A Travellerspoint blog

Beached on Beautiful Bequia

Bequia isn’t for everyone.

At only 7 square miles, it’s pretty small….only some 6 miles long and 2 miles at its widest. This tiny island in the Grenadines isn’t as beautiful as some other islands in the Caribbean. It definitely isn’t as luxurious. It certainly isn’t the easiest to get to.

And don’t even get me started on the giant snakes that hang out in the trees on the beach.

But…there was something about this sleepy little island that reeled us in. It was like a soothing balm to our high strung nerves. Bequia was a happy accident.

We didn’t know much about Bequia when we decided to make it our “off Guana” trip for 2019. I can’t even really tell you how we decided to go other than Matt saying he wanted to go somewhere he’d never been, and post-Irma, choices were limited.

Bequia kept popping up in my searches. One article described it as “the Caribbean as it once was,” another “the Caribbean’s best kept secret.” It seemed very laid back, less polished, more authentic. It was also hard to find much information about. I am accustomed to planning out every detail of our vacations well in advance using the information I can find online. When I tried to do that with Bequia, I didn’t have much luck. Partly because of the lack of information online, but I now also know it was partly because of the way things work down there.

I tried to schedule a day trip on a boat and the proprietor actually laughed. I got an email response saying "So early! Relax. Text me when you come. We’ll see what days we are going.” In Vicki-speak, she might has well have said, “Go stick your head in an oven and leave it there until it explodes.”

Bequia was described as small, authentic, and off the beaten track. I quickly discovered that being removed from the mainstream also meant being removed from any easy way to get there. Yet, somehow, after browsing a dozen or so islands, we decided to go to this tiny island that we couldn’t find much information about, that was going to take us 2 days to get to, and that we weren’t even sure how to pronounce.

“Beck-wee-ah?” Matt said.

“Bek-way.” I responded. “We’re going to Bek-way.”

We were going to Bequia.


Day 1:

Or was it day 2? We had left Knoxville the previous day, flying to Miami (on Matt’s birthday, no less) and arriving at 10:00 p.m. with just enough time to celebrate his birthday in style and get a few hours of sleep before getting up the next morning to fly to St. Vincent fueled by nothing more than determination and airplane bloody Marys.

(Please note that Little Havana's 80's 305 Bar cleverly serves up an old fashioned with a rolled up bill and some curious powder....literally the best drink presentation ever...just wanted to ensure you don't think we celebrated in style with a pile of blow and some cash...)







After a 4 hour plane ride, we grabbed a taxi for a 45 minute ride to the ferry port and jumped on the hour long ferry to Bequia.





It was late when we finally arrived at our villa, high above Lower Bay. Tired and hungry, we didn’t even unpack before jumping in our Jeep-like-vehicle. I have no idea what that vehicle was, but it was very sandy, didn’t have many parts on it that actually worked, and literally screamed as we crept down the incredibly steep road from the villa to the beach below.


It was 6:00 and, after over 24 hours of travel, it was perfect timing for Da Reef’s rum punch happy hour. Let me rephrase. Da Reef’s VERY STRONG RUM punch happy hour.

Just a straight shot down the hill from our villa, this quiet little seaside bar and restaurant with tables right on the water’s edge in Lower Bay offered a beautiful sunset and a perfect way to end a long day of travel (and start a much needed vacation).








For no extra charge, your table comes with a very persistent cat.

We had dinner reservations at Bagatelle on “the other side of the island” (a 4 minute drive….). After a few dicey hairpin turns in the absolute dark, we found the Bequia Beach Hotel on the opposite side of the island on the shores of Friendship Bay. Their fine dining restaurant, Bagatelle, was one of the nicest on the island and offered a seafood feast on Saturdays. Anything with the word “feast” in it sounded like a good way to start a vacation.

We were seated at a table right at the edge of the water, candles aglow, soft music playing. The feast was a lavish buffet. Unfortunately, it wasn’t lobster season, but there were plenty of good options. We sipped wine, listened to the rolling surf, and settled into what we hoped would be a magical week on a new island.





It would be a slow and easy week of salty air, turquoise seas, and rum filled lunches.

Hello Bequia…..

Day Two:

I’m not going to lie. It was a hot night. Even with the a/c, the bedroom of the villa had louvered windows that you couldn’t really seal up. The mosquito net kept the flying beasts out of the bed, but it did nothing about the heat.

Nevertheless, it was a beautiful morning on Bequia. Our villa had the most stunning outdoor patio overlooking the water and I simply stood and breathed it in. This was worth a warm night’s sleep. The entire villa was lovely.



















We had no food and, more importantly, no coffee, so we were forced to leave our lovely nest and go in search of breakfast and groceries. It was that or starve with a beautiful view.

We headed into “town” (anyone who has ever visited a small Caribbean island knows good and well why that is in quotes) to grab some breakfast and find some provisions. Port Elizabeth was a cluster of brightly colored restaurants and bars. Nothing was higher than a palm tree.










We parked our Jeepy thing and wandered through the quaint seaside village. We quickly found ourselves at the Belmont Walkway, a beachfront walkway that hugged the coves and the shoreline between Port Elizabeth and Princess Margaret Beach.

It took us past several shops, bars, and restaurants. Pastel-painted homes dotted the hills and beaches around the harbor, and fragrant oleanders and frangipani spilled over fences. Hummingbirds hovered over hibiscus and gulls drifted over the soft pockets of sand that cushioned the sea. It was a place of tranquility and timelessness. I loved it already.













Our walk eventually landed us at the Gingerbread Café.

We were drawn in by the the café’s random smattering of tables set underneath the rustling palms with a stunning view of the water.

Okay, it was really the banana rum cake, but the view was very nice.






We decided to walk the rest of the walkway before heading out for groceries just to learn the lay of the land. Wow. It was GORGEOUS.

Bequia was starting things off right.










Buying groceries on a small island is always an exercise in patience and flexibility. You aren’t going to really find what you want and you are going to pay way more for it than you really want to. Going to an island grocery store with a list is simply futile and will do nothing more than waste your time and elevate your blood pressure. You’ll go in looking for brie, a fresh baguette, and some grapes and you’ll come out with a bag of generic brand cheese puffs, day old Wonder Bread, and a lime.

We would have welcomed a bag of generic cheese puffs after going to 3 stores only to find them all closed.


The only thing worse than trying to buy groceries on an island is trying to buy them on Sunday.

We finally found something open and it was pretty minimal. Kind of a cross between a half empty Dollar General and a Seven Eleven. There were two very drunk but very friendly people laying on the sidewalk outside. It would do. We walked over the very happy drunk patrons, grabbed some basics, a bottle of VERY STRONG RUM, and a bag of eggs.

Yes, a bag of eggs. Don’t ask. It’s an island, remember?

We put our food in our Jeepy thing and headed to the produce market. The produce market more than made up for the lack of options at the grocery store. Even on a Sunday, the place was loaded with piles of fruit and vegetables, so fresh and beautiful, so unlike the hothouse crap we buy at home that is picked before it’s ripe and lacks any sort of taste whatsoever. Even better, every vendor wanted us to buy THEIR fruit so they cut things up, handed to them to us, asked us what we wanted to taste. It was practically second breakfast.





They even convinced us to try some things we’d never had and definitely wouldn’t have bought otherwise.

The Sapodilla was my favorite. This little fella was sweet. I mean super sweet. Like eating sugar. Like eating a brown sugar covered pear or caramel covered cotton candy. It was crazy delicious.

Inexplicably, Matt to decided he preferred the soursop. Not only was it the ugliest fruit God put on the planet, it had a texture much like a snotty nose and tasted similar, not that I have actually tasted a snotty nose, but I feel confident it is quite similar to a soursop. Filled with annoying little seeds, it managed to be stringy and gooey all at the same time. The texture was like the guts you scoop out of a pumpkin when you carve it. Some people will tell you this mushy, slippery mess tastes like pineapples and strawberries. Those people lie.

We loaded up and headed back to the villa to drop our bounty.

I wasn’t lying about the VERY STRONG RUM.


Sunset VSR is 169 proof. Some say it has notes of butterscotch and vanilla, but my singed nose hairs disagreed. I felt it was more reminiscent of rubbing alcohol.

I don't recommend anyone that is not a native Bequian try to drink this overproof rum. There is no circumstance under which it can end well. It is simply a bad idea. Always. We'll just leave it at that.


FINALLY…..it was time for the beach. We kept things easy and just headed down to the bottom of the hill to Lower Bay. I was pretty sure it was going to be an awesome beach, so why go any farther?

It was an awesome beach.

















The beautiful bay was calm and turquoise and the soft sand was warm underneath our feet. I counted about 5 other people on the entire expanse of the beach.

We dropped our things at Da Reef and enjoyed a rum punch (or two) before heading down to the water.












After sufficient sunning and lounging, we heard what sounded like jazz coming from above. We returned to the restaurant to find a live jazz band playing. Wings, fries, and a fish platter rounded out a perfect afternoon (and maybe a couple more rum punches).








It was time to nap off the rum punches, so we packed it in and headed back up to our villa where we had a very classy and elegant snack of Doritos, guacamole, and cheap wine before dropping off into a beach fueled nap.


We napped right through sunset, but we woke up in time for dinner at Firefly Plantation. I couldn’t believe we were the only patrons in this beautiful, tropical restaurant.








We learned quickly that we had just missed “the season” on Bequia and that most tourism shuts down after Easter. This being the first of June, the island was pretty much a ghost town. Unfortunately, this also meant that many of the nice places we wanted to visit had closed only the week before, but there were plenty that were still open and welcoming.

Like Firefly.

Lovely setting, lovely cocktails, and wonderful food. And we had the entire place to ourselves!

Day 3:


After a beautiful breakfast on the deck, we headed back to the Bequia Beach Hotel.

We noticed at our arrival night’s dinner that they offered a day pass to non-guests. This included a pool cabana, a palapa on the beach, a massage for each person at the spa, a 3 course lunch, and 4 cocktails each.

Yes, please.





We started the day on pool loungers, relaxing until our massage. I booked an early time because post-sun, post-sand massages sounded messy. And potentially painful. The spa at the resort was a lovely oasis of calm. Full of tropical upscale charm, it was also one of the best massages I have EVER HAD.






With liquid muscles, we slithered back toward the bar and decided to try out a cocktail. A cocktail turned into two and maybe into 4 and then, I don’t want to get anyone in trouble for serving us more than our allocation, but maybe 5. Who was counting? They certainly weren’t.








Alternating between the beach and the bar, it was a lovely day. The beaches on this side of the island were definitely more rugged, and not very swimmable, but perfect for sunning and cocktail sipping.












We were able to order from the menu at lunch and I opted for a tuna poke bowl with thick hunks of juicy tuna and chunky avocado, fresh mango and a Caribbean slaw. Lunch came with dessert and one heck of a view.






After lunch, we walked to the other end of the beach, taking in the dramatic and rugged beauty of it all. On the opposite end, we found a riot of colorful fishing boats and playing children.









It was a long, leisurely day and we felt it was worth every penny. While we aren’t resort people, the Bequia Beach Hotel was beautiful and we saw no one else on the beach or pool the entire time we were there. Despite some closures, I must say off season on Bequia rocked.

After our required post-beach naps, we managed to get up and out in time to catch the sunset. Da Reef below the house had already become a favorite, for its location right on the beach, proximity to the villa, beautiful sunsets, and amazing (and cheap) rum punch. We just couldn’t find a reason to go anywhere else.








Although we’d JUST been there….we returned to the Bequia Beach Hotel (maybe we were becoming hotel people????) to try their Italian restaurant, Blue Tropic.

Blue Tropic was a little hard to find, especially in the dark, after a day of cocktails and a nap-fuzzy brain. We wandered around in the palm trees for a bit before locating it up on the hillside. It was super cozy and quaint and surprisingly busy. “Busy” meant that about 2 other tables were occupied.




We had a delicious caprese salad and a cheese board (because there is no such thing as too much cheese). Matt opted for pasta and I got a big ole pepperoni pizza. Why? Because there is no such thing as too much cheese.




Y’all….that pizza was darn good!

Bequia was full of surprises.

Day 4:


What do you do in the off season on a tiny island in the Grenadines? Already, the languorous days stretched out like sleeping dogs in the sun. Should we take a swim? Fancy a mango? Is it too early for a cold rum punch? C'mon, relaaaaaaaax……..Bequia said.

And we listened.

It was easy to do. Bequia made it easy. We enjoyed a beautiful breakfast on the deck and then…did nothing. That deck was hard to pull ourselves away from.

We already knew the beauty of Bequia wasn’t about sleek designs, luxury resorts, expensive beach bars or A-listers. Bequia wasn’t nearby Mustique…a den of glitz and glam for the rich and famous. Bequia was content to sit outside the limelight. A gentle and slow place where the water was Caribbean blue, clear and calm, lined by white crescent shores littered with palm trees and a scattering of tiny beach bars that were little more than driftwood shacks where time thickened and the days slipped by in waves of sunshine.

“No vex,” they said.

No worries in this place. We were feeling it.

It was time to try Princess Margaret Beach, what I predicted to be our second favorite beach. It actually ended up being our favorite. Named after her one visit to this beach, Princess Margaret was a slice of turquoise heaven.



















I loved Lower Bay, but Princess Margaret had just a little more “oomph.” Maybe it was Jack’s Beach Bar and the lovely food and drinks, maybe it was the fact that you could get a chair and an umbrella, maybe it was the fact that the beach was littered with beach glass and the sand was as soft as flour, or maybe it was Fay’s $3 rum punch?






Whatever it was, it’s soothing magic sucked me right in.

Jack’s is owned by the Bequia Beach Hotel, so we expected it to be nothing short of fabulous. We were not disappointed. The bartenders mixed up our drinks and poured them into our Yetis to keep them chilled, checking on us out on the beach frequently to make sure we didn’t need anything else. When we did, they grabbed our Yetis and returned, our Yetis full of icy goodness.

Sure, there were less expensive chairs farther down the beach and less expensive drinks…but….WHY? The setting and service at Jack’s were well worth it.















Lunch arrived and it was a smorgasboard of Jack’s famed fried chicken, French fries, a fresh seared tuna salad, more French fries, and salty margaritas.

Jack’s made a mean margarita. After two of those, I thought I was Princess Margaret myself.

Albeit, a very loud and obnoxious version of Princess Margaret.



Already creatures of habit, we snoozed the heat of the late afternoon away and ventured out for the magical sunset hour at Da Reef.

The golden hour on Bequia truly lived up to the hype.

And it wasn't just the VERY STRONG RUM.











We hadn’t made a firm selection for dinner that night. I had a few places in mind, so we set off, not 100% sure where we would end up. We drove to Papa’s and heard live music drifting from the windows and that sealed it.

Bequia doesn’t have a strong online presence, so I was less sure what places were like than I am in preparation for many of our vacations. I wasn’t prepared for how nice Papa’s was. I expected something rather “barlike” and was surprised to find an elegant tropical restaurant set high on a hillside on the far end of Port Elizabeth with live music and a crazy good view of the twinkling lights below.






The food was amazing – fresh salad, roasted goat cheese, and seafood pasta. I also grew bold and tried the callaloo soup. All I knew was that it was a local specialty. I HAD NO IDEA WHAT WAS IN IT.


I didn’t even ask.

When it came out, it was so dark in the restaurant, I couldn’t really see what I was eating. I took a tentative bite, not knowing if it was goat head stew, raw squid in broth, or cream of soupsop.

It was delicious and I ate it having no idea what it was. I Googled it later and was pleased to find out all I had ingested was a leafy green vegetable, made into a thick and savory soup.




We enjoyed dinner, a bottle of wine, and watched as patrons danced to the band. Dinner was over, but we wanted to linger and enjoy the band. The waitress asked if we wanted more wine. We looked wistfully at the empty bottle and agreed we’d each just get one more glass, so we told her yes, one more glass, please.

She brought us ONE. MORE. GLASS.

This is what happens when two Hatfields try to share one glass of wine.


Stay tuned! We're only halfway through! There is more Bequia to come.....

Posted by vicki_h 10:11 Archived in St Vincent/The Grenadines Tagged beach island caribbean tropical bequia grenadines port_elizabeth saint_vincent_and_the_grenadine princess_margaret_beach Comments (0)

Hitting the RESET button

Guys....I have been lazy. I appreciate any of you who still come back to read what I write, knowing I haven't posted much in the past year.

Hurricane Dorian has really thrown us for a loop. I feel like Matt and I have been in a fog for the past month. We realized we're in a funk and have to snap out of it. Life has changed. We just have to roll with it. It's back to healthy food, exercise, and enjoying life instead of crying ourselves to sleep over a bottle of wine every night.

Part of that is getting back to doing something I love...writing this blog.

I AM A YEAR BEHIND! Y'all....I have an entire year worth of trips I haven't posted. This is good because, thanks to that a$$hole Dorian, we won't be going anywhere for a while, and, when we do, it will be to Guana to work and clean and those trips won't be very interesting!

So....I made a list this morning of every trip I have to catch up on.

Stay tuned and you can relive all of last year's trips with me while we work on getting Guana back to life.


Posted by vicki_h 06:33 Comments (0)

You Can Huff and Puff, But You Can't Blow Guana Down

Guana Cay - The Little Island With a Big Heart

The Stages of Grief Dorian

1 DENIAL: The “It Can’t Be That Bad” Stage

“It’s not going to be that bad,” I said. “I’m sure the media made it look worse than it really is. They exaggerate everything.”






We were landing at the Marsh Harbour airport 2 weeks after hurricane Dorian.

It was the smell that I noticed first.

A cloud of decay, the smell of rotten meat that has been left in the sun too long, overwhelmed me as soon as we opened the door of the plane.

I stepped out into the hot glare, seeing this place that had always welcomed me immediately with the fresh smell of sea air, a balmy breeze rustling through the bright green trees, and the smiling faces of the guys on the ramp as they greeted us warmly with a hearty, “Good Morning!” like I was seeing it for the first time.

It was just 15 days after Hurricane Dorian came screaming through, ripping across tiny Abaco like a vast beast, bent on destroying everything in her reach. Dorian, the 2nd most powerful Atlantic hurricane since records of hurricanes began, left a massive trail of destruction, reducing this gentle island I loved so much to nothing more than a cosmic pile of rubble, debris, and tangled power lines.

The smell was ever present as we stepped out onto the runway. What was part of the airport was now a twisted hulk of metal…hanger, airplane, vehicles….all rolled into one inseparable mass. The surrounding trees were sheared off, knocked over, those that still stood were stripped and brown. Helicopters buzzed overhead and giant camouflage painted trucks sped past. I looked around as several dirty, rag tag vehicles, salvaged from what was still running made their way around the rubble. Most had significant parts missing, a door twisted off, no mirrors, a cracked windshield. Some had been cobbled together with wire or duct tape. It reminded me more of a scene from Max Mad than my gentle Marsh Harbor airport, what was usually a happy gateway to an anticipated week of bliss.





Marsh Harbor was chaos. It was the wild west.

There was no customs. No immigration. No officials. No one asked to see my passport. There were just the ramp guys.

Still, they were smiling and greeted us warmly with a hearty, “Good Morning,” but their eyes looked weary. I handed them a box of Dunkin’ Donuts that I carried in my lap from Florida. It was a small gesture for these men that had lost so much.

After a long, hot wait on the tarmac, not really knowing what the plan was, a dusty Mercedes with a busted windshield pulled up.


We hopped in and headed toward town.

Or should I say, the heap of wood and metal and cement that used to be town?

Windows down because almost nothing on the car still worked, the smell rode with us. It was everywhere. It was everything. As I looked out the window, my eyes couldn’t take it all in. I simply couldn’t process what I was seeing.


I had seen the photos. I had seen the videos.

Nothing prepared me for the reality.

Beautiful Marsh Harbour was a wasteland. It was as though a giant had taken his fist and simply crushed everything in sight. I guess a giant did, Dorian, that monster.

It was just piles of wood and debris, caved in buildings, flipped over cars, and boats everywhere that a boat didn’t belong. Virtually nothing was left standing and what was standing was utterly destroyed. As I breathed in the smell of decay, I prayed it was only rotting groceries.

Our first task was to try to locate our boat and several others’. We knew approximately where they were and parked the car in the general vicinity.

The guys disappeared quickly, leaving me standing alone in the middle of the street with all our supplies and a busted up Mercedes.

I never once felt unsafe.


There were people milling around. They paid me no mind. I even had one of the “dangerous looters” go by. He had his arms full of boat electronics…probably from our boat….and he simply nodded his head, smiled, and said, “Hello.” I smiled back and said, “Hello.” He waved with the arm that wasn’t full of looted boat parts and continued on down the road.

He was just trying to survive. I don’t begrudge him that.

I looked around at the massive destruction and what struck me most was the randomness of seeing perfectly intact, normal, everyday objects. It was surreal. There was a twisted heap that used to be a house and lying on the sidewalk was a perfectly good spatula.

I was startled by something behind me and turned around to see a medium sized dog. Its fur was wet and matted and the skin on its nose was raw and stripped. I spoke gently, “Hi there,” and turned to get a sandwich out of the car. By the time I turned around with the sandwich, the dog was gone.

I sat in the street and cried.

It was just too much.

Eventually I saw the guys crawling over an upside down boat. They had found everything they needed.



It was time to go to Guana Cay.

I wasn’t sure I was ready.

Back at the airport, we abandoned the Mercedes for a pick-up truck that we filled with a generator, endless tarps and roofing supplies, mold spray, tools, fans, drinking water, and a lot of tuna packs. The truck drove us to a recently repaired dock where we simply waited, again, not really knowing what the plan was. We were flying by the seat of our pants.





After some time, a small 18’ boat arrived.

With 25 mph winds….this wasn’t going to be a fun ride.

The ride over might have been one of the most painful experiences of my life to date. Matt and I took the bow, to spare the others the worst of the ride. They were here because of us, we owed them that. We were on our hands and knees (to save our spines) on top of canvas bags filled with tools…not the softest or most forgiving surface. We both white knuckled the rope tied to the front of the bow for dear life. The little boat slammed down repeatedly, as though it was hitting cement, as wave upon wave met us. Each time it slammed down, we were washed with a fresh wave of salt water. We alternated between grunting, screaming, crying, and laughing. Then it started to rain.

I looked at Matt. “Really?” I said. We laughed again. And then we cried.


After an hour, we saw Guana Harbour. As we motored slowly up to the island, my heart felt like it was being squeezed. There was nothing left. The bright and happy harbor that I had pulled into so many times, was a pile of pick up sticks, broken cement, and dead gnarled trees. Everything was broken and brown.

We put on a brave face. There wasn’t any time to be sad. This wasn’t a time to mourn. We had too much work to do.

The boat pulled into our dock which was surprisingly intact. About 4 other boats were tied up. I looked at Matt. “Looks like we’re the public dock now!” We were happy to do it. We were happy to still have a dock.

As the guys unloaded, I ran straight for my house. I know that is selfish, in the face of so much loss by so many, but I could no longer contain it. It had been my refuge, my peace, the place where my spirit felt happiness. I needed to see it.

Bikini Hut was standing. She wasn’t only standing, she was beautiful.



I ran inside, not knowing what to expect.

Everything looked exactly like I had left it except it was all wet. And dirty. Everything fabric was soaked. The rugs were saturated. The walls, floors, and everything inside had a fine layer of funk laying on them. But to me, it was beautiful. Because it was THERE.

I ran upstairs, knowing we had lost a window, so I was prepared for the worst.

It looked like a bomb of glass, sand, mud, trees, and sheetrock had gone off in my bedroom. The bed was covered with what was left of the window and the wall. The floors and walls were covered with everything else.

Amazing that I could look at this and feel lucky. No, not lucky, BLESSED. God blessed. How this home had survived to this degree was simply a miracle. I felt guilty that my home had been spared when almost everyone I loved had lost theirs.

No time for that, I ran back downstairs to start cleaning.

It was 4:00 and we had only a few hours of daylight to get the downstairs clean and dry so we could sleep in there.

We ran over to the Command Center to check in before I got busy making us a dry place to sleep.

The church recreation hall located next to our house had survived, and now served as the new Guana Cay Command Center. It was an amazing bustle of activity. Supplies were being brought in on our dock and transported there. They had the big generator running and inside were tables lined up, supplies, food, water, a kitchen, and the smiling faces of the people we have grown to know and love. They invited us to join them for dinner and asked if we needed anything. Determined not to draw on their limited resources, we thanked them but let them know we’d eat what we brought, but that we’d take all the hugs and smiles they had to offer. They gave plenty. These people who had lost so much.

I was so impressed by how organized and productive they already were. It had only been 2 weeks and the Command Center was already serving as a base of operations for the locals remaining on the island.

We put our name on the board, shared hugs all around, and I got back to the house to do the world’s fastest post-hurricane cleaning ever.

With just a few hours of daylight, I was able to strip all the wet things and drag them outside. Matt said, “Throw all that away,” but I refused, putting everything in piles on the porch where I could try to clean and dry it later. You guys already know how neurotic I am, so this should not surprise anyone…..I was not going to lose any of it. I was determined.

About 15 minutes after dark, what remained downstairs was dry and clean. Using an inflatable solar lamp any my tiny backcountry camping stove, I made us a quick dinner using summer sausage, a pouch of pre-cooked rice, a plastic container of corn, and a pouch of black beans. That night, it tasted like filet mignon. We drank some delicious warm bottled water with it and followed that with a lovely bath taken by sitting in the (now clean) bathtub with 1 gallon of cold cistern water.






I learned that night that I can wash my hair with shampoo, rinse it, condition it, rinse it again, and wash my body with 1 gallon of water. Don’t tell Matt. I don’t want him to have unrealistic expectations for the future.

With no electricity, we opened all the doors and windows and had 2 on the guest bed, one on the couch, and one on the floor. We were tired, but dry and strangely happy to be there. I didn’t want to be anywhere else.

2 BARGAINING: The “I Can Fix This” Stage


The rooster was behind the house.

“Are you kidding me?” I rolled over and said to Matt. “That’s one tough rooster. He survived a Cat 5 and is now going to raise a race of super chickens on this island. We should be very afraid.”

“I guess he’s telling us to get up,” Matt said.

We hadn’t slept well. We were all wound up and exhausted at the same time. And it was so HOT.

“Shut up you two,” we heard from the couch. “It’s only 4:30.”

“The rooster doesn’t agree,” Matt said.

There was nothing to do but get up and get busy.

We had SO. MUCH. TO. DO. We didn’t even know how to start. We felt paralyzed by just how overwhelming it all was.

Coffee. I decided to start with coffee. We had a quick breakfast of instant coffee and cold oatmeal and then it was time to face all that needed to be done. We had so much to clean and dry, drywall and flooring to rip out, roof and siding to repair, and someone had to see if they could get us some running water. We had to flip the generator over and see if we could get it working, try to patch up the golf cart and see if it ran, and eventually go see what was left of Teeny Bikini. The water pump was busted, the gutters were off, and there was a dead tree attached to the porch.


Everyone got busy.

You would think we would have taken a look around. We didn’t.

You would think we would have gone over to Teeny Bikini to see what was left. We didn’t.

We weren’t ready yet. It was easier to just start working. I felt like, “If I can just get these rugs cleaned, everything will be okay. If I can just get the glass out of the upstairs bed, everything will be okay.” Surely there was enough mold spray and tarps to make everything right again.

I worked most of the day without even looking outside. As long as I was inside my house, everything was the same. I could pretend there was no Hurricane Dorian as long as I didn't look outside.

3 DEPRESSION: The “It’s Hopeless” Stage

By about 4:00, I was at the point that I needed to be able to use fans and a washing machine to finish my job. We hadn’t had any luck with the generator at this point, and had no idea if the generator from the other house survived, so I was stuck until we got some power and water going.
“I think I’m ready to go see the little house,” I told Matt. “I’m going to walk down.”

We hadn’t been successful getting our golf cart running. It was sitting in the yard, with no seat, looking quite forlorn.

“Let’s go together,” he said.

We walked down to Teeny Bikini. It was my first real look at things. Front Street was a war zone. Almost everything was reduced to a pile of lumber sprinkled with random, everyday objects. Very few building were standing. Trees were on the ground with electrical wires wound around everything. A huge crater had opened up in the middle of the road in front of the dive shop. Boats sat in snarled piles, some inside buildings, some in the middle of the road. Everything that was lush and green was brown.












I was in shock.

Somehow, with everything shattered around it, the little house stood. She looked pretty rough, but she was standing. I had SO MUCH HOPE.


I had to crawl in through a hole in the door where something had busted through because the doors were screwed shut with plywood. When I stood up inside, I could see she was lost.

The floors and walls inside were bent and twisted at the wrong angles. The bedroom was a foot higher than the kitchen, a huge crack opened up between them where I could see the ground through the floor. The house had been picked up by storm surge and knocked off its foundation. The floors were covered with mud and sand. It was all broken inside.

“I’m sorry,” Matt said.

“Can you leave me alone in here for a few minutes?” I asked.

Matt crawled out to go check on the tools and generator sheds.

Y’all….I know it is just a house, but that little house was such a part of my soul. I sat on the wet couch and had a long, ugly cry. The kind where you make terrible noises and snot runs out your nose. The kind that makes you worry you might die. My heart was broken. I remembered exactly 4 years ago, coming down with Matt and Bella and Rooby to make this sweet little house our own. We painted, we scrubbed, we worked so hard and made it our home. Our home on Guana.

It was perfect and precious.

I cried like someone in my family had died. She went through a Category 5 hurricane and STOOD, but she was still gone. Silly, I know, but my heart was so heavy. It wasn’t the house so much as what the house represented. I love what my friend Chris said, “The house is really just a symbol of the love I have for this place…..”

I think this is how we all felt. No one was sad that they lost a boat or a car. Everyone's heart was broken at the loss of this island we loved so much.

When all the tears were gone, I crawled back out the door. Matt was waiting on the street, among the rubble and debris.

“Want to walk down the street to Grabbers?” he asked.

I wanted to.

I didn’t want to.

I couldn’t count how many times we had made this walk. Shutting Teeny Bikini’s happy white front door, holding hands, heading down the palm lined street to get a frosty frozen Grabber and watch the sunset.

This walk was so different.

Grabbers was gone. Even the pool was gone. Lifted and blown away to who knows where.

Matt sat on a downed palm tree and just looked around in disbelief as I walked around the other side of what was left.

When I came back, I stood and watched him and his grief broke my heart.




We’d been in Abaco for over 24 hours without thinking about the devastation, but it finally hit us. When it hit us, it hit hard, straight into our hearts.

“We can never fix this,” Matt said. “Look around. How can this small island handle this much destruction? How do we even start?”

“One board at a time,” I said.

4 ANGER: The “@##$%&&!!!” Stage

We went through a lot of emotions that first full day. It was like being on a roller coaster.

We got back to the house. It was hot. We were all sweaty and dirty. We’d been working about 10 hours. The stress of the situation was starting to hit me.

I knew I was at my breaking point when John, who had already spent 10 hot hours on my roof told me he used “that rag that was upstairs to clean the baseboards” and my head literally imploded.

I became an insane person.


As the 3 guys looked at me like my head was spinning backwards and green vomit was coming out of my mouth, I realized how absurd it was.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “I’m not angry about losing a facecloth. I’m angry about losing all of it. All of this. This beautiful island. This way of life. This future.”

The material loss was nothing. What was lost was so much bigger. This place was beautiful. This community was wonderful. Their homes and their livelihoods were important. This life we knew here was so essential to us. And it felt shattered.

I felt hollowed out.

I felt gutted.

I was sad.

I was angry.

I wanted this to be someone's fault. Someone I could punch in the face.

That night, heartsick, we let our island family love us back to life. We let them convince us to join them for dinner at the Command Center. We were grieving and seeing their happy faces gave us comfort. A relief group had brought in a feast of BBQ, mac n’ cheese, baked beans and they were having a party. How could these wonderful people be so full of life and joy in spite of what they had all been through?



They told us stories of hiding in basements that were flooding by the minute, wondering if they would survive, of living in their bathtub for hours with a mattress over their heads, of running from their home as it collapsed in the winds to another home, of being trapped inside their shattered houses for days as the rain and wind battered them long after the hurricane passed.

I couldn’t believe it. As I watched them all gather for a triumphant photo, and saw their joy in the midst of what felt like such despair, my heart lifted. This is why I loved this place.

This is what superheroes look like.


We went to sleep that night knowing we were committed to this place. No matter what it became or how long it took. This was still our place. It would always be our place.

Guana was still home.


5 ACCEPTANCE: The “This is the New Normal” Stage

It was our third day and our second full day on Guana. Our routine had quickly become, get up early, be working around 6:30 a.m., stop for a 15 minute lunch, and work until around 5:00. The days were long and hot and hard. Already, there was no part of my body that didn’t hurt.

I was impressed by the Command Center. The entire island would gather at 8:00 a.m. and share breakfast, and then everyone would go to work.

They were clearing debris from the roads, rebuilding the places where the road had caved in, fixing roofs, getting generators going, shuttling supplies. They would regroup at noon for lunch and return to work. Dinner was a joyful affair at 6:00. Then everyone would go home and do it all again the next day.


I was amazed at how quickly the landscape and strange daily routine became normal. By the third day in Abaco, it just was. It didn’t seem so strange anymore. It was simply the way things were and it was okay.




We had gotten one of the generators sort of working the night before on a very limited basis. Matt swiped the water pump from Teeny Bikini and we cobbled something together that almost worked. I needed to run about 9 loads of laundry. Every single thing had to be washed. Matt said to hurry. He didn’t know how long our patches would last and I couldn’t use the dryer because we needed to conserve fuel.

I washed EVERYTHING. With no clothes line and no dryer, I had stuff draped on everything that wouldn’t run away. I had things strung up with chip clips. It looked ridiculous.

The generator and pump kicked off about every 45 minutes, but I managed to get it all done. I have never washed so much in one day. Somehow, I saved everything in that house except 2 rugs and a couple of throw pillows. I think Matt was very sad that all 12 decorative pillows on the upstairs bed survived.

John spent another long, hot day on the roof. Matt did rip and tear on the upstairs. Bob worked on generators and gutters.

It was so hot we probably drank about 10 bottles of water each every day just trying to get through the day. About halfway through the third day I asked Matt, “Don’t think this is weird, but are you peeing much?”

“No,” he said. “It scared me at first but I guess we’re sweating so much we don’t need to.”

It was weird. But apparently normal.

The new normal.

We ate nuts and dried fruit and lots of tuna. We drank lots of warm water. We were still bathing with gallons of cistern water because the pump was hinky.

Every time I looked out my window, the island was so busy. Troy was working on the generator. Mikey was hauling stuff up the dock from the boat. Nedias was shoveling sand into a washed out place on the side of the road. A crew was pouring cement into the caved in street. I heard a chain saw in the distance. Tami and Christine labored at the Command Center.

The entire island was working so hard. We all loved this place so much and it showed in every hour of sweat equity we put in. They had so much momentum and it was catching.

Sometime after lunch, I pushed my big wheeled beach cart down to Teeny Bikini to salvage what I could. I must have looked like a lunatic, crawling out of a hole in the door desperately clutching a box of tin foil and a roll of toilet paper.

I felt triumphant. I might have lost the house, but by God, I have this roll of paper towels. Take that, Dorian!

After two hot, sweaty trips, I had salvaged plenty of towels and sheets, cleaning supplies, dishes, anything from Teeny that survived. It was all I had left. I even managed to get a huge stack of clean facecloths. John could use all he wanted.

It was late afternoon. We were hot and covered with dirt and sweat. We were bone tired and our bodies ached.

“You know what would make us feel better?” I said. “Make us feel normal? The beach. The beach is still there. It’s still the same. Let’s go jump in the water for a minute. It will help, I think.”

It was a good idea in theory.

Y’all….we couldn’t get to the flipping beach!



Every road, every path, every stairway that led down was blocked, gone, or covered with debris.

We briefly reverted back to the ANGER stage.


Then we realized there was nothing to do but laugh. It was sad and funny all at the same time.

Eventually, we found a path that was covered with what was left of two homes and many downed palm trees, but we could crawl over and around it.

We found the beach.

It was different. But it was the same.





For just a moment, we forgot it all. The sand was still the same white sand. The ocean was still more shades of blue than I could count. The salty breeze still made me feel alive.

If I looked behind me, there was nothing but destruction, but as I faced forward, it was beautiful. We just needed to remember not to look back. We had to keep looking forward.

One board at a time.











6 HOPE: The “Every Little Thing is Gonna’ be Alright” Stage


It was our last day. We had to get everything finished so we could leave the next morning and beat some weather to get home.

This was the day everything went from “new normal” to “we got this.”

It started when sweet Christine walked over from the Command Center with a donut.

“You need this,” she said as she put it in my hands. God love her.

Our friend Chris, known island wide for his coffee, had arrived the afternoon before. The damage to his house had been miraculously minimal. More importantly….the coffee machine had survived!

Coffee at Chris’s is a Guana tradition. If the sign on his sunny little yellow cottage is turned to “Hot Now,” everyone gathers on his patio for coffee that rivals any coffee shop I have been to. When Chris told us the night before to come over for coffee in the morning, my heart skipped a beat.

At 8:00 a.m. that last morning, we were sitting on Chris’s patio, sipping a cortado like nothing had ever happened.









Well, unless you looked at the boat in the middle of the road.

New normal.


With only one day left, we got busy. John was back on the roof, Matt and Bob were still working on the generator and pump, gutters, and putting something over the back of the house where the siding was missing. I spent the day cleaning what was left of the upstairs and spraying for mold where the wet floors had been ripped up.

I wasn’t taking any chances. I sprayed twice with Lemocide. Then I sprayed 3 times with vinegar. I scrubbed with soap and water. Then, I sprayed twice with bleach. I know they say bleach doesn’t kill mold on wood, but the vinegar did and the bleach just made me feel good.

My entire upstairs smelled like I’d been dying Easter eggs.

By late that afternoon, the roof was temporarily patched, the back of the house was temporarily patched, the window was temporarily patched, all of the wet drywall and flooring was gone, the gutters were back on, and the house was clean and dry.

We hadn’t been using the generator for anything but fans and the washing machine up to that point, because it still wasn’t working right, but that last day we invited friends over for dinner and decided to make things as normal as we could. We decided to make ice, run the a/c, and use lights and showers that night! The water pump kicked off every 45 minutes, but we made it work.

It was time to celebrate.

“And Bob said LET THERE BE LIGHT!”


I know God said it first, but Bob said it that night. And it was good.

Our friends brought a pork loin they had brought from home and wine they had salvaged from their house. We had champagne that had survived the storm, cold drinks, rice, broccoli, and pasta. After 4 days of tuna, PB&J, and warm water….. it was a FEAST.




Everyone got a cold shower. It was the best shower ever. Even though the water pump kept shutting off.

As we sat in the now clean den, surrounded by Guana friends, I knew that everything really was going to be alright.

Cheers, to my beautiful little island.


And just like that, it was time to go.

Does it sound crazy when I say I didn’t want to leave? If I could have stayed and worked beside those people indefinitely, I would have. I felt sorry that I hadn’t had more time to do more for them. We barely had enough time to do what we needed to do.

I struggled with the extreme range of emotions we had gone through in so few days. I really didn’t know how to process what I felt. I’m normally very good with words and I had no words.

So I did all I could – I hugged the people I loved and told them I’d see them again.




We pinned up the house as best we could, knowing we’d have to return in a few months to put a permanent fix on things.

As we climbed on the boat for another violent and wet ride, I looked back at Guana.

“I’ll be back,” I said in my best terminator voice.

And then I held on for dear life.

I smelled Marsh Harbour before I saw it.

A very wet ride later, we found ourselves once again on Great Abaco with no idea how we were going to get anywhere. Eventually, we simply flagged down a busted up SUV and asked for a ride. He was happy to help.





As the plane climbed, I looked down at the destroyed landscape below me.

Guana Cay is still there. They are alive and moving forward one board at a time.



Their homes are either gone or are damaged and patched. They have no electricity and won’t for probably a year. Their jobs are gone. Most of them don’t have hurricane insurance because it’s simply cost prohibitive. No one is going to come in and help them rebuild.

They put in long, hot thankless hours. When their day is done, they don't go home to a comfortable recliner and TV. They don't have a cold beer. They don't have a hot shower. They don't have a closet full of clean clothes. Still, they get up every day and work with joy in their hearts.

Their only clean drinking water is what you give. Their only food is what you give. The only supplies they will have to rebuild their homes and their lives is what you give.

Their lives are forever changed, but they have embraced it and are determined to rebuild. Their spirits and joy are beautiful. Great Guana Cay will be a Greater Guana Cay, but they need so much help.

If this blog has brought you any joy over the years, I ask that you please give something to the foundation set up just for Guana Cay. Donations are being matched dollar for dollar by an anonymous donor up to $1 million dollars. All funds are tax deductible and 100% of the funds will go directly to Guana Cay. This is administered by someone I know and trust.

Please give anything you can through the Great Guana Cay Foundation.

And please don’t forget about them. They need our help for some time to come.

It’s still gooder on Guana Cay.

Much love!


Posted by vicki_h 10:19 Archived in Bahamas Tagged bahamas abaco dorian guana_cay Comments (11)

Dancing with Myself in Twang Town

It's hot in the city tonight!


There’s a vibe about Nashville….a city of lights and music and hot chicken. It thrums with a heartfelt southern beat and rhythm and music seep out of its very pores. Sure, it’s the epicenter of country music, but music is at its very core…every type of music. It has something for every music fan.

Including Billy Idol fans.

Imagine my delight when I saw that Billy Idol, (we saw him in Vegas and SWORE we had to see again with better seats), was doing a show in Nashvegas, so close to home? I immediately got VIP tickets that would not only put us front and center for the show, but get us an up close and personal with the legend himself.

It was Nashville or bust, baby!



We arrived in Nashville on a hot September afternoon and headed straight for the 2 for 1 brunch at Whiskey Kitchen where we seriously overordered (and over imbibed!).



From there we were off to the Inn at Fontanel. The show wasn’t being held downtown, but was instead at the outdoor amphitheater at Fontanel, a gorgeous southern inn with only 6 luxurious suites. I had been able to score 2 of them. With no other hotels nearby, this was not only a way to enjoy a posh stay, but also ensured we could walk to and from the show.









We checked into our suites and they were TO DIE FOR GORGEOUS. Matt and I chose the lower guest suite. It was huge, beautiful, and filled with snacks. The bathroom was bigger than my first apartment.








With time to kill, we loaded up on Barbara, one of their complimentary golf carts (all named after country music stars, thankyouverymuch), to peruse the grounds.


Our first stop was Pritchard’s Distillery, because apparently, 2 for 1 bubbles had not been enough. Pritchard’s makes fine rums and premium whiskeys. They only make small batch products which are distilled in copper pots and stored in charred white oak barrels to allow for the best possible flavor. Made in Tennessee, you can sample their artisan spirits in their tasting room at Fontanel. We were particularly fans of the peach mango rum and the Sweet Lucy.


We also did a quick tasting at the Natchez Hills Winery, also on the Fontanel grounds. With some new purchases, we headed to our rooms to clean up for the show.



We were ready to meet Billy Idol!


VIP passes in hand, they put us near his tour bus on some raggedy old dirt track to wait. And wait. And wait.

And then we were given a lecture about not touching him, grabbing him, kissing him, or jumping on his back like a spider monkey.

Apparently, someone told them I was coming.








What was it like meeting Billy Idol? Well…..it was a lot like meeting a guy wearing a Billy Idol mask. Sorry….but true! He was a little…um….plastic. Maybe some work done. Just maybe.

Steve Stevens was very animated, however, and did not appear to be wearing a mask of his own face. He even pulled his finger gun for us. I love how Matt pulled his in solidarity, but decided to keep it at his side….you know…just to make sure no one got hurt.


So, maybe Billy has had a little “work done,” but he can still rock a show. It was everything we hoped it would be right from second row center.
We fell into our plush beds at Fontanel that night still hearing Rebel Yell in our dreams.








Okay, maybe while everyone else slept, I snuck out in the car and found a total dive of a pizza place in the sketchiest of neighborhoods that was still open. I might have ordered a large pepperoni pizza and braved the hordes of undesirables standing in the parking lot to go inside and claim said pizza and proceed to devour it in the car, like a rat with a cheeseburger.


Fontanel has an enormous great room and kitchen where breakfast is made by their chef and served as part of your stay.

When we were finally able to rouse ourselves, we ambled over to the dining area, found some seats, and drank massive amounts of strong coffee with Rebel Yell still pounding in our heads.





We took a stroll through the Halloween market that Fontanel had set up and it immediately put us in the mood for fall.







And then it was time to fly home!

Short and sweet, but sometimes that's all you need.

Posted by vicki_h 07:08 Archived in USA Tagged nashville nashvegas billy_idol fontanel Comments (1)

Get Her to the Greek: Final Thoughts


Aragma. A delightful Greek phrase that basically means the small joys of life.

It’s a slang word that means “chilling” but carries with it the notion to live simply, to enjoy the smallest things like a smooth white stone on the beach, sitting still and watching the waves, sipping a glass of wine with the one you love, with no rush, no worry, no sense of time or future obligations.


That is the beauty of these Greek islands.

It’s about the tiny gifts like a simple plate of watermelon, some grapes, a basket of oranges, a bite of lemon cake, a sip or amaretto. Something small and sweet to make you feel welcomed. To make you feel home.


It’s about the kind people. People so open and generous, we did not encounter one unkind soul, one rude person, one cross word from anyone in almost 2 weeks.


It’s about making memories. Eating a tangy olive thick with oil and sprinkled with oregano, sipping a glass of simple table wine brought that morning by a local farmer while watching the afternoon sunlight bounce off the white cliffs that sweep into the turquoise sea, or feeling the softness of a kitten that sits on your feet beneath your table as you linger over a 3 hour lunch.


In this place, there is no reason to hurry. Food isn’t picked before it’s ripe. Meals aren’t pre-made so that they can quickly be served. Bread doesn’t come in a plastic bag. Traffic moves with the speed of a tractor carrying a goat on the back. Sounds float with the rustle of the olive trees. Things are slow, ripe, fresh, and deliciously relaxed.


Maybe the 9-5 daily rush, so that we can be successful and drive the nicest car and eat sushi on Tuesday nights isn’t what life is all about. Maybe these Greek islanders have it all figured out. Maybe life is a juicy orange with fresh yogurt and honey and a nap at 3:00 because the heat has made you sleepy. Maybe watching the sun peek up over the sea while sipping a simple Nescafe with brown sugar is worth more than a 6:00 a.m. spin class and a Starbucks Venti Latte.


Maybe it just seems this way because “we are on vacation,” but I would swear the food tastes richer, the fruit seems sweeter, the air smells fresher. Maybe it’s simply because we slow down and have nothing to do all day but eat this bowl of tomatoes sprinkled with sea salt and drizzled with olive oil. Or maybe it’s because, as we pop a juicy, fragrant grape into our mouth, the sun is glinting off the cobalt water making diamonds dance on the surface.


Or maybe this place has magic, and while we are here, it transforms us.

If only for a few days.

From it we are changed, ever so slightly as we earn something sweet and slow to carry home.


Posted by vicki_h 06:46 Archived in Greece Tagged greece corfu zante kefalonia greek_islands ionian_islands zykanthos shipwreck_beach navagio_beach cephalonia Comments (0)

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