in an effort to be “super cool and hip” let us each do a speech on our favorite band. We had 3 minutes to highlight something interesting and play a couple of clips of the music. This was in an effort to make us comfortable with public speaking.

I still cringe at the memory.

Oh dear sweet lord.

While the other kids had Madonna, Whitney Houston, John Cougar Mellancamp, Prince, or David Lee Roth……you guessed, I whipped out some OMD on them.

I can still see their faces as my presentation went into its 7th minute. I couldn’t stop. They all looked at me like I was a space alien as the teacher finally pulled the plug on my presentation.

Oh, the shame.

Just the memory of it makes me want to crawl under a table.

I still love their music, despite the fact that they were never mainstream music in the U.S. That’s what nerds do. We love something even if it makes us look weird. If you don’t believe me, just look outside a theater the next time a Star Trek movie premiers.

So, when I saw that OMD was playing in Philly, I not only bought show tickets, I bought VIP show tickets. I bought sound check tickets. I bought meet and greet tickets.

Hello Philadelphia. It was time to get my nerd on.

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We flew into Philly early on a Friday morning. Lucky enough to score a non-stop flight, we were there by 9:00 a.m. We checked into our hotel and went in search of sustenance.

We found it at Federal Doughnuts. This modest little place with the happy awning serves up a simple menu: fried chicken and doughnuts. With doughnut flavors like pina colada, peanut butter-chocolate or raspberry-balsamic, this place is a mecca of fried sugary goodness.

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You can only imagine my disappointment when I found out they didn’t start serving fried chicken until 11:00 a.m.

There is nothing wrong with eating fried chicken at 9:00 a.m. Absolutely nothing.

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We had an entire day to kill, so we put a pretty good dent in it doing some Center City shopping. From the upscale shops of Rittenhouse Square to the funky boutiques scattered along Walnut, we found plenty of pretty, shiny things to fill our morning.

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Lunch found us in the Old City, an eclectic neighborhood filled with unique shops and eateries.

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We popped into Cuba Libre for a feast of caipirinhas and tapas.

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I am not sure what we were thinking when we ordered. I think the 9:00 a.m. chicken denial had launched me into some kind of famine-survival-mode.
We had churros and chocolate, a bread basket, a Cuban pressed sandwich, a charcuterie board, fried plantains, and the chicharrones (crisp marinated chicken, skirt steak, pork belly, & chorizo).

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My favorite, however, was the one-eyed ropa vieja hash: classic Cuban shredded beef brisket stewed with tomatoes, peppers and red wine on a hash of potatoes, boniato, maduros, and corn and topped with a fried egg.

Delish.

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We enjoyed some down time at the hotel after lunch. After all, I had to prepare for my Meet & Greet with the band, don’t you know.

Flashback to March 2011.

It was the first time I had a chance to see OMD live. They had put out a new album and were doing a few small shows in the U.S. They were playing a small venue in Atlanta. Matt and I flew down to see the show, staying at a hotel that was walking distance to the concert venue. A few hours before the show, we walked over to South City Kitchen, a midtown favorite. It was an odd time to eat so we weren’t surprised when there was only one other patron in the restaurant.

I was seated facing the middle aged man in a black turtleneck reading a book and eating a salad.

But I knew as soon as I sat down that I was facing Andy McCluskey, which means nothing to you, but to me, it meant I was staring at the lead singer of OMD, the voice that was the soundtrack of my youth.

I froze.

Matt urged me to go over and say something, telling me I would regret it if I didn’t. He checked my teeth for food and shoved me in the general direction of the poor guy that was trying to eat his dinner. I kept thinking about the time a friend of mine met the lead singer of her favorite band and he was a total A-hole. It ruined it for her.

What if Andy McCluskey was a jackass?

I watched him eat another bite of salad. He didn’t eat his salad like a jackass.

I fidgeted. What to do?

We went to Beverly Hills once and got seated next to Steve Martin. I remember laughing and scoffing at the people around me who were making such idiots of themselves. What was the big deal? It was a guy eating a sandwich and doing a crossword puzzle. I remember telling Matt that I would never act like a goof if I ran into a celebrity.

But here I was. About to make a total ass of myself.

I waited until he finished eating, closed his book, and paid his check. I just knew I was going to be super cool. I’d be all, “Oh, hey, how are you? Just wanted to pop over and say ‘hello.’ I’m sure it will be a great show,” and then I’d say something super witty and clever and he would think I was the coolest person he ever met.

That might have happened if I wasn’t such a N-E-R-D.

No. I stammered and stumbled my way through the most awkward introduction that has ever existed between two human beings. I’m pretty sure Adam and Eve didn’t even have such an awkward meeting, despite the fact that they were new at being human, there might not have even been any language invented yet, and they were naked and being watched by God.

“Hi. I’m Vicki. Um. Yeah. Oh. Okay. And you’re Andy McCluskey. So. Sorry to bother you. While you are eating. Or actually, you’re done. Um. But. Um. I just wantedtosaythatIamsoexcitedtomeetyou. AndIloveyou. AndIthinkyourmusicisawesome. Okay. That’s it. Sorry to bother you. Bye.”

And then I stumbled awkwardly back to my table.

Oh dear God. My hands were shaking. Matt was laughing. I was mortified.

Nerd. Nerd. Nerd. Nerd.

Lucky for me, it turns out that Andy McCluskey is one of the nicest people on the planet. He came over to our table and gave me a second chance. He shook Matt’s hand. He spoke to us for several minutes. He was kind, gracious, and I was able to have a conversation that did not make me sound like a blathering fool.

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Flashforward to November 2011.

OMD decided to do a second leg of their U.S. tour. Matt had been bugging me to go to Las Vegas so he could play some poker and I had been vehemently refusing, since I consider Las Vegas to be the single most boring place on earth. When I saw that OMD was playing House of Blues in Las Vegas, Matt and I struck a deal.

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Just to underscore how NICE Andy McCluskey is….he saw us in the front row (because nerds camp out at the door several hours early to get in first; if you don’t believe me, just look outside a theater the next time a Star Trek movie premiers) and waved, walked over with the microphone and said, “Good to see you both again.” Then he looked at Matt and said, “So she dragged you all the way to Vegas this time?”

I might have gotten so excited during that show that I might have grabbed onto Andy McCluskey’s leg while he was singing. Okay. I did it. I couldn’t help it. I was overwhelmed with nerdness and to do something impulsive and uncool was really the only option.

Flashforward to July 2013.

Of course I didn’t expect him to remember us after 2 years, but because my other encounters had been so awkward and uncomfortable, I couldn’t help but hope this was an opportunity to redeem myself. To be that super cool fan, not the geeked-out spaz that had shown up at the 2 previous shows. This time, I was not going to do anything embarrassing.

I had this.

We hit Continental Midtown before the show. While the lobster mac n’cheese and the jumbo lump crap pad thai were delicious, my favorite part was actually the swinging wicker chairs that were hung from the ceiling. Have a couple of drinks and that’s like a carnival ride!

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Not planning on dessert, we couldn’t refuse when the waitress told us we could get 3, THREE, mini desserts on a try. THREE! A chocolate peanut butter cup, salty pretzels with beer ice cream, and a mini-pineapple upside down cake with toasted coconut ice cream might have been the most perfect end to a meal EVER.

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It was time for the sound check which would be followed by a meet & greet with the band.

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Cute outfit? Check.

Hair that took an hour to look casually tossed? Check.

Heels that I could dance in? Check.

Camera so that I could get a decent photo to replace that grainy iPhone pic? Check.

VIP tickets? Check.

Nerves of steel? Check.

I was ready to go.

By the time we reached the venue, it was raining. I don’t mean a little drizzle, I mean the sky is falling, buckets of rain are pouring, my feet are wet RAINING. And the wind was blowing sideways. Which makes an umbrella pretty ineffective.

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They wouldn’t open the doors and left us all to huddle under a small awning for about 30 minutes.

That was just long enough to get us really wet.

We were given towels when we finally got inside and the staff apologized for not realizing how hard it was raining. Thankfully, we were able to sit in the lobby until the sound check.

Getting to be there for the soundcheck of your favorite band is just short of amazing. You basically get a 4-5 song concert played just for you and about 10 other people while standing just a few feet away from the stage.

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You can only imagine how I felt when Andy McCluskey came on stage and, spotting Matt and I, waved and said, “Hello again. You had to come a little farther north this time, did you?”

The fact that he remembered us was both exhilarating and mortifying. Sure, I was thrilled that we were recognized, but was mortified because I was pretty sure it was because there was no way he could forget that awkward-bizarre-stalkeresque woman that hunted him down in restaurants and clung to his leg as he belted out “If You Leave.”

After the sound check, it was time for our Meet & Greet.

Flight to Philadelphia: 25,000 airmiles.
Hotel Room in Center City: $220
Taxi to Union Transfer: $15
VIP Tickets: $300
Not realizing your shirt was see through until you got home and saw the photo: Priceless.

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Apparently, I am doomed to always be that person who never quite gets it right.

It all ended well enough, despite my wet dog hair and see-through shirt. Matt and I got to chat with Andy, who did remember us. I got my photo. I saw another fantastic show.

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And Andy McCluskey was able to sing If You Leave right in front of me without me grabbing onto his leg once.

But I wanted to.

Once a nerd, always a nerd.

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Posted by vicki_h 09:16 Archived in USA Tagged philadelphia philly omd orchestral_manouevres_in_the_da Comments (2)

Stranded Naked in Abaco

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We should have known better than to plan a trip to the Abacos during a week when there were three, yes….THREE….big beach parties. I can barely keep myself in check when there is just the one Sunday Pig Roast at Nippers. However, the first week in July we found ourselves faced with the Sunday Pig Roast, the Stranded Naked Cheeseburger Party, and the 4th of July Celebration at Nippers.

Oh dear.

I have to apologize in advance to my mom and dad. And to my Granny. All of them will be reading this, trying to figure out what they did wrong all those years ago when they tried to teach me how to behave in public.

I’m sorry.

I did not behave like a lady. I did not use my inside voice. I did not eat my vegetables. I did not wait an hour after eating to get in the pool. I did not wash my hands before I ate. I did not act my age. I took candy from strangers. I talked with food in my mouth. I stayed up after midnight. I ate dessert for breakfast and ran through the house with scissors. I put my feet on the table. I jumped in the ocean without a life jacket. I wore that skirt that was too short.

An no, my face did not freeze that way. I did not catch my death of cold. I did not go blind. I did not fall and crack my head open.

I had the time of my life.

Day One:

The flight down to Abaco never disappoints me. The views from above are nothing short of a miracle of nature.

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I have to start by showing you photos of the trip down. I can’t help it. It’s a compulsion. I always take photos of the flight, the ferry, the plane. I can’t help it. I want you to know how I got there. Otherwise, I can just imagine you, dear reader, sitting in front of your computer screaming, “BUT HOW DID YOU GET FROM THE AIRPORT TO THE FERRY DOCK???? HOW???!!!! Did you take a bus? Did you ride a donkey? Did you hire a pedi-cab? For God’s sakes, I have to know!”

I just can’t do that to you.

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After an easy landing and a quick taxi ride, we found ourselves at Curly Tails with about an hour to spare before the Guana Cay ferry. That should have been enough time for drinks and lunch. Should have.

We had just ordered up some Bahama Mamas to kick off the trip when the 4 horses of the apocalypse came bearing down on us at breakneck speed.

The sky went from this:

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to this:

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in about 10 seconds. In case you don't see it, that is a wall of storm coming right at us.

We were soaked by the time we ran down to the ferry dock and grabbed our luggage. I think I ripped a shoulder muscle as I dragged my too heavy bag up the staircase. Then the power went out. And stayed out. We ran onto the ferry an hour later soaked and starving.

When we got to Guana, we didn’t even unpack or get cleaned up. We just headed straight to Grabbers for some dinner. That’s one of the many things I love about Guana Cay. No one cares if your hair looks like a wet dog and your clothes are a mess. Heck, you don’t even need shoes. Just come as you are.

A chicken-in-da-bag can cure a lot of ills.

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As can meeting a new friend.

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We called it an early night. We were tired and disheveled.

What we didn’t know was that “tired and disheveled” was pretty much going to describe us for the rest of the trip.

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Day two:

Good morning, Guana Cay!

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There is nothing I love more than a long, slow walk on the beach to watch the Guana sunrise.

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It was Sunday, so we made our way to Nippers. Of course we did.

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On every trip to Nippers on a Sunday I swear this will be the Sunday that I behave. It will be the Sunday that I don’t give in when the frozen Nippers start flowing and the young girls start dancing. The Sunday that I don’t have that extra frozen Nipper and find myself front and center, dancing badly, the oldest person in a bikini, singing loudly to the Village People.

That Sunday never seems to come. Before I know it, the Cupid Shuffle is playing and I have that extra Nipper. I pull out all my bad dance moves. I step on people’s feet. I frighten their children. By the end of the afternoon, I feel a need to throw an apology to the universe.

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Things always start off well. I am incredibly well intentioned. We found a table, enjoyed the view and sampled the buffet. We laughed with friends. We made new friends. It was all very civilized.

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But then these guys showed up and all hell broke loose:

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You know it's going to be a memorable afternoon when the patriotic thongs come out.

I know some people find the behavior at Nippers over-the-top. I remember reading one trip report where someone made fun of people dancing that thought they could dance but couldn’t. The way I see it, there is nothing better than a place where a person who dances badly can feel comfortable doing it.

Hello. My name is Vicki. And I am a bad dancer.

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Nippers is a place where those of us who are fairly uptight in our normal lives can let our hair down in a safe setting.

We had fun that day. Fun that I know I am technically too old for, but when those days come along, I find it’s best to just jump in and grab them. One day, they’ll stop coming.

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Somehow, we all made it out the other side intact.

The best end to a day at Nippers is a pizza at Grabbers. So, with the final rays of the setting sun, we ended the night. Sure, we were tired and disheveled, but we had made memories that we wouldn’t forget.

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Day Three:

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Looking forward to a quieter day, we decided to take the boat to north Guana. It was very windy and this seemed like a good way to test the boating conditions before we got overzealous.

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I agree that Bakers Bay is the root of all that is evil on Guana Cay. I would prefer that they had never developed the pristine end of this beautiful island. When I see those beautiful beaches now covered with mega-mansions, it makes my heart hurt. I remember when it was nothing but a blinding stretch of perfect white sand, fringed with palms that waved ever so slightly in the breeze, with the bluest waters of the island lapping gently at the shore.

But Bakers Bay is there now. There’s no stopping it. And I have to admit that I do like the restaurants. They provide a much needed break from bouncing back and forth between Nippers and Grabbers, which we tend to do like a giant, over-carbed volleyball.

On the way to the beach, we stopped at the Conch Shack for lunch.

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This drink was not only delicious, it was gorgeous. Like a little tie-dye cup of happy.

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The shrimp salad was to-die-for good. Giant, plump grilled shrimp on a bed of lettuce drizzled in creamy balsamic goodness and topped with fried onions.

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We wandered around the grounds a bit. After eyeing a dress in their clothing boutique that turned out to be $1050, I started wondering if I was in the Hamptons again and decided it was time to get back on the boat before I started getting an inferiority complex.

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It was too windy to make it all the way around the point so we stopped a bit short and couldn’t have been happier.

It was a slice of heaven.

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This is my favorite thing to do on Guana. Nothing compares to an afternoon spent on a long, deserted stretch of perfect beach, when the water is calm and clear, the colors changing from bright turquoise to cool blue to indigo as the ocean stretches toward the horizon. The boat rocks gently in the water and the soft sounds of the radio fill your head as you do nothing more than float on an endless sea.

It is my perfect moment.

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That evening, we had a potluck of sorts. We met up on the deck and several households brought what they had. We had been given a ridiculous amount of fresh caught fish the day before by some guys that were flying home and didn't want to carry it with them.

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There was grilled fish, peas n’rice, salad, tuna sashimi, and a chocolate concoction that I had managed make with the weird ingredients I had mish-mashed together from the grocery store.

It was so much better than those potluck dinners we used to have at work sometimes, where we always ended up with some overcooked sausage balls, four dishes of baked beans, and weird tuna salad.

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Good-night, Guana.

Day Four:

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The boating had been good the day before, despite the wind and choppy water, so we decided to make it an Elbow Cay kind of day.

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We hit Tahiti Beach right at low tide. Tahiti amazes me because it never looks the same twice. This time it was more blue than green and the sandbar had made an impressive entrance.

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We caught Austin from Lubbers Landing doing his thing. He was amazing on that kite board.

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The guys anchored the boat.

Or so we thought.

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Everyone was wandering about in the shallow water, spread from here to there, when a stranger started waving frantically at me. I was halfway to Tilloo, wading through the shallow water so I couldn't hear what he was saying. He was shouting and jumping up and down.

Because I couldn’t hear what he was saying, and because he looked positively frantic, I jumped to the only logical conclusion: there must be a great white shark behind me.

Holy Crap! I started running toward the sandbar, certain that death was upon me. I was in knee deep water, so this was not a graceful run. I was high stepping it like a drunken drum major. I was going so slow that I might have been going backwards.

I was nearing a panic attack. Not a butterflies in the stomach panic attack. Not a going down a roller coaster panic attack. Not a nervous first date panic attack. No. I felt like I was about to jump into a pit of rattlesnakes while being chased by clowns.

Not funny clowns. The scary kind.

My heart was racing. My breath was pounding. That little vein in my temple even started to throb. I couldn’t move fast enough. I would have simply curled up in the fetal position if it hadn’t been for the fact that I would have drowned. And then gotten eaten by that shark.

Dammit. I KNEW this would eventually happen if I came to the Bahamas enough times.

He was still jumping and waving. I knew the end was near.

That’s when I got close enough to hear him.

He was not shouting, “There’s a big freakin’ shark behind you,” as I was certain he was. No. He was saying, “Is that your boat?”

I was so confused that at first my brain couldn’t process the question.

Shark? Boat? Shark? What?

That’s when I saw a tiny speck on the horizon that I recognized as our boat.

Oh dear God. The panic attack was back. But this time the clowns had machine guns.

Matt and John were REALLY, REALLY far away and I had no idea where Kelley was. Holy hell. I was already exhausted from the shark run. Now I had to run to the other side of the universe to tell them the boat anchor hadn't held and the boat was well on its way to Africa. So now, I was running toward them, still high stepping it through the water, but this time I was the one waving my arms and shouting.

I was like Tattoo from Fantasy Island. “Da boat! Da boat!” I screamed as I flailed and ran. I knew they figured out what was going on when I saw the “Oh shit” look on their faces.

That’s when they started running.

So now, all three of us are running, knees to chin, through the water, screaming. I’m not sure if we thought we could run to the boat, which was now at Lubbers Quarters, but we kept running because we didn’t know what else to do.

By the time we reached the sandbar, we realized a stranger had taken his boat from Tahiti to retrieve our runaway. He was towing it back to us. I have said it before and I will say it again: you won’t find kinder people on any island anywhere than you will in the Abacos.

To the stranger that saved our boat that day: Thank You.

And I am sorry if I scared your little boy when I was running and screaming about sharks and clowns.

The guys got the boat PROPERLY anchored and we resumed our beach day.

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As though giving us a little gift to make up for the Great Boat Chase of July 2013, God provided the Tahiti Beach Hot Tub.

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We found this perfect little spot after wading through the shallow water toward Tilloo. There it was, a perfect circle of white sand in the midst of an endless bed of sea grass. It was about 2 feet deeper in this one spot than the seagrass bed around it.

How unbelievably cool. We made it ours and dropped in to relax with some cold drinks until our fingers pruned.

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All the running and screaming had left me famished, so we loaded up in the boat, which was blessedly still nearby, and motored over to Lubbers Quarters.

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Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better than the saltwater margarita, they had to go and dazzle me with the caipiroska. The recipe says: two muddled limes, organic cane sugar, & 3 oz of Stoli vodka. What it doesn’t say is that she oozes this amazing sugar syrup on the top.

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As we waited for our food, the guys became obsessed with the “around the pole hook and ring game.” I think men just like anything that involves a floor to ceiling pole.

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Or maybe they were just enticed by the free shot of Patron for a successful ring.

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I decided to have the island burger – a ground tuna patty filled with some kind of mysterious spices, so delicious that it makes my mouth water just to think about it. I think they are putting a narcotic in there. Because I’m pretty sure I’d be willing to knock over an old lady or a small child to get at one of those burgers.

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After lunch, we all agreed that the dockside sofa at Lubbers Quarters is the single most perfect spot in all of the Abacos. Maybe in the entire world.

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Back on the boat, which we kissed every time we saw it, thankful it wasn’t in Cuba by now, we motored over to Hopetown to grab a drink at the Reef Bar.

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We were excited to see that Gary was back! The last time we visited, he had moved across the harbor, but it was great to see him back where he belonged.

The Reef Bar just isn’t the Reef Bar without Gary.

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We had enjoyed our lunch at Bakers Bay the day before enough that we decided to try it out for dinner. Okay, we really went because I had packed a maxi dress and where else are you going to wear a maxi dress on Guana????

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The guys were still all jacked up from that free Patron and it was all we could do to keep them in the cart long enough to get to the other side of the island. Random bouts of erratic street dancing kept delaying us.

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We finally made it. I hate to admit how pretty Bakers Bay is, but yeah, it’s pretty. Even at night.

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We grabbed a table outside the Market Restaurant. Only on Guana Cay will you find that the restaurant that comes the closest to “fine dining” is a combo grocery market-deli-restaurant with a table of souvenirs thrown in for good measure. Reminds me of the Video-Tanning-Gas Stations we have back home in TN.

The setting was lovely, the drinks were tasty, and the food was delicious.

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After dinner, we wandered down to the waterside bar. That’s when John spotted the bell.

You know how you can’t help but pop bubble wrap when you see it? That was John with that bell. He was mesmerized. He just couldn’t help but ….…..ring it.

As soon as he did, the bartender said, “All right everybody! This man’s buying a round!” Everyone clapped and she proceeded to go around the bar and take everyone’s order.

$120 worth of drinks later, we knew what the bell was for.

Thank goodness there were only 12 other people at the bar. Dear lord, what if there was a bell at Nipper’s??? You could end up with a second mortgage on your house.

It was worth every penny to see the look of disbelief on John’s face. Every. Penny.

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We managed to make it through the night without Johnny ringing another bell. Actually, he’ll probably never ring another bell. Ever.

Day Five:

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For an island chain that hosts one of the biggest beach parties in the universe EVERY SUNDAY, you’d think there couldn’t be anything too special about simply moving that beach party to a different location and calling it by a different name, right? No, this wasn’t the Nippers Sunday Pig Roast. Today was July 3rd. This was the Stranded Naked Cheeseburger Party.

A small, uninhabited cay just off of Green Turtle has become the host to one of Abacos biggest parties of the year. What began as a few friends grilling up some burgers on the beach has become hundreds of boats, 1200 cheeseburgers, 100 turkey burgers, 450 hot dogs, 450 pounds of french fries, 100 gallons of margaritas, and 100 gallons of rum punch. Throw in some temporary tattoos, hula hoops, a limbo contest, and top it off with some Jimmy Buffet music and you have the annual Stranded Naked Cheeseburger Party on Fiddle Cay.

Did I mention that it is all FREE?

No one is actually naked.

At least I didn’t see them.

It’s just a big beach party and everyone who has a boat is invited.

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We had never been, but we always wanted to go. Just to see what it was all about. We had timed our trip to coincide with the event this time. We were finally going to get stranded naked. The ride over was filled with the beautiful sights we have come to expect from the Sea of Abaco.

When we arrived at Fiddle Cay, I knew quickly that this was no Sunday Pig Roast.

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Crewed yachts were tying up to dingys. Luxury power boats with triple 250s were saddled up beside rental Whalers with 75 hp engines that were jimmied up with duct tape. Hundreds of boats were carefully placing themselves around a deserted island as what looked to be about a thousand people drifted in the shallow water toward the shore.

Pool floats were blown up and set adrift. Tables and chairs were erected in the water and tied down with cement blocks and rope in a manner that would have made McGuyver proud. The smell of grilled beef and boat fuel filled the air as Jimmy Buffet music pumped out of the speakers, competing with a hundred different boat radios. Depending on which way your turned your head, you could listen to Margaritaville, Zac Brown, or Daft Punk. Girls in bikinis strolled through the water with coolers full of beer tied to their waists, men carried gallons of rum punch on boogie boards, beer bongs flowed off the backs of cruisers.

For a people watcher like me, I’d hit the mother lode.

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As we wandered up toward shore to find the cheeseburger line, a guy in a bandana and sunglasses approached me.

"Are you our photographer?" he asked, eyeing my giant camera.

"Um....no," I replied.

"Do you want to be? Meet me at that sign in 9 minutes. I have to go round up some girls in bikinis."

And that, my friends, is how I got commandeered to take the sponsor photos for the Stranded Naked Cheeseburger Party.

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My compensation was excellent: a temporary tattoo, a free tank top, and....the best part....I got to get in the front of the cheeseburger line.

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Walk softly and carry a big camera, I always say.

It was a crazy afternoon, as more and more people arrived. I think I heard one person say that they waited in line for 4 hours for a burger. Drinks flowed. Music pounded. Frisbees and footballs flew through the air. Girls danced on the backs of boats. Kids did backflips in the shallow water. Dogs rolled in the sand.

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I have never seen anything like it.

Oh, dear sweet Jesus, my hair – I was tapping my inner Chewbacca.

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We stayed until late in the afternoon, and as the sun began to drop low in the sky, we saw how much the wind had picked up and realized it was going to be rough going back to Guana. The seas were choppy and rolling. The waves were big. We had an hour long ride.

As we unhitched ourselves from the safety of the giant motor yacht next to us and began rocking to and fro as we motored out of the protected shallow waters, I began to regret eating that hot dog and fries after I finished my hamburger and knew I never should have had those last couple of drinks that stranger was pouring out of a gallon jug. I wondered just how long it would be before I threw up on myself.

Matt gave us all some really good boat advice before we hit it: "Hold on. Don't fall out. And if you have to puke, do it with the wind, not into it. Hang on!"

And away we went. As we hit against the first wave with a smack, raising my butt about 6 inches off the seat as the boat started bouncing violently against the water, I instantly knew this boat ride was going to be awful. It's all fun and games until someone loses a bikini top. Or their last meal.

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Thankfully, we all made it back without anyone getting sick, although I'm pretty sure I had chipped a couple of pieces off of my tailbone.

We had a quiet evening at Pirate's, wolfed down some ribs and lobster, and went to bed thanking the sea for not capsizing our boat.

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Day Six:

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It was July 4th, and although Bahamian Independence Day is celebrated on July 10th, Guana Cay was celebrating Uncle Sam all day long. We knew that Nippers was having a big party later in the afternoon, and we were all still a little rubber legged from the previous day's boating, so we decided to chill at the house for the morning and have a good, old fashioned cook-out for lunch.

First, we made a morning run to see the dream tree. People hang their dreams on this tree.

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Apparently, most peoples' dreams look a lot like dirty mooring balls and bobbers.

We grilled up the rest of the fish for lunch and paired it with a key lime pie we'd found at the Grocery that morning.

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We also found Harrison.

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Typically, I would describe a little boy as noise with some dirt on it. But Harrison might have been the coolest kid I ever met. And the cutest. We thought about making his parents an offer, but we were pretty sure they wouldn't sell him.

After lunch, we stopped at Dive Guana to take a look at a boat that had run up on the rocks earlier in the week. This is called "How to ruin a vacation in 10 seconds flat:"

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Ouch.

Then it was time to head back to Nippers, the scene of Sunday's madness.

You know that old saying about learning from your mistakes? Yeah, well, that doesn’t apply to me so much. I make a lot of mistakes. Like, a lot of them. And every time I do something stupid, I say to myself afterwards, “Self, we are not going to do THAT again.” A couple of days later I do that again. I don't know. Maybe I’m just a really slow learner, and one day I will eventually learn not to repeat my mistakes – like when I’m a hundred.

Or when I’m dead.

I think a better saying for 2 Nippers parties in one week is "Like a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly."

Sigh. Here we go again.

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As it always does, it started off nice enough.

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But then these guys showed up again.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to Nippers.............. the thongs come out again.

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Let's just say there was a lot of patriotic enthusiasm that day.

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Things really took a turn when this huge group of guys showed up with a bunch of scantily clad girls and started buying TRAYS of Nippers and passing them out to everyone. TRAYS, people. TRAYS OF FREE NIPPERS.

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Sweet funky moses.

Apparently, Lindsay Lohan is not the only person spending her fortune on booze and hot pants.

When the 3rd tray of drinks showed up, we knew it was time to get out of there before someone needed a stomach pump. We headed to Grabbers to bring things down a notch.

Steel Daddy was playing and the sun was putting on a dazzling display.

Matt and John did a little paddle boarding and we snacked on some ribs and pizza.

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We headed back to Nippers to catch the fireworks with Harrison.

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Day Seven:

The guys got up really early the next morning to go fishing. The sky was exceptionally gorgeous that morning.

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The sea had been rough all week. And Matt and John had more than their share of those free Nippers the day before. Even a Grabbers pizza couldn't cure a free Nipper hangover.

They looked a little green.

Rough seas, the smell of bait, and a slight hangover did not sound like a good combination to me. They were just asking to get sick. They were both a little worried. "Should we take some Dramamine?" I heard John ask Matt as they headed out.

The feeling of seasickness starts as a distressful lurching in the stomach. Then there is that slight dizziness that comes when you get a nose full of boat fumes wafting through the air. You then find yourself making a heroic effort to force your stomach contents to remain in their rightful place, only to end up leaning over the railing, hoping no one will notice, as you hurl to the sea.

It happens to the best of us and I was pretty sure it was going to happen to one of them before the morning was over.

Poor John. Apparently, he was the one that the vomit fairy paid a visit to that day.

There is no good way to vomit politely on a fishing boat when you are a guest. I am guessing that he first went through a stage of denial. If you've ever been there, you know. That's when you start to feel a little green, but you look at your fishing companions and say, "Wow. I feel really good. Don't you? It's refreshing out here. I love the smell of that bait."

Denial is a bad idea when you are a guest on a boat and you know you are getting seasick. Why? Because what you should be doing is immediately moving into position. The only thing worse than vomiting in front of the other guys on a deep sea fishing trip is vomiting on the other guys on a deep sea fishing trip.

Hopefully, he was smart enough to vomit with, not into, the wind. Releasing your breakfast is bad enough. You don't want it to blow back on you so that you not only get to experience it a second time, but a third.

Despite the fact that he was probably gray and was no doubt wobbling around the boat in a manner that made the other guys wonder if he was about to die, John did what any man would do when seasick on a deep sea fishing trip.

He stopped. He barfed. Then he fished.

A little vomit never stopped a man from fishing. It takes a real man to haul in two giant tuna while tossing his cookies over the side of the boat.

While the guys fished (and vomited), Kelley and I slept in. Then we took a run into town to visit Bear, the dog king of Guana, and to do some shopping at Gone Conchin', a great place to lighten your wallet if it's too heavy for the trip home.

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When the boys returned, we packed up the boat and headed to Man-O-War.

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We pulled the boat into the shallow beach that sits at the narrowest point on the island.

It was amazing. The island is barely the width of the road, with the sea on one side and the ocean on the other.

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Since it was our last day, we had made a picnic lunch of all the food we had leftover. It reminded me of Sunday nights when I was a kid. We ate all the leftovers from the week and called it "FFY Night." This meant "fend for yourself." There was never enough of any one thing to make a meal, so you ended up with a little bit of this and a little bit of that until you had enough to call it a meal.

A bbq rib, half a sandwich, a bite of potato salad, a handful of Doritos, an orange slice, and three Fig Newtons.

With that view, it could have been chateaubriand and creme brulee and it couldn't have tasted any better.

After lunch, we headed into the harbor to visit the sail shop.

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We hadn't gotten 3 steps from the boat when a little golf cart pulled up with a white haired lady and a box full of still warm cinnamon rolls.

Miss Lola!

I greedily handed over my $7 and clutched my still warm rolls like a prize. I think at one point I was stroking the bag and whispering, "my precious...." but I can't be sure.

I can tell you that the rolls got eaten before I remembered to take a picture of them.

Yes. They are that good.

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We enjoyed picturesque Man-O-War before calling it a day and heading back to Guana.

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For our final dinner, we decided to try the reopened restaurant at Orchid Bay. The first thing we noticed was that it had a spectacular sunset view.

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The Greek salad was fresh and the lobster was incredibly tender.

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We wrapped it up with a final Grabber as the lights of the sailboats bobbled about in the harbor.

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Day Eight:

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It had been a full week of overdo. I had eaten enough sugar to put a diabetic into a coma and had more fried food than can be found at the Texas State Fair. I hadn't gotten enough sleep, my rear end had boat sores, and my calves were sore from one too many bad dance moves. I was dehydrated, exhausted, and my pedicure was badly chipped. I probably needed a liver transplant.

Don't worry. I promise to run five miles as soon as I finish typing this paragraph and eat nothing but fruits and vegetables for the next 10 days.

After all, I'm headed back to Abaco in a few weeks.

I gotta' get ready.

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Posted by vicki_h 07:41 Archived in Bahamas Tagged beach island tropical bahamas abaco guana_cay Comments (7)

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