28.05.2016 - 04.06.2016
I have found out there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them” – Mark Twain
It was a cold, gray day in December 2014. Matt and I were drowning our Seasonal Affective Disorder in a pitcher of top shelf margaritas at our favorite Mexican dive. Somehow, the conversation turned to Matt’s 50th birthday. I mean, if you’re already depressed, you may as well dredge up every miserable topic you can think of, right?
Despite the fact that it was still a year and a half away, it was already weighing heavily on his mind.
“Why don’t we plan something fun for your birthday, like when we took all my friends to the Bahamas for my 40th? You should look forward to your birthday, not dread it,” I said, through a mouthful of tortilla chips.
We started visualizing what such a trip could look like….where we would go…..who we would invite….and the more tequila we drank, the more amazing the idea seemed.
Why should he sit at home and bury his head in misery? Instead, we thought about going big and planning the trip of a lifetime.
By the bottom of the pitcher, we had solved all of the world’s problems, had figured out a cure for cancer, and had planned a birthday trip for Matt’s 50th. We had decided to rent a villa on Jost Van Dyke and invite our friends.
With 4 bedrooms, we could invite 3 other couples, but who? How to decide? We loved all of our friends and there were 12 of them.
“Let’s just invite them all and see who can come,” Matt said through the tequila haze.
It was a perfect plan.
What better way to turn 50 than do it with all of your favorite people in paradise?
We invited 12 people.
12 people said “yes.”
This was an unanticipated turn of events.
Of course they all said yes. They have heard us rave about Jost Van Dyke for years.
Jost Van Dyke is simply one of the best places on earth. Not only does it have one of the most famous beach bars in the Caribbean, the Soggy Dollar Bar, a veritable rite of passage for any beach bum, it has TWO of the most famous beach bars in the Caribbean with Foxy’s just a stumble away. Jost Van Dyke is an island of pure magic; a bubble of happiness and perfection, an oasis of sunshine and rainbows fueled by painkillers and rum punch. It is Caribbean utopia.
So that was it, then. We were going. All 14 of us.
We were going to need a bigger house.
Forget all those trust-building exercises where you have to assemble a puzzle together, or fall into one another’s arms with your eyes closed. I cannot imagine a more arduous test of any personal relationships than travelling together to a remote island as a group of 14.
Don’t get me wrong, I have vacationed with all of these people and loved it.
I just wasn’t sure how the dynamics of the ENTIRE UNIVERSE OF PEOPLE I KNOW being in one place at one time would work.
Some of our friends had never even met each other.
Still unsure whether this was lunacy or genius, we booked another house.
God help us.
God help Jost Van Dyke.
It was officially on.
SATURDAY: JOST VAN DYKE RULES.
Never mind that the mean age for this group was just over 50, the “House Rules” for this trip read something like a frat party:
• Wake up smiling every day.
• Remember that drinking rum before 10:00 a.m. makes you a pirate, not an alcoholic.
• Calories do not count on vacation. Anyone who attempts to exercise will be tied up and left as shark food.
• No talking about politics or the election. The first person to bring up Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton gets voted off the island.
• Stay hydrated.
• The least drunk people each day are in charge of looking out for the drunkest people each day.
• You can’t be the drunkest person each day. In the interest of fairness, please take turns. Except Matt. He can be the drunkest person every day.
• This is your vacation. If you need some “me time,” take it. Of course the rest of us will talk about you while you’re gone. We’re not Puritans.
• No passing out in the common rooms of the houses. No one wants to wake up and tiptoe around your drooling, lifeless body.
• If you don’t want to see it on Facebook, don’t do it.
• Yes to drinking games, spontaneous dance-offs, group singing, laughter, snacks, and naps.
• No to arguing, fighting, whining, crying, working, dieting, exercising, or excessive sobriety.
• Have fun.
A list of rules may seem unnecessary for a group of mature adults. This was not, however, a group of MATURE adults.
This was exemplified before our flight even took off as one male member of our party showed up on to the American Airlines gate dressed like a pregnant woman while screaming that Matt was the baby daddy.
Yep. This was going to be a week to remember.
Despite the fact that we had all gotten up at 3:00 a.m. to make our early flights, the mood on the plane was downright joyful.
WE WERE GOING TO JOST VAN DYKE!
We landed on St. Thomas at 11:30 and I sent everyone over to grab their free thimble full of rum while I sent Matt out to find a taxi large enough for 14 people.
He found one all right!
With luggage and bodies crammed into every nook and cranny, we set off for Red Hook.
4 carsick passengers, 7 impatient horn blows, and 23 hairpin turns later, we were dropped off at Duffy’s Love Shack where we hoped to grab a quick bite before catching the 2:30 ferry.
It was going on 1:00, so this seemed possible.
Yes, I wasn't really thinking about "island time."
Despite the fact that there was exactly ONE very slow bartender and ONE even slower waitress, we somehow managed to eat, drink, and get merry in time to catch the ferry.
By the time we arrived on Jost Van Dyke and cleared customs, it was 3:30.
We had been up for 12 hours. We were hot. We were dirty. We were exhausted.
I had rented Escape Villa and Pink House Bougainvillea because I had a large group of people, a very special occasion, and I needed top notch service.
Despite the fact that I paid a hefty sum to rent these 2 houses for a week, I did not get top notch service.
The materials sent to me by the managers for the houses clearly stated that the caretakers would gladly help me provision the houses, accepting delivery of groceries and putting them away. This was one of the reasons I rented these properties.
From the Pink House information packet: Call our General Managers (Franky and Lydia) so they know what your order's delivery schedule is estimated to be. Please confirm with them a pick-up from the dock at Great Harbor and delivery to the villas.
From the Escape Villa information packet: The property managers will arrange to have your groceries picked up at the ferry dock and delivered to Escape Villa and waiting for you upon arrival. You will just have to email the Property Managers with the information and confirm it with them.
However, my repeated emails (which started 4 weeks before our trip), went ignored. When I finally pressed for assistance after 10 days of emailing, the response I received was rather curt:
Two sentences that told me to do it myself. And no explanation about why or alternatives offered.
I envisioned 14 travel weary adults, ready for nothing more than a hot shower and a good meal, arriving to 50 boxes of groceries that needed to be loaded, transported, unloaded, and unpacked.
I appealed to the managers of the houses, sending this mournful plea (I am not too proud to grovel and would have done just about anything at this point): “It will be somewhat difficult to arrive with 14 people and luggage to also pick up boxes of groceries from the dock and transport them to the house on a taxi. If there is any way that this service can be provided, I would appreciate it, otherwise, I suppose we will simply try to do it on our own as best we can.”
I offered to pay extra for the provisioning assistance.
I received one response that said, “Please coordinate this with Lydia.” I received no other response.
Not what you expect for $12,000.
So that is how we arrived: a sweaty, bedraggled group of 14 after 12 hours of travel that were forced to split up so that the women could get all of the luggage to the house alone and start getting it unpacked while the men sat in the sun at the ferry dock and to wait an additional 45 minutes for the ferry with our groceries to arrive, load the groceries onto a taxi, unload them at the house, and then all of us spend 30 minutes putting them away.
At the moment when I was dragging our two fifty pound suitcases up the very steep driveway to the house by myself, I would have paid any amount of money for help. Unfortunately, I wasn’t even offered the opportunity.
To add insult to injury, the caretaker wasn’t even at the house when we arrived. When she finally showed up about 45 minutes later, she spent a scant 5 minutes showing us the house and left. We never heard from her or saw her again during our trip.
Even after I communicated my displeasure with the owner of the houses after our trip – not one word of apology. His response was “We have established relationships with vendors who provide our guest top service. In this case, while you’ve personally had a good experience with Bobby’s, we’ve had dozens that have not and therefore we do not use them anymore. We advised you this was the case and simply stated that you would need to coordinate with them on your own if you didn’t want to use our preferred vendor.”
Seriously???? It’s important to note that NO ONE advised me at any time prior to my arrival (not during the 4 weeks of emails that I continued to send in hopes of some assistance) that they would not help if we used Bobby’s rather than their grocery store of choice. The only communication I received in those 4 weeks were the two sentences that told me to do it myself with no explanation about why.
And frankly, I don’t think it should be their choice to force a guest to use a more expensive grocery store when that guest has a well-established history of good service with another vendor. Just. Incredible.
So….instead of arriving to this:
We arrived to this:
Escape Villa and Pink House?
As a well-travelled individual who has rented many homes on many island in all price ranges……My advice is…
DON’T DO IT.
Stay at White Bay Villas and put the other $10,000 in your pocket. Not only will you be treated well, you’ll have a lot of money left over for painkillers (or for sending your kids to college).
Hours later, we finally had everything put away and everyone got a much needed shower (and a much needed drink!).
The party had gotten derailed. Instead of arriving to paradise, my group had arrived to a carboard box filled hell complete with sweat, tears, and Ritz Crackers that needed to be put away.
As the official Funmeister of Matt’s 50th Birthday, I had to get things back on track. I knew there was only one thing that could make everything right with the world again: SHOTS.
Okay, make that two things:
FOXY’S – BECAUSE EVERYTHING TASTES BETTER WHEN YOU HAVE DUSTY UNDERWEAR HANGING ABOVE YOUR HEAD.
I knew I had been successful when the waitress at Foxy’s came out for the third time to tell us that the pole was necessary to hold the building up and was not, despite our best efforts, put there for dancing.
The party was ON.
SUNDAY: PARADISE DOES HAVE A NAME. IT’S GERTRUDE.
The forecast had called for mostly cloudy with an 80% chance of rain and storms for every day of our trip. I know better than to pay attention to a Caribbean forecast, but, like the rest of you, I can’t help myself.
We all know we do it.
It’s like looking behind the shower curtain when you walk into the bathroom even though you know there isn’t anyone in there. It’s pointless, but you are helpless to stop yourself.
When I woke up that first morning, I thought about that forecast.
After the arrival fiasco the day before, I prayed that we didn’t wake up to gray skies. That was a blow I didn’t think even the Funmeister could pull the group back from.
We woke up to a gloriously perfect White Bay Day.
I was as happy as a pig in the sunshine.
As the official master of ceremonies, I was in charge of the itinerary. (Was this even a question????). I had decided our first day had to be a White Bay Day. We had no plans more aspiring than seeing how long it took to get lounge chair marks on our butts.
The first order of business, however, was collecting 16 free painkillers at the Soggy Dollar Bar.
How do you get 16 FREE painkillers at the Soggy Dollar Bar, you ask? You have extremely awesome friends that purchased them months before on their own trip to Jost Van Dyke.
It also helps if your super nice friends can’t count and accidentally buy you 2 extra so that the Birthday Boy and his master of ceremonies, the Funmeister, can two fist it before it’s even time for lunch.
On the “party end” of White Bay, my favorite base of operations is Gertrude’s. Not only does she have full size reclining chairs, she has “pour your own” rum punch.
My version of Gertrude’s rum punch has enough rum in it to kill a small horse.
Or Gary Busey.
The day was spent drinking copious amounts of rum and alternating between getting pruney in the gin clear water and getting marginally sunburned on a lounge chair in between sporadic bouts of bad dancing.
Lunch found us at Seddy’s One Love downing lobster quesadillas, wings, and the island’s best bushwackers.
That was followed by more dancing and generously giving away all of my chips to two little boys who asked me if they could have them.
With those faces, I would have given them my kidney if they had asked.
Foxy’s Taboo was supposed to be having a Regatta party that afternoon, so we pried ourselves off our chairs and headed that way.
No live music. No dancing. No people. No party.
Although we did find some exceptional cocktails.
Everyone was a little too salty, a little too tired, and a little too lubricated for another party anyway, so we headed back to the house for much needed showers and naps.
Besides, Ivan’s told us they were having an 80s party that night. We needed to rest up.
The plan was to put on some obnoxious 80s-wear and head to Ivan’s where we would do the robot, listen to some Billy Idol, and grab some eats.
As I sent everyone inside to “gear up,” we sent a scout over to see what was going on at Ivan’s. It was only feet from Escape Villa, but we couldn’t hear any music. That seems suspicious.
Apparently, Ivan’s had gotten the same memo Foxy’s Taboo had gotten and the party was not meant to be.
What does a Funmeister do when she has promised a night of 80s fun to 13 adults and has forced them to put on costumes only to find out there is no party?
She makes shots and starts her own party. (Shots are the vacation equivalent of duct tape - they fix EVERYTHING)
What no one knew was that one of our 50 lb suitcases had contained a secret:
The Rockville was 800 watts of musical awesomeness. Who needs a party at Ivan’s when you have the Rockville, an iPod full of 80s tunes, and 14 adults in costumes? Not to mention strobe lights and a fully stocked bar.
It was EPIC.
The party was so good we had strangers wandering up from the beach to join us. We could have charged admission.
It was around 9:00 p.m. when I noticed Matt staring blearily into space while shoveling handfuls of chips into his mouth that I realized I hadn’t thought about dinner when we made the shift in plans. I had 14 adults who had been drinking all day and had no dinner.
I made a quick call to Vinnie at Corsair’s.
“Is it too late to order some pizzas for delivery?” I said in a state of panic. “I have 14 people who need some grease and dough in their bellies STAT!”
Vinnie delivered a stack of pizzas to our door in 30 minutes.
I am pretty sure he should be called Saint Vincent.
MONDAY: BOATS & HOES.
One of Matt’s birthday week requests was to charter a catamaran to take us out a couple of days.
Captain Colin of Jost Van Dyke Scuba had just what we needed: a 42’ catamaran with 1000 square feet of deck space and free rum punch.
Everyone was still felt like Vicki Prince was screaming “Let’s go Crazy!” in their ears, so we started the day slowly, with some much needed boat lounging.
Cpt. Colin took us to the Indians for an incredible snorkel.
This was followed by a nice spread of snacks on the boat.
And rum punch.
That’s pretty much where the civilized portion of the day concluded.
Next stop? Where else do you go once the rum punch starts to flow? The Willy T, of course! (every Funmeister knows that)
This broken down pirate ship just off the beach at Norman Island was definitely the place to let this group get their fun on.
We started off with lunch.
Lunch turned in to drinks.
Drinks turned into…well….I have been instructed not to overshare. I’ll just let you use your imagination.
Let’s just say it made 80’s night look like your grandma’s tea party.
The boat ride back to Jost was uneventful, although we did have one person throwing up off the back of the boat, three passed out in the salon, and one puking into a zip-loc bag.
The Funmeister passed waters around and we managed to get everyone back to Jost Van Dyke intact. Getting them off the boat and onto the dingy and then from the dingy to the dock was an entirely different matter.
No one fell in the water, so we will call it a success.
I sent everyone in for naps and showers, letting them know dinner was at Sidney’s Peace & Love that night.
Sidney’s was a perfect end to the day. The lobsters were HUGE and we made short work of them. All that was left was the carnage.
TUESDAY: THE ULTIMATE F WORD.
I have heard it said that a birthday is nature’s way of telling you to eat more cake.
A FIFTIETH birthday is apparently nature’s way of telling you to drink more rum.
Because that’s what we did.
All day long.
It was Matt’s birthday and we were going to party like it was his birthday.
It was another picture-perfect White Bay Day.
We took up our usual spots at Gertrude’s and soaked it in.
It was a perfect day filled with sunshine and friends, beach ducks, interesting strangers, Seddy’s magic tricks, lobster rolls and spicy wings, and enough rum to pickle a small army.
I wanted Matt’s birthday dinner to be special. The restaurants on Jost are great for a beachy lunch or drinks, but none of them seemed right for a nice birthday dinner. The Sandcastle no longer did dinners on the beach, and the thought of being crammed in their dark cement hole of a restaurant just didn’t feel right for this occasion.
I had gone out on a limb and contacted Liz Henderson of Hendo’s Hideout. Hendo’s was just being built when we had last been on Jost and I remembered it being a beautiful building with a stunning view. The restaurant and bar had just opened 2 months earlier, serving drinks and lunch only.
It was a risky move. We had never even seen the completed restaurant. We had NO IDEA what their food or drinks were like. They didn’t even serve dinner.
But I had a gut feeling and I went with it.
When Liz agreed to do a private dinner party for Matt’s birthday, I was so excited. And nervous. But mostly excited.
Everyone put on their beach best. You’d have never know this group had been moderately intoxicated for 4 days.
At least until the guys put on a pre-dinner concert, but maybe that was because of the birthday shots.
We walked down the beach to Hendo’s, wondering what to expect.
Liz had decorated a beach front table beautifully. We were greeted by delicate starfish and small votives filled with sand.
She immediately took drink orders and we noticed right off that these weren’t your average “White Bay” drinks. It was less rum punch and bushwacker and more passionfruit margarita and champagne cocktail. The drinks tasted as good as they looked.
Champagne buckets arrived, filled with bubbly and ice.
The dinner was getting off to a great start.
Liz had provided a menu in advance and we had sent in our orders the day before, so within minutes of our arrival, we had delicious cocktails and mouth-watering food.
The food. OMG. THE FOOD!
The food was nothing short of amazing. We had lobster with butter lime sauce, BBQ ribs (because every group has the one person that won’t eat seafood!), grilled mahi-mahi with peppers, and a creole snapper that was to DIE FOR.
The champagne flowed. The food was phenomenal. The candles sparkled. The air was filled with the laughter of our friends.
It was perfect.
Liz had knocked it out of the ballpark.
Run, don’t walk, to Hendo’s Hideout the next time you are on Jost Van Dyke. You will thank me.
Our group agreed it was everyone’s favorite meal of the entire trip.
Then it was time to head back to the villa for cake.....by the ocean (I'm sorry. I couldn't help myself).
Matt had specifically requested a chocolate peanut butter cake, so I had made it myself. After drinking rum all day.
Cake mixes should come with "island directions." Kind of like "high altitude directions," but more geared toward simple things that you forget in a slightly altered state like, "First, open the box. Next, cut open the plastic pouch. Then, pour cake mix into a bowl, crack the eggs before putting them in the bowl, do not put the shells in the bowl." That would have been helpful.
I really think it turned out quite nice, complete with “nutter butter sand” and chocolate seashells (and enough candles to start a forest fire).
Then it was time to break out the Rockville and dance the calories away.
Happy Birthday, Matt!
You may be 50, but to me, that just means you are 5 perfect 10’s. (Can I hear a collective “awwwww….,” please?)
WEDNESDAY: RUM SOAKED, SUN SOAKED, AND WELL….JUST SOAKED.
The party hadn’t stopped since we had arrived. Our fun switches had been in the “ON” position for 4 days. I think one of our friends summed it up perfectly when she looked at me the night before and said, “I just realized I have been drinking for 13 hours.”
We needed a break.
We were exhausted.
As luck would have it, this was the one overcast day we had on the entire trip. It was a blessing.
We had booked a second catamaran day with Cpt. Colin.
For a minute, he wasn’t sure if we were the same group he had dropped off 2 days before. We were quiet and subdued.
It was time for a down day.
We decided to put up the sails and sail to Cane Garden Bay on Tortola. This would take a couple of hours and give everyone plenty of time to relax.
When we arrived at Cane Garden Bay, we decided to head to the Callwood Distillery. Matt and I had spent an entire WEEK in a house across the street from the distillery the previous November and had never made it inside.
No one really knows how long the distillery has been in operation, but the Callwood family has been operating it for 200 years after taking it over from the Arundel family.
As the sign demanded, we bellied up to the bar, put down our $1 and sampled 4 shots of their rum, all aged to various degrees.
The 90 proof Arundel cane rum called the “horny rum” was clearly the group favorite.
I’m not sure what that says about our group.
After making some rum purchases, we headed to Myett’s for lunch. We ordered a rainbow variety of frozen drinks, wings, burgers, and sticky-sweet chicken thighs.
Did I mention that we were exhausted?
On the way back to Jost Van Dyke, we passed by Sandy Spit and made a B-Line for Little Jost Van Dyke.
The B-Line Beach Bar, that is.
This little bar sits by itself on a little curve of sand and serves up a delicious drink called the passion confusion. There were even chunks of frozen pineapple floating in there.
We found a birthday message to Matt that had been left by our friends in December.
And we left a message of our own.
Then it was back to the villas for our requisite afternoon siesta.
We headed to Corsairs that night for dinner. While Vinnie’s pizzas are top notch and had really saved our bacon a couple of nights before, the rest of the menu is exceptional and begged to be sampled.
Matt and I had creamy lobster mac n’ cheese and the spicy cioppino with a fresh salad. It was out of this world.
I’m not sure how we had the energy to stop for a drink at Foxy’s before heading home, but we did.
Then it was time to head back and get some sleep, lest we end up looking like this guy:
THURSDAY: STRESS FREE.
So far, we had spent our beach days on what I call the “party end” of White Bay. This is where you will find the Soggy Dollar Bar, an inordinate number of people in straw cowboy hats, and a sea of boats pulled up to the shore. It’s crowded. It’s loud. It’s fun.
But sometimes, you want the quiet end of White Bay. That’s when you park it at Ivan’s Stress Free Bar.
We lined up 14 chairs, mixed up some rum punch, and proceeded to take over the place.
It appeared the “off day” had worked it’s magic and everyone had their groove back.
That was a good thing, because we had a lot of rum to drink in two days.
I guess Ivan’s wasn’t the quite end of the beach anymore.
When the hungries hit, we headed back to Hendo’s for lunch. Dinner had been so great, lunch had to be pretty good.
It was good.
The afternoon was spent doing a whole lot of nothing.
That evening, we all got cleaned up and decided to head to Ivan’s for the Thursday night buffet, because we certainly needed more all-you-can-eat on this trip!
Ivan’s didn’t disappoint and the ladies serves us up some mean chicken and ribs.
We ate enough to send us all into a food coma for the night.
Or was that the rum?
It was getting hard to tell.
FRIDAY: AIN’T NO PARTY LIKE A HATFIELD PARTY, ‘CUZ A HATFIELD PARTY DON’T STOP.
One of our friends had come up with this phrase on a previous trip and it had stuck. Because it was true.
We were good at this.
We had sustained the party for a week with very few down times. Even Vicki the Funmeister was impressed with this group’s stamina.
It was our last day, so we wanted to make it a good one. We decided to stay on “our beach” for the day. We lined up the chairs, blew up the floats, dragged out the paddle boards, anchored the floating mattresses, and turned up the Rockville.
The day was non-stop fun.
We went through every phase of beach drinking that day.
There was the “this is the most fun I have ever had in my life,” phase:
That was followed by the “I love you, man,” phase:
Next up was the “we are amazing dancers,” phase:
Things started to wind down with the “I've fallen....and I can't get up,” phase:
And finally, the, “let’s just take a nap,” phase:
With one dinner left, we let Matt pick where he wanted his last meal on the island.
Of course he picked Sidney’s Peace & Love for another monster lobster. He is painfully addicted to their potato salad.
Before we knew it, we were hanging up our own shirt at Foxy's and taking our last sleep on the birthday island.
22.04.2016 - 25.04.2016
Matt and I have made it a tradition to go somewhere unique for our anniversary.
Some years, it’s somewhere tropical like Jost Van Dyke.
Other years, we stick to romantic places like Savannah or the Banner Elk Winery in Blowing Rock.
And don’t forget the time I made him go “glamping” in the woods.
Last year’s glamping experience was so enjoyable, I decided to take it to an entirely new level, and by new level, I mean about 20 feet up.
This year I found the ultimate anniversary getaway.
The day I ran across an Airbnb ad for this treehouse in the middle of Atlanta, GA…I knew I needed this treehouse in my life:
Maybe I read Swiss Family Robinson too many times as a child, but sleeping in a tree that had all the comforts of home seemed like the ultimate romantic getaway to me.
I will admit I worried a little. I have read some Airbnb horror stories like the one about the guy that rented a house only to have some huge Russian show up in the middle of the night asking him what the hell he was doing in his house and threatening to crush him. Seriously, that’s not only a good way to ruin a weekend, it’s a good way to ruin a perfectly good pair of underpants.
While reasonably confident that this was, indeed, a romantic, lovely treehouse in Atlanta, there was a small, secret part of me that worried it was actually nothing more than an oddly elevated shed that looked out over some guy’s lawn and his kid’s trampoline.
Those twinkling fairy lights had me, though. I was willing to chance it. If the treehouse was even half as adorable in reality as it was in those photos, it was going to be worth it.
It was a beautiful spring afternoon and we found ourselves travelling down busy Howell Mill Rd. in Buckhead. The GPS said our destination was less than a mile away.
Could this be right?
The treehouses looked like they were in the middle of nowhere in the photos, and here we were in the middle of Friday afternoon rush hour in Atlanta.
As we passed a strip mall with a PetCo and a Chipotle, the GPS said we were only .5 mile away.
Had I made a mistake?
Was our magical treehouse adventure going to be nothing more than a garden shed on stilts overlooking I-75?
Suddenly, we found ourselves turning into a beautiful, residential neighborhood, one filled with huge trees and lush green lawns. We crept through the quiet streets and came to a long driveway that took us back into the woods.
Within seconds, we were literally transported from the hustle and bustle of Buckhead to the quiet of an urban forest.
It was extraordinary.
It was as though Peter and Katie Bahouth had created a portal to another dimension rather than simply build a treehouse in the woods surrounding their Buckhead home. A dimension that was darkly lush and green and filled with the sounds of a hundred birds.
The treehouse was nestled in the woods in the heart of Buckhead, but it was as removed from the City as a country retreat would have been. It was made up of three different structures connected by swinging rope bridges and decorated with dainty white lights.
The first structure was a living room complete with a chandelier and 80 year old windows with pressed butterflies and a balcony overlooking the forest. A basket had been left for us filled with chilled water, snacks, and wine.
The middle structure was an uber romantic bedroom with gauzy white curtains and a super soft double bed that could be rolled out onto a platform to sleep under the stars. It was like walking into an Anthropologie catalog.
The third structure was a deck that wrapped around the “Old Man,” an 80+ year old massive pine tree. There was even a hammock for afternoon naps.
I was instantly enchanted.
I couldn’t believe all of this was ours for the weekend.
We immediately popped open the wine and celebrated our good fortune.
“To 16 years!” We shouted, the Old Man nodding approval from above.
We had late dinner reservations at The Local Three. Who could resist a restaurant with the following philosophy:
“People Matter Most, Local Is Priority, Seasonal Makes Sense, Authenticity Rules, Quality Governs, Delicious Trumps, Pretense Stinks, Comfort Feels Good, Appreciation Tastes Better, Prudence Sustains It All.”
I knew that Local Three was located in an office building, so I wasn't expecting the location to be very dazzling. What they failed to mention was that it was a gorgeous Tuscan inspired office building, complete with manicured lawns and a giant villa towering in the background.
We ran around for a moment, doing our best Taylor Swift video impression. What I really needed was a vintage convertible and a golf club.
We had reserved the Chef’s Table. Not your standard Chef’s Table, the Local Three puts a private table right in the kitchen, where you can be front and center to all of the action. We were shown to our table, decorated romantically with mason jar candles and a special menu that was a tribute to the late Prince, who had died just the day before.
Their goal is to provide you food and wine pairings until you cry “Mercy!”
I knew it was going to be good when the first question our server asked us was, “Do you have someone who can drive you home? If not, I can get you the number for a taxi before we get started.”
The evening began with a toast with some bubbly, Le Dolci Collini Prosecco.
Then the onslaught began.
The first course was “OOH, THIS YOU NEED.” I did need it. It was the “O.G.” Truffle Parmesan Popcorn. I was pretty sure “O.G.” stood for “Oh, goodness….” Because that’s what I kept saying as I ate it.
The popcorn course (I think all meals should have a popcorn course, frankly) was followed by the “RASPBERRY BERET.” This was a beautiful salad of Atlanta Harvest greens topped with radish and basil and the most tender, salty slivers of country ham imaginable. This was paired with a Beckstoffer “Hogwash” Rose.
Next up was “IF I LOVE U 2 NITE.” This was ahi tuna with papaya, avocado, coconut, macadamia, and sesame paired with Gianni Gagliardo Fallegro Favorita.
And the dishes kept coming.
So did the wine.
The fourth course was “HOT THING,” grilled asparagus with parmesan, chopped egg, and sourdough paired with a William Fevre Champs Royaux Chardonnay.
Because Matt is not a huge fan of bubbly, rose, or white wines, I had been finishing his as well as mine, and I had been significantly overserved by this point.
I had no intention of crying “Mercy!” Mercy is for wimps.
I powered on.
The fifth course, “TILEFISH & COFFEE,” was a delicious serving of fish with fingerling potatoes flavored with fennel, kale, and sour cherry paired with an Andre Dupuis Bourgogne Pinot Noir.
Still not ready to throw in the towel, we dove into the sixth course, “LITTLE RED CUTLET,” a rare prime strip with spring onions, barley, carrots and peppercorn, paired with a Justin Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon.
Course seven (YES….SEVEN!!!) was “CREAM,” a cheese plate that included 4 delightful selections along with flatbread, jam, and honey. This was paired with Turley “Juvenile” Zinfindel.
Just as we were about to cry, “MERCY!” they brought out the “CHOCOLATE INVASION,” so instead, we cried “Merci!” and gobbled down the sweet, creamy torte that came with a shot of Buffalo Trace bourbon cream.
I wasn’t crying mercy, but I was crying, “Lord have Mercy,” which in southern speak is the phrase you use when something is just so unbelievable that there are simply no other words that will do. It is also important to note that one must always shake her head 'No' while saying it in order to get the full effect.
Because I drank all of my wine and half of Matt’s, we did not need help driving back to the treehouse, but Matt might have needed help getting me up across that rope ladder.
It was a cool April night and the cozy bed was heated, so we snuggled in, wondering what sleeping in a treehouse would be like.
I’ll tell you what it was like. Instead of being in a hotel trying repeatedly to get the curtains to shut all the way so the lights from outside didn’t seep in while we slept and listening to the guy in the next room flush his toilet, we were in a quiet forest, cocooned in a canopy of green with nothing to disturb the silence other than the occasional frog down by the babbling creek below.
Yeah, it was good.
We woke up the next morning and found it hard to get out of bed. No, that wasn’t the wine talking, it was just that cozy. The bed was crazy soft and warm (can you say "heated mattress pad?)," like a little nest. We could hear the birds softly twittering in the trees. I never wanted to move.
At least until I heard Peter’s little bell. That meant coffee! I'll move for coffee. Hell, I would have jumped up and swung through the trees Tarzan-style for coffee.
I fetched our little basket and it was filled with a thermos of hot coffee for me, sugar, cream, and a thermos of hot water with cocoa for Matt.
We could have eaten one of the nice granola bars that Peter had left for us in our snack box from the day before, but, thanks to my wine stupor the night before, I had forgotten to latch them in the plastic bin, as Peter suggested. I found them hidden under the sofa with suspicious chew marks on them and decided they were best left for the squirrels.
No matter. We had breakfast plans that included a significant tally of fat and carbohydrates, so I really didn’t want to ruin my appetite with a granola bar anyway.
After a peaceful morning in the treehouse, we made our way into the bustle of the City and headed straight for Buttermilk Kitchen. Open only for breakfast and lunch, Buttermilk Kitchen is the vision of Suzanne Vizethann whose mission is to nurture people through food using sustainable, local ingredients. Almost everything in her kitchen is made in-house from scratch and it shows.
Matt must have been hungry. This is all his: caramelized banana oatmeal, grits topped with over easy eggs, and just in case that wasn’t enough, a side of bacon.
I simply went for the fried chicken biscuit with cheese grits and a tasty little side of bread and butter pickles.
We spent the day shopping our way through Buckhead, which was super awesome, except for the 45 minutes I was tortured inside The Fish Hawk, a giant fishing store that made me feel like I was trapped in a Turkish prison with no chance of escape unless I could figure out how to hang myself with some fishing line.
I suppose Matt can only do so much shoe shopping.
When the hungries hit, we made our way to Antico Pizza Napoletana in Atlanta. This place was nothing to look at, but it is known as the best pizza in Atlanta. We entered the spartan, warehouse-like building and found ourselves ordering at the counter, being given a number, and then wandering to the back, which was filled with family-style picnic tables that overlooked the pizza making operation. Stacks of San Marzano D.O.P. tomatoes, bags of 00 flour, and pizza boxes rising to the ceiling flanked the walls. A wood fired oven glowed in the back, while several men tossed pizza crusts in the air.
We watched as our pizza was tossed, spread, sprinkled, and baked. The finished product was shuffled from the oven onto an aluminum cookie sheet lined with paper and placed rather unceremoniously in front of us with a roll of rough brown paper towels.
How was the pizza?
The crust was crisp and blistered from a mere two minutes in the oven. A zesty sauce was scantily smeared on and topped with gooey fresh buffalo mozzarella. A few leaves of basil and a little drizzle of olive oil transformed it into perfection.
We took our pizza bellies back to the treehouse for a nap under the rustling leaves.
We had dinner plans that evening with friends who live in Atlanta, so we dragged ourselves out of the cushy bed and spruced up a little.
NOTE: Stilettos and rope ladders do not mix.
Our friends took us to Cape Dutch, a newer restaurant on the Atlanta dining scene with an South African flair and warmly sophisticated décor.
The “thing to order,” I was told, was the braai, a South African grill.
After an appetizer of tuna that was as beautiful as it was delicious, I dove into the braai filet mignon and a side of crispy perfect fries.
Then it was back to the treehouse for another peaceful night.
We rolled the bed out on the platform so that we could sleep under the stars.
After sleeping in as long as we possibly could, we enjoyed another coffee basket and said our goodbyes to the treehouse.
We waved “farewell” to the Old Man as we headed to West Egg to grab some breakfast.
Apparently, everyone else headed to West Egg at the same time, so there was a bit of a wait.
Waiting makes us hungry, so we felt justified when we ordered 3 breakfasts for 2 people:
A stack of sour cream pancakes with spiced honey butter to share as well as the eggs benedict for Matt and the Peachtree Plate for me. The Peachtree Plate was loaded with eggs, a biscuit, bacon, cheese grits, and fried green tomatoes.
We remembered what our moms told us about starving children and made sure we ate every single bite.
We spent another day shopping before heading to Alpharetta for the night.
Aside from the fact that I GREW UP THERE, we had concert tickets for Van Morrison that night.
Sure, Alpharetta is all “big city” now and is simply considered an extension of Atlanta, but I remember it “back in the day” when the only place to eat out was the Dixie Diner and we were super excited to get our first fast food place, nearly going out of our minds when we got a Hardee’s.
Alpharetta may have on her city slicker pants these days, but to me, she’s still just a simple girl in overalls.
I made Matt do the obligatory “drive by my old house” before we made our way to Pure Tacqueria, our favorite place to grab dinner before a show at the amphitheater.
Housed in what’s left of an abandoned 1920’s Pure Fuel Oil Station, this little restaurant serves up strong margaritas and stellar tacos.
After a fantastic meal (and that’s not just the tequila talking!), we headed to the amphitheater.
Matt, a man who has never been able to properly keep his personal taste within his own age demographic, LOVES Van Morrison. Since the early 60s, Van Morrison has been churning out music that could be called anything from soulful to jazzy to blues-rock to folk music.
If you don’t think you know Van Morrison’s music, you do. Think Brown Eyed Girl, Dancing in the Moonlight, and Crazy Love. Try watching a movie and not hearing at least one Van Morrison song on the soundtrack.
With “Van the Man” being 70 years old and doing very limited performances in the US, I knew this might be Matt’s one and only chance to see him live, so I had gotten him 4th row center tickets for our anniversary.
I think it was everything he hoped it would be.
After a final breakfast at our old standby, The Flying Biscuit (yes, I ate everything in that picture), it was time to head home.
We have 16 years under our belt. I hope the next 16 are as amazing as these have been.
Here’s to us!
08.04.2016 - 11.04.2016
Now that we have our own little place on Guana Cay, we run down every chance we get. When we recently had an opportunity to head down for a long weekend with use of a free airplane, we jumped at the opportunity even though it was only a few short days.
Sure, we had only been back from Honduras for 7 days, but FREE AIRPLANE PEOPLE.
I wasn't going to let a little thing like "responsibilities" get in the way of a free ride.
Literally a hop, skip, and a jump (okay, more like a 4 hour flight….but STILL….so easy) and we were climbing off the plane at the Marsh Harbour airport.
Having our own boat on Marsh Harbour has made arrivals a little easier. I love grabbing a taxi and having it take us to our own boat rather than the ferry dock. This beats trying to coordinate my arrival with the Albury Ferry. Not that I don’t love the Albury Ferry, but not having to adhere to a particular arrival time is so liberating.
Instead of arriving to get to a ferry, wait for a ferry, and take a ferry to Scotland Cay for a stop before proceeding on to Guana Cay, we found ourselves tossing our luggage onto our boat and making a B-line for Lubbers Landing. There was plenty of time to get to Guana and unpack later. Right now, it was time for saltwater margaritas.
Although, if I am completely honest, this really set off my OCD alarm. I am a “get there, unpack, get organized before you do anything fun” kind of gal. Running off to have fun first was like eating dessert before dinner.
Although, with proper therapy, I think I can get used to it.
How can anyone possibly need this much luggage? We looked like we were moving to Cambodia for a year, not spending a weekend in Abaco. It’s amazing what not having to go through TSA or pay for baggage does to one’s packing.
“Do I need an unabridged copy of War and Peace? Maybe. Let’s throw it in. What about that box of live pigeons? Those might come in handy. I may need this ball gown. Better to be safe than sorry.”
Once we had our 19 bags stowed, we were on our way.
OCD alarm be damned. It was liberating to have the breeze blowing in my hair while holding a hastily made boat drink in my hand within minutes of landing.
It was Friday and our destination was Pizza Night at Lubbers Landing.
We had put in our required order the day before, because nothing is worse than showing up on Pizza Night without being expected only to discover that you have to let Austin know the day before so he can make the dough.
The pizza oven was already fired up and getting ready for the night’s festivities when we arrived. We ordered drinks and sank into the cushy sofa, letting the peace of Lubbers Landing sink into our bones. Austin and Amy have created an oasis of happy at Lubbers Landing and we have found no better way to kick-start our vacations in Abaco than with a cold drink at their breezy bar.
Sometimes, you need a lot of margaritas.
Before long, Austin was tossing our dough in the air with more skill than a Harlem Globetrotter handles a basketball. When he asked us what we wanted on our pizza, we wisely deferred to his expert judgment and found ourselves faced with an Austin Special: savory salami and pepperoni, red onions, rosemary, banana peppers, and just a hint of Lubber’s magic.
The pizza was so good that I found myself throwing up a “Mamma Mia” to the pepperoni gods and finding myself wanting to lead everyone in a rousing chorus of “That’s Amore.”
We made it to Guana Cay just as the sun was setting.
I couldn’t wait to get to Bikini Hut. (That’s not just the OCD talking)
I’m still adjusting to the difference in arriving to your own house vs. arriving to a vacation rental. Bikini Hut is my haven and I am so happy every time I walk inside. It is my perfect cozy nest and I couldn’t wait to settle in.
It was the same feeling I get when I have been away from home for a while and I return and the smell and feel of “my home” hits me square in the face. Bikini Hut changed everything.
I was able to get us unpacked before the heart palpitations started and marveled at how wonderful it was to drift off to sleep in my own bed.
We had agreed to get the boat out for this trip so that meant this trip was more about fun and less about work.
I started my morning off with a walk on the beach. We had left the dogs at home due to the “last minuteness” of the trip, and I had to admit that walking on the beach is simply not the same experience without those two bumbling furballs running into my ankles, digging stupid holes and getting sand up their noses, and running enthusiastically ahead of me, turning around every few seconds to make sure I was still coming.
Yeah, I missed them.
After my beach walk, I took a walk around the neighborhood. This meant I walked across the street and checked out the Island Flavors menu board, strolled out onto one of the many docks across the street to peek at the water, and nodded “good morning” to Milo at his fruit stand. The neighborhood walk took about 30 seconds.
I headed back to Bikini Hut.
Apparently, Bikini Hut was an actual bikini store at some point in its 100-year history and the house came with this old sign buried inside. We assumed it was probably the sign for the original bikini store and decided to keep it. Matt thought it would be cute to hang it up outside on the cistern building.
At the time, we did not realize this would have unintended consequences.
I was milling around the kitchen when a stranger walked through the front door and into the house.
It is important to note here that I am socially awkward. There is something about interacting with others that makes me feel itchy and hot and leaves me struggling for meaningful conversation while simultaneously scanning the room for the nearest exit. I have accepted this about myself after years of awkward mingling and tripping over nothing on sidewalks.
This moment would have been a difficult encounter for me if I had actually invited this woman to my house and knew who she was. Having a stranger in my house and having no idea why she was there was pushing me to my limits of mental stability. My hands instantly became clammy as I tried to figure out what to say.
However, she was a lovely lady, nicely dressed and very polite, so I wasn’t alarmed in a “fear of danger” way. Instead, my “social alarm” was pinging, thinking that I had invited someone over and had not only forgotten the invitation, but had forgotten who they were.
When she saw me she said, “Good morning. I just wanted to see the place.”
It is important to note here that I have corresponded with a number of people I have never actually met through the Abaco Forum and through this blog, so I simply assumed this was someone that had told me they’d love to stop by and see the changes to the house sometime and I had encouraged them to do so.
Despite my proclivity for social evasion, I am a Southern Woman. This creates an internal struggle when interacting with others. My “tell them to go away” battles with my “invite them in and give them a casserole.” We tell people to “Come on by anytime.” It’s what we are raised to do whether we mean it or not.
That is why I looked at this stranger standing in my house and said, “Feel free to look around.”
Which made things really weird.
It started to get strange when she started looking around more intently than I would expect, like she was looking for something.
The clammy hands were joined by a tight feeling in my chest. Something was off. I was trying to think of something reasonably appropriate to say. Obviously, shouting, “Who sent you??? What do you want with me???? Are they watching??” would make me look mentally unstable, so I just said nothing.
“Is this everything you have or is there more in the back?” she asked.
I wasn’t sure how to respond. Obviously, she was not as enthralled with my remodeling efforts as I was and felt I should have more things decorating the place.
Still thinking she must be here to see the Bikini Hut remodel because my mind simply could not come up with an alternative, I said, “Well, the kitchen and bedroom are back there. Feel free to take a peek.”
This just made things weirder.
She looked puzzled.
I looked puzzled.
She stared at me in silence.
I stared back.
We stood and stared at each other for a moment, both of us knowing something was amiss and trying politely to figure out what the hell was going on when she courteously asked, “Is this all you have for sale or are there swimsuits?”
Life is filled with awkward moments. This wasn’t Steve-Harvey-Crowning-the-Wrong-Miss-Universe-On-Television awkward, and it probably didn’t rank up there with the time one of my friends woke up naked in a stranger’s house only to find out that the man she accompanied there the night before didn’t live there, was gone, and had her clothes, but in my book, it was right up there with being in an elevator with a stranger who audibly farts or trying repeatedly to get in your car in a parking lot only to realize your car is the one 2 rows over.
Unfortunately, she was standing in my living room, so I couldn’t just pretend I didn’t notice her or casually run in the opposite direction. I found myself looking around for the hidden cameras, hoping this was just a huge prank.
I thought back to my mom and all those times she said not to let strangers in the house. So THIS was what she was talking about. I should have listened.
It was like being trapped in this recurring dream I have where I walk up to a yard sale and start nonchalantly looking at items only to discover it’s not a yard sale, it’s just a messy yard. Only in this dream, I was the yard sale.
I tried to figure out how to extricate myself from the situation without appearing rude or insane. Obviously, screaming and running out the back door was not an option. I considered crawling under my dining table and pretending it was a fort, because nothing bad ever happens in a fort, but that would not solve the problem because there would still be a stranger in my living room asking me for swimsuits.
I was going to have to deal with this very uncomfortable situation before she started looking through my dresser for some swimwear to take home.
It was then that I thought about the sign.
The Bikini Hut sign.
The one that said, “Swimsuits and More!”
She thought I was a retail store.
This certainly didn’t make the situation any less uncomfortable, because I knew once I responded, she would be embarrassed. Then I would be embarrassed because she was embarrassed. Then we would still be standing there, facing each other in a never ending spiral of embarrassment and misery, with no clear way to end the encounter unless a sinkhole suddenly opened up in the floor and swallowed us both.
I thought about quickly pretending my iPad was a credit card swiper and selling her something from my coffee table, but I knew I was just going to have to embrace the uneasiness of this moment in all its putrid glory because she still had not realized what was going on and was looking to me for clarification of where the retail racks could be found.
I bumbled through an awkward explanation about how this was my house, not a store, and how the sign was an old sign from when the house WAS a store……. after which she apologized, fled, and sprinted down the street.
I probably could have salvaged the encounter if I had normal human social skills instead of communicating like I was raised by a family of cats.
I cursed that sign and went about my morning. I put it out of my head.
It was a calm day without much wind and lots of sunshine, so we decided to take friends who were on island all the way to Pete’s Pub. The added stress of running a retail store on Front Street had made for a long morning, so we were all eager to get there and get our lunch on, so we made straight for Little Harbour.
The day was gorgeous as we “oooooed” and “aaaaahed” our way south.
The cherry on top of the trip was a double greeting by two spotted eagle rays as we pulled up to the dock.
I took this as a sign that all of the calamities of the day had passed and the rest of the day would be nothing but sunshine and unicorns.
Which is pretty much the same as sunshine and unicorns. Rum is just dream flavored water, I always say.
Pete’s Pub serves some of the best fish in the Abacos. We enjoyed some spectacular fish sandwiches with their always amazing peas & rice and walnut cole slaw before hitting the water to cool off.
I will say, though, I am puzzled by the paper towels at Pete's. Is it a paper towel? Is it a toilet paper roll? Under normal circumstances this would not be an issue, but after a few Blasters, it's creates quite the mental conundrum.
As we pulled out of Little Harbour, a pod of dolphins put on a spectacular display for us. This day really was sunshine and rainbows, wasn’t it?
We kept the good times going by stopping at one of the small uninhabited cays for beach drinks. It was a sun-filled, fun-filled afternoon.
And then we got the boat stuck on a sandbar in Tilloo Pond. No worries, the guys pushed us off and the fun continued.
We were on top of the world!
And then the boat quick working.
I have always heard that bad things come in threes. I guess we had our three.
The good news? We were right outside Orchid Bay marina, it wasn’t quite dark yet, and this meant our bad things were over for the trip! Right?
We limped the boat in, tied her off, and went to drown our sorrows with ribs and cheesecake at Sunsetters.
It was a beautiful morning on Guana Cay.
People were streaming onto the island for Sunday Funday. Arriving by boat, ferry, or crawling out of their villas, they were pouring down the street. It was going to be a lively day.
Matt went to cry on his boat for a while, so I kicked back at the house.
I came out of the bathroom to find a strange woman in my den looking at my Tommy Bahama candles.
I wish I was joking.
After I ran her off with a pool noodle I spent the rest of the morning painting over that sign.
With only 2 full days on the island, we had to use part of Sunday Funday as Boat Day. Unfortunately, our fuel pump was out, so our boat was FINISHED.
Thankfully, our friends had their boat, so we piled in and headed for the lagoon.
This spot never disappoints and the day was no exception. We pulled out the snacks, mixed up the drinks, and did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.
It was Sunday Funday at Nippers, however, so we couldn’t spend all day luxuriating in the sunshine in the peace and quiet. It is a condition of vacationing with Vicki that at least a portion of each Sunday be spent at Nippers.
I can’t help but love the colorful atmosphere, the amazing views, and the fun music.
Okay, I really love the Nippers. Who am I trying to fool?
Unfortunately, my alter ego, Bad Dancer Vicki, seems to come out every time I am at Nippers no matter how honorable my intentions are.
I’m afraid that I am the reason you can’t take your kids to Nippers after 3:00 p.m.
Nippers transforms me from this:
In time honored tradition, we moved the party from Nippers to Grabbers in the late afternoon for some sustenance. Despite the delicious pasta, buffalo wings, and pizza…..apparently, all I wanted were some Doritos.
Sometimes you just really need some Doritos.
Like a flash, it was over.
It no longer makes me sad when I leave, though.
I’ll be back before you can say, "Do you have any swimsuits for sale?"
Until next time, Bikini Hut!
The Bay Islands of Honduras
02.04.2016 - 02.04.2016
As I sat on the deck of Brisa del Mar, rubbing K2’s ears in the morning breeze, I couldn’t believe it was time to leave. Our time on Little Cay and Roatan had been spectacular.
However, there was still one thing eating at me.
No, not the intestinal bacteria that was setting up housekeeping in my abdomen…..
I wanted to kayak out and snorkel that reef.
It was a clear, calm morning, so we had Fausto put in the kayak. We eyeballed the buoys from shore and made our way out to them. We found them easily this time and enjoyed a leisurely snorkel along the pristine reef before facing the inevitable task of packing to leave.
The staff drove us back to the airport where we spent several hours waiting in various hot lines to leave.
At 2:00 p.m., we boarded our Delta flight to head to Atlanta, where we would have an overnight layover before flying home to Knoxville.
As I sat on the plane, I reflected back over the past week. It had truly been amazing. While Roatan and Utila would not make my list for favorite islands, not even close really, the trip itself was one of my favorites we had ever taken. It was hard to explain.
I was basking in warm thoughts of sloth hugging and gentle seas when the first pain hit. Within minutes, I felt like that thing from Alien was about to burst forth from my abdomen.
I cringed in pain as the chills started. My teeth started to chatter as I shook violently.
Matt felt me shivering uncontrollably next to him and asked if I was okay. I shook my head slowly, knowing that a coach seat on an airplane flying 3 hours over the Gulf of Mexico was the worst conceivable location to be sick.
He got me several blankets, but I couldn’t get the shaking to stop.
An hour later, I was shivering, my stomach hurt in a way that can only be described as hellish, and I was sick, sick, sick.
I just knew it was malaria.
I knew I hadn’t used enough Deet. I had gotten exactly 4 mosquito bites during the week and I was trying to figure out exactly which one of the four had infected me.
Two hours of extreme misery later, we made it to the Atlanta airport. By this time, I was in so much agony, Matt had to get me off the plane in a wheelchair. I felt sorry for him as he pushed a wheelchair loaded with me, a suitcase, and my heavy tote with one hand, carried his backpack on his back, and pulled the other suitcase behind him with the other hand.
Customs was at least 17 miles from the gate.
I wish I was joking.
We walked for 30 minutes before we finally reached the area for customs. They put us in the “special needs” line, but even that took a good 20 minutes, all the while I kept looking at Matt and saying, “I need to go to the hospital.”
I guess the blessing, if you can call anything about food poisoning on an airplane a blessing, was twofold:
1) It took so long to get off the plane, to customs, and through customs, that I could tell I wasn’t getting any worse. I realized I did not, in fact, have malaria, and appeared to have a really bad case of food poisoning. The cramps were getting farther apart. I decided to wait it out instead of going to the hospital.
2) We had an overnight layover, which meant I didn’t have to get on another plane; this was good, because I couldn’t have that night.
We grabbed a cab to our hotel. I thought I would die in the cab, but somehow I didn’t. When we got to our room, Matt had 2 additional down comforters brought up and bundled me in them. I finally stopped shivering after about an hour and the cramping eased off after several hours.
Sure, it wasn’t the best end to the trip and, even though it has been five days, my stomach still isn’t right, but if you asked me if I’d do the trip again knowing how it would end, I would say “yes.”
It’s the risk you take when you travel, and to me, it was worth it.
The trip was amazing and I wouldn’t trade a second of it. Utila and Roatan might not have had countless pristine beaches or luxury restaurants, but it had a quality that drew me in and makes me want to go back.
I might think more carefully about what I eat next time though……
Ro-ro-ro-atan…gently by the sea…merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily…life is but a dream.