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Mon bon AMI: An 18th Anniversary on Anna Maria Island

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Nestled along the emerald coast of the Gulf of Mexico, Anna Maria Island is a mere whisp of land that’s barely a shell toss from Tampa. There are no sprawling resorts, no historic waterfront, and nothing anyone could call a “high rise.” It’s more bike paths, palm trees and brightly colored beach cottages. It’s like visiting the Florida from my childhood except that the thing I hated the most as a kid is the thing I love the most now: there’s not much to do.

Anna Maria is a narrow barrier island just off Sarasota that’s only seven miles long and less than 2 miles wide. Made up of three quaint beach communities: Anna Maria to the north, Holmes Beach in the middle and Bradenton Beach to the south, it’s loaded with old Florida charm.

It seemed like the perfect place for a quick anniversary getaway.

Before heading to AMI, we made an overnight pit stop in New Smyrna Beach on the east coast of FL to drop our friends off. The beach at New Smyrna was expansive, with rich dark sand littered with shells and not a soul in sight.

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Their home enjoys frontage on both the beach side and the river side, so we had the opportunity to do a short kayak trip up the Indian River.

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The best part of the day was when a small group of dolphins joined us for about 30 minutes. I have enjoyed dolphins from the boat in the Bahamas, but this was entirely different. Being at water level with them, and so close, with no competing sounds was phenomenal. You could hear their breath each time they came to the surface. Pure magic.

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We spent a night in New Smyrna and then made our way to the west coast of FL, landing in at the Sarasota-Bradenton airport just before lunch on a gloriously sunny Friday in April. The FBO staff pulled the rental car up to the plane just as we were parking, so it was a quick 5 minutes before we were on our way!

We were STARVING so we stopped en route to AMI at Cortez Village, just before crossing the bridge across the intracoastal waterway. There we found Tide Tables, an unassuming little restaurant at the marina rumored by good friend and fellow blogger TraceyG to have amazing fish tacos.

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We started off with some chilled shrimp while we waited.

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The wait was short, very short, and within minutes we each had a basket of gorgeous fish tacos, tangy slaw, and carrot salad.

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With our bellies filled, the sunshine on our faces, and a slight buzz from the cheap wine, we were feeling mighty fine.

It was still slightly before check-in time, so we made another stop on the way: the Anna Maria Oyster Bar at the Bradenton Beach Pier. Matt needed an oyster fix and we had an hour to kill.

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The oysters were plump and salty, but the real show stopper was the salted caramel vodka cake.

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Our trip had been planned at the last minute, so we didn’t have a lot of accommodations to choose from. Not planning to go anywhere for our anniversary, we had agreed to take our friends to FL and, since they were paying for the fuel, thought….why not make a weekend of it?

Despite the fact that pickings were slim when I was trying to find beachfront digs, I was delighted to find the ever-so-simple but incredibly adorable Love Shack.

I mean really, where better to spend an anniversary than the Love Shack?

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There were certainly nicer places to stay, but we wanted to be nestled right on the beach, where we could simply walk out the back door and have our toes in the sand. What the Love Shack lacked in “fancy” it made up for in location.

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I knew that Anna Maria was “old school” Florida, so it seemed fitting that they cottage reminded me of the places I used to stay with my parents when I was 9, with gently sloping cracked linoleum floors, brightly colored wood paneling, and old style tri-fold beach chairs.

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It was perfect.

Within minutes, we had dumped our bags and were sitting on bright turquoise Adirondack chairs sipping chilled rum punches and listening to the waves.

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After sufficient chill time on the beach, we cleaned up for dinner and went out our back door to enjoy the sunset with a glass of wine.

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AMI is the kind of beach town where everyone gathers for the sunset, treating it with reverence and awe, as though it isn’t something that happens every single day.

I loved it.

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It was just a couple of miles down the beach to Beach House, where we sipped cocktails at the edge of the water while we waited for a table.

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I had an amazing margarita but Matt….misordered. He ordered what was called a “dirty monkey” and expected something like this...all deliciously ice-creamy and milkshakey:

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What he got was more "black rotten banana that should have been thrown out yesterday:"

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He forced it upon me to confirm that it was indeed terrible and, with one sip, I knew how it got its name. It tasted like a monkey ate a banana and crapped it out.

Dinner, however, was decadent. We were so hungry by the time we sat down that we overordered and ended up with a feast of the house smoked fish dip, farmhouse salad, and the gulf scampi for me and the seafood capellini for Matt.

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Saturday morning I woke early and saw that Matt was sleeping like the dead. I let him be and wandered outside.

I love the beach in the morning, before it’s littered with bodies and screaming children. It’s quiet and peaceful, the world softly waking up around the ocean. The sand is scattered with tiny shells, the waves lap gently at the shore, and the day is full of promise.

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It was 10:00 before a groggy Matt wandered out onto the beach. Sleeping that late is very unusual for either of us so I knew he needed it and was thankful we had this glorious weekend to get our batteries recharged.

We set our cheap tri-fold beach chairs up in the sand, grabbed a morning mimosa, and watched the world go by.

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After a couple of hours of sunning and swimming, we were hungry, so we threw on some clothes and headed down the beach to Skinny’s Place, a hole-in-the-wall that serves up wide, juicy patties on toasted buns with plenty of toppings and an impressive variety of beer. They are also known for their colossal onion rings, fried to crispy perfection.

Skinny’s was funky, Old Florida at its best.

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The menu said to say “Mayo” or “No Mayo,” which made me wonder why, down here in the south, there would even be a choice. Nothing beats a burger slathered with a hearty helping of mayonnaise, preferably Duke’s or JFG.

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The burgers were everything they promised to be and left us ready to do some shopping and strolling around Anna Maria’s cute beachside town.

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Every place we stopped was bright, unique, and eclectic, but my favorite had to be Shiny Fish. I’m not sure what won me over the most….the swing outside, the incredible décor and selection of awesomeness inside, or the PAINT YOUR OWN SAND DOLLAR TABLE!

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I really wanted to paint a sand dollar, but Matt was getting over estrogenized and needed a shopping break.

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We ducked into The Donut Experiment, where you can order a soft, still warm cake donut topped with your choice of icing and your choice of topping.

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I went for the vanilla icing and candy sprinkles while Matt opted for caramel icing and sea salt.

That donut was like a gift from god.

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We walked over to the beach and thought about getting a drink at Sand Bar until we saw how long the wait was. I could swim to Puerto Rico and get my own bottle of rum before we would have a drink in that place, so we strolled around town a little more before heading back down the beach to our end of the island. Anna Maria was a perfect blend of quirky, cute, and funky, with just enough "WTF?" to keep it from being boring.

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We stopped in at a cute little beachside bar, the Kokonut Hut. It sat right on the sugar white sand and served up wicked little buckets of rum punch.

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After a bucket of rum punch, a frozen rum punch with a 151 floater, and a Pussers painkiller…there was nothing left to do but take a nap.

We woke up in time for sunset and enjoyed another beautiful evening on the beach behind the Love Shack.

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We had dinner reservations at Blue Marlin on Bridge Street, so we headed to the Drift-In Lounge’s outdoor tiki bar for a pre-dinner drink. The Drift-In was an incredibly cool little dive bar. Everyone seated around the bar appeared to be a local or a regular and they were cranking out my favorite 80s tunes over the ancient speakers. The tough, tattooed bartender made us a fantastic pina colada, which, side-by-side, looked a lot like boobs.

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Or maybe I had simply had one drink too many.

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We found the Blue Marlin practically across the street in an adorable little blue cottage with warm lights. This cozy little bistro cranks out some of the freshest seafood on the island.

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As we perused the menu, the waiter brought us….not bread…..edamame. Odd…but delicious.

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We had a delicious burrata salad, swimming in rich olive oil and basil and we both ended up ordering the shrimp and grits which, much to my delight, came served with an adorable little hushpuppy. Dessert was a decadent pecan pie with vanilla bean ice cream.

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After dinner, you can sip wine and listen to live music in their outdoor patio area, the Trap Yard….only 351 miles from Abaco!

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It was Sunday morning and the official “ANNIVERSARY.”

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We started the day with celebratory morning cocktails at the Coquina Beach Café. You can’t be a $3 mimosa with a view like this.

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Next to the café was the weekly Coquina Beach Market, filled with everything from original art and jewelry to fresh baked goods to home-made dog biscuits.

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We had worked up an appetite and stopped at Wicked Cantina on our way back to the Love Shack.

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It was $5 margarita day. For $5, I expect a pretty sub-par margarita. These were anything but sub-par…they were strong and freshly squeezed.

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Even though I don’t like avocadoes (literally one 3 foods on the whole planet I don’t like…), I was intrigued by the fried guacamole. Cover anything in dough and fry it and I’ll eat it.

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Matt ordered carnitas tacos with rice and charro beans.

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Matt’s tacos looked amazing, but I am a nacho fan. I LOVE NACHOS. You could say I have a ….

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These nachos were absolute perfection. The only ones I can remember having that I liked more were at a little divey beach bar on St. Croix on my honeymoon, but that memory might be clouded by the fact that 1) I was on my honeymoon where everything seemed sparkly and magical and 2) I had been drinking rum all day.

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After lunch, we headed back for some beach lounging, sun, and cold slices of watermelon.

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As the sun began to dip lower in the sky, we headed out for the official anniversary dinner.

First stop was at the Doctor’s Office, an adorable craft cocktail bar in….what else…an old doctor’s office.

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Dinner was beachside at the Beach Bistro. I chose it because it has a reputation for being the best restaurant on the island. I left knowing it is.

The location, right on the beach, was a show stopper in itself. However, as we stepped inside, the interior took my breath away. It was tiny and intimate, delicate and elegant, with white tablecloths and a single, red rose on each table.

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They wished us a Happy Anniversary and brought us each their standard complimentary cocktail – a refreshing blend of blueberry infused vodka with a splash of St. Germain and lime juice.

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Next came a complimentary “shot” of their “one helluva soup,” the bistro blue tomato made with Parrish plum tomatoes in sweet cream with Maytag blue cheese. This was paired with a chunk of homemade sea salt focaccia with olive tapenade, basil pesto, and smoked salmon.

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Salads came next. Matt ordered the caprese, a giant ball of fresh milk mozzarella surrounded by a rainbow of cherry tomatoes, drizzled with basil olive oil and balsamic. I couldn’t resist the black and blue Caesar, which was loaded with bacon and blue cheese.

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Dinner for Matt was the dinner special of seared jumbo scallops, while I ordered the famous bistro bouillabaisse – a savory broth filled with poached lobster tail, jumbo shrimp, fresh grouper, shellfish, and calamari and served with crusty herbed garlic toast and aioli. Apparently, my dish required a bib.

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When we were certain we couldn’t eat another bite, they brought out another complimentary dish – a scoop of ice cream rolled in some powdery deliciousness, served on top of a shot of Frangelico and topped with whipped cream and almonds.

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It had been a perfect meal in a perfect setting….but the hits kept coming. As we left, they handed us a box with one of their signature truffles, a bag of toffee popcorn, and a rose.

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Happy Anniversary to us!

(all that food did not stop me from ordering a slice of key lime pie to go…I’m still ME after all…)

It had been a sleepy, food-filled, fun-filled, sun-filled, relaxing weekend. The only thing that could make it any better was a piece of key lime pie for breakfast in the plane on the way home.

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Matt – I love being your co-pilot and can’t wait to see what adventures the next 18 years takes us on!

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What’s up next folks? Holy Life Preservers….we’re headed to the Bahamas to spend 12 days on a power catamaran going from Nassau to Georgetown Exuma!!!! Be sure to check back in June to see what happened!

Posted by vicki_h 10:11 Archived in USA Tagged beach florida sarasota bradenton anna_maria holmes_beach Comments (0)

Honduras Bonus: Utila and Roatan video

Posted by vicki_h 08:22 Archived in Honduras Tagged beach island caribbean tropical honduras roatan utila little_cay deserted_island Comments (0)

In Pursuit of Paradise Last Day: Vomit Comet

The Bay Islands of Honduras

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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.

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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.

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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.
We slept.

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.

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Posted by vicki_h 08:03 Archived in Honduras Tagged beach island caribbean tropical honduras roatan utila little_cay deserted_island Comments (2)

In Pursuit of Paradise Day 7: The Sloth is my Spirit Animal

The Bay Islands of Honduras

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It hadn’t been an easy night for me. I had blackened my toe running through the house to try to make it to the other bathroom so that I wouldn’t wake Matt up with all my vomiting. I was up and down all night with hot miserable things pouring out of various parts of my body.

I was exhausted.

I had saved some of our best plans for the last day and I felt so ill, I was worried I would miss it.

Because West Bay was touted as the single best spot in all of Roatan, it is also the most popular, particularly with cruise ships. I had read that, on a heavy cruise ship day, you can barely find a spot in the sand. That’s my idea of hell, so we had waited for the one day that NO CRUISE SHIPS would be on the island. We wanted to enjoy West Bay in relative peace and not feel like we were on a beach that had been planted in the center of Wal-Mart.

I had also planned a visit to Daniel Johnson’s Monkey and Sloth Sanctuary, where I might actually get to hold a sloth.

We also wanted to visit West End, a funky, bohemian village next to West Bay, and the owner of Brisa del Mar had told us about the Friday afternoon party that cranked up at a place called BJ’s Backyard in Oak Ridge.

I couldn’t miss all of that.

I told Matt to let me sleep for a couple of hours and we’d see.

I emerged from my coma around 9:00 and announced that I was ready to tackle the day.

I was, sort of.

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After a breakfast of Pepto-Bismol and Advil, I was ready.

We found the monkey and sloth sanctuary easily from Daniel’s directions, located just inside French Harbour. Not a zoo, the place is a small animal shelter located in the back yard of the family’s home. They have rescued a number of macaws and monkeys that individuals took as pets and then abandoned. They also have several sloths, an animal that is inexplicably hunted and killed on mainland Honduras.

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Who would want to kill a sloth???

I love sloths. And why not? I learned from my visit that sloths and I have a lot in common. We both love sleeping, we love hugs, and neither of us move very fast. Hugging a sloth was like everything good about hugging a baby, without any tears, poopy diapers, excessive spit, or that spoiled milk smell.

Matt was a big hit with the monkeys.

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I was feeling reasonably recovered, so we continued to make our way west.

West Bay Beach….we were on our way!

As we drove, we noticed the small island of Roatan was drastically divided. On the east side, where we had spent all of our time thus far, the landscape was sparsely populated with homes, and most things we saw were fairly simple and modest. We regularly saw open fields full of cows and the occasional Honduran cowboy riding his horse along his fence line, checking for breaks. Roadside stands were scattered on the highway, where women stood grilling corn. Clean laundry fluttered in the breeze behind simple shacks.

On the west side, tourism has taken over. We started to see shops, restaurants, and tons of people. Around each curve there was another sign for zip-lines, dolphin encounters, scuba excursions, and dune buggies. Signs for large resorts appeared at every turn.

I already missed the fine white sand of Camp Bay Beach, with nary a soul in sight.

After an hour of driving through throngs of people, roadside shops filled with cheap sarongs, and signs promising the “adventure of a lifetime,” we found ourselves at the road to West Bay Beach, famed jewel of Roatan.

I had high expectations. On Roatan, West Bay is the Prom Queen of beaches. She is the one that everyone wants to hang out with, bragging to their friends with an iPhone picture to prove it.

She is held up as the prettiest one around. Described as one long, blond babe, with the softest and purest of sand, curves in all the right places, and meticulously groomed so that not a speck of seaweed sullies her pristine shores. She’s the one in all the glossy brochures, beckoning the weary, the burned out, and the overworked to her turquoise shores.

She is West Bay Beach.

We parked the car at the Beach Club at San Simon and strolled through the facility, which was lovely. An open air beach bar greeted us, dotted with loungers and day beds on the ocean side.

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We stepped out onto the sand, expectations high.

Hip-hop music immediately blasted us from 4 competing stereo systems, each appearing to strive for the award of loudest and most obnoxious. I sat on a beach lounge and looked out over a sea of braided hair, paper cups filled with cheap liquor, sunscreen, and the lost, glazed over looks of the uninspired. The beautiful, gin clear water was cluttered with banana boats, parasailing, paddle boards, and floating docks covered with signs for “BEST RIDES!”

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We managed to find a sliver of beach that wasn’t covered with a poorly stocked bar, sarong stand, or cheap jewelry table and gazed at an endless line of vendors toting coolers and buckets filled with anything and everything you might, or might not, want to buy on the beach.

And this was a day with NO CRUISE SHIPS.

It was Myrtle Beach on spring break.

This wasn’t the Prom Queen. It was a cocktail waitress in a Dolly Parton wig.

Sure, the beach was very lovely, but it had been carelessly ruined by overdevelopment and littered with so much cheap crap that you could barely see the beauty beneath it all.

As I sat on my chair, I was approached by six vendors in under 3 minutes trying to sell me jewelry, conch shells, jade turtles, unidentifiable food wrapped in aluminum foil from a 5 gallon bucket, ice cream bars, and a parasailing excursion.

This was not our scene.

Nonetheless, we had driven an hour to be here, so we were going to make the most of it.

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We pulled some chairs down toward the water and I sent Matt in search of drinks.

Every island seems to have its own drink. The Bahamas have the Bahama Mama. The BVI is home to the infamous Painkiller. Cuba has the Mojito….and Roatan has the Monkey-la-la.

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Sure, this sounds more like an apt description of me trying to dance, but it’s actually named after the ever-present lizard you will see running across any road up on its hind legs. It’s also commonly known as the Jesus Lizard because it can walk on water for a bit before sinking. I guess the drink is named appropriately, because I’m pretty sure you might try to walk on water and do other miraculous things after drinking 4 or 5 of them.

The monkey la-la was potent and delicious. An adult milkshake with an afterbite. It was the best thing we found on West Bay Beach.

We soaked in the sun and water for about an hour, sipping monkey la-las and wondering how long we were actually required to stay before we could make an exit without feeling like we had totally wasted our time.

When a vendor actually approached me IN THE WATER, we made up our minds. I mean, I was on a lounge chair IN THE WATER. Did he think I had a $5 bill stuffed in my bikini? It was time to go.

Matt was getting hungry and I felt like it might be a good idea for me to eat. The milkshake drinks had been creamy and good, but maybe food would be better.

We headed over to West End, a trendy little town that circled a small bay just a short drive from West Bay. It was filled with cute shops and restaurants, and mostly maintained an authentic feel despite a few places that looked like they belonged in Pigeon Forge, TN more than they belonged in Roatan.

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Our restaurant of choice was Creole Rotisserie Chicken, having been highly recommended to us by our hosts at Brisa del Mar. When we finally found it, it was closed.

Of course it was.

So, we went with his second suggestion, the Argentinian Grill. Located in front of the hotel Posada Arco Iris, this restaurant was known for its grilled meats.

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Matt was starving, so he ordered heavy: shrimp ceviche, Argentinian grilled sausage, and giant shrimp burritos. I went conservative with the grilled churrasco steak with chimichurri (a savory garlic, parsley and olive oil sauce).

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I wasn’t able to eat more than a few bites before my stomach promptly told me that it wasn’t emotionally ready for another food relationship, so Matt finished my food off as well.

We did a little shopping, but shortly decided that, like West Bay, West End was not for us and headed back to the east end. But not before I decided to try some gelato. It seemed to be the only thing I could stomach.

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We still had time to find the obscure BJ’s and see if the Friday afternoon ex-pat dance party was all that it had been described as.

We passed the turn to Brisa del Mar and went a couple of miles until we saw the turn for Oak Ridge. Oak Ridge was a simple fishing village, home port to many of the island’s shrimp and fishing boats. Most of the buildings were built on the edge of the water, and the primary mode of transportation in the village is by boat.

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The village was conspicuously less affluent than anything we had seen on the west end. The dichotomy of Roatan was hard to miss. Yet this appealed to us more. It was authentic. It was genuine. It was humble and unpretentious. I preferred it over the contrived experience that I found on West Bay.

A simple bar on the edge of the water, BJ’s was opened by BJ some 25 years ago to serve the local seamen. It’s now the most common place to find local ex-pats living it up with cold beer and live music, especially on Friday afternoons.

There were no signs pointing the way to BJ’s like there had been for La Sirena de Camp Bay. BJ doesn’t care if you find her. If you are supposed to be there, you’ll know where she is.

We had just given up and were turning around when we saw a large group of people dancing with beers in hand on a dock. As we pulled in, our host from Brisa del Mar was walking out.

We had found BJ’s.

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And it was every inch the party that it had been described as.

BJ’s was truly a hole in the wall kind of place, but one where you were immediately welcomed in like family, handed a cold drink, and asked to stay a while. A live band was playing and the place was filled with colorful characters drinking and dancing the afternoon away. Five minutes couldn’t pass without someone stopping to say “hello” or talk to us about our time on Roatan.

We were having such a good time, it was hard to pull ourselves away, but we were crusty with salt and sand and our skin was screaming for a shower, so we waved our goodbyes and headed back to Brisa del Mar.

Fausto waited at the gate.

The day had been long and exhausting. We napped in the luxurious breeze by the pool until I finally felt hungry.

“I think I can eat,” I told Matt.

We had made no plans, so we decided to run back down to Cal’s Cantina so I could have a second chance at the mystery dish in the pot.

We found Cal’s to be just as breezy, the margaritas to be just as strong, and the view to be just as amazing as before, and this time, I ordered the right thing: the anafre, a hot dip of beans, cheese, and chorizo. In hindsight, it might have been “too soon,” but I hadn’t had any food in over 24 hours and I was hungry, so I dove in with gusto.

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I followed that with the island burger, an equally disastrous decision.

But I didn’t yet know that what had happened to my stomach the night before wasn’t the hot sauce.

And it wasn’t over.

Posted by vicki_h 05:32 Archived in Honduras Tagged beach island caribbean tropical honduras roatan utila little_cay deserted_island Comments (0)

In Pursuit of Paradise Day 6: Seeking Asylum

The Bay Islands of Honduras

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So far, the trip had been pretty lazy. We were both in the mood for a little more activity, so we had booked Villas del Mar’s private boat, Shaya Manzi, for a snorkeling trip. This would allow us to avoid trying to find those darn buoys with the kayaks again.

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After a luxurious morning by the pool, the boat picked us up on the dock promptly at 10:30 a.m.

As we sipped cold drinks, we sped along the east end of Roatan with a fish’s eye view of the coast and its colorful villages.

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After a nice ride, we stopped and tied off near the reef so that Matt and I could snorkel for about an hour. The reef was incredibly colorful and lively, definitely one of the best I have ever seen.

After our swim, we lounged in the sun with cheese and crackers and more drinks before heading back to Brisa.

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We arrived back at the house around 12:30 and decided to drive to the east end for lunch at Asylum at La Sirena de Camp Bay, a breezy over-the-water tiki hut serving fresh fish and strong drinks. We knew it would be a long, dusty drive, so we hoped we’d eaten enough cheese to hold us over.

If Roatan is the best kept secret in the Caribbean, then the East End is the best kept secret in Roatan.

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We drove a few miles and then the pavement gave way to a dirt road. The road was bumpy, dusty, and hot. It was also incredibly remote, winding its way through dense green foliage dotted with a few homes and a lot of cows.

On the drive, we passed a young boy who enthusiastically thrust a live chicken toward our car window as we passed. Apparently the vehicle did serve to make us appear to be locals, otherwise I can see no reason he would shove a chicken at me. Did he think we would stop, toss him a few lempiras, grab that chicken by the feet and tie it to the bumper for the rest of the ride?

Next we passed a tuk-tuk, a beat up motorbike, and a guy standing on the side of the road with a machete.

“Asylum…La Sirene de Camp Bay” a colorful sign proclaimed with an arrow pointing us farther east.

We bumped along in the sunshine along the roller coaster road.

“Asylum….ALMOST THERE…”

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The signs were incessant. I guess they were worried we’d give up.

I can see why. My back compressed a few more inches with each bump in the road. I was pretty sure I was going to be shorter when I got there than I had been that morning.

There was definitely a sense of adventure to it, maybe not golden-idol-flying-arrows-unstoppable-boulder adventure, but I’d put it a notch past “off the beaten path.” It was off the beaten, worn down, ragged out, unpaved, covered with unexpected speed bumps and live chickens out of nowhere path.

Eventually we arrived at a small thatched hut on stilts just off the shore with an enormous pig guarding the entrance.

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The bar is aptly named “Asylum” because you will be insane by the time you finish that drive.

It wasn’t an easy drive, but it was worth every bump.

Asylum was definitely my kind of place. No frills and truly unique.

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I loved everything about it.

Except the bathroom.

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We visited the pig, who had the unimaginative name “Piggy,” and settled ourselves on a picnic table over the water.

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Unfortunately, they were out of the famous rum punch they are so well known for, but we made do with rum and coke.

Lots of rum and coke.

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We ordered the spicy wings, the fresh catch, and the shrimp. All were delicious.

They also had a house made hot sauce.

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“Are you sure you want to put that much on there? You might want to go easy on that,” Matt cautioned as I continued to glob more hot sauce on my peas n’ rice.

“Are you crazy? This stuff is PHENOMENAL,” I said, through a mouthful of plantains.

We put it off as long as we could, truly enjoying this breezy outpost on the end of the world, but the drive back was inevitable. It had to be done.

We downed a final rum and coke for good luck and headed back down the road.

We made a pit stop at Camp Bay Beach and were stunned at how gorgeous it was. There wasn't another soul in sight.

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When we were sufficiently cooled off, we headed back down the road.

We made a quick stop in Jonesville on the way home to see if we could find Hole in the Wall, an obscure little bar mostly known for its famous Sunday buffet. It wasn’t Sunday, but the fact that you had to find a mysterious boat to take you over intrigued me.

My directions were sketchy, leading us to a “store at the end of the road in Jonesville with a Coca-Cola sign painted on the wall.”

This was obviously it.

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No, it wasn’t.

The young lady inside directed us a little farther down the road to another “store at the end of the road with a Coca-Cola sign painted on the wall.”

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When we arrived, the girl behind the register made a quick call, and in seconds, a little boat was whizzing across the water toward us.

We were whisked away to the Hole in the Wall.

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A couple of rum punches and an interesting conversation with the bartender later, we were worn out from drinks and naps and sun and needed a shower.

We made the drive back to Brisa, where Fausto was already at the gate.

We had arranged for Rosa to cook us dinner in our villa that night. We had been given a list of ingredients to purchase at the grocery store and for $25, she came in and cooked our dinner and cleaned up. She made a delicious salad, bread, and her famous shrimp masala with carrot rice.

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As we sat by the pool in the soft glow of the moon sipping a glass of wine, Rosa cleaned up our dishes.

I have never felt so spoiled.

This place was decadent.

It was about 2:00 a.m. when the Revenge of the Hot Sauce hit. Just suffice it say that Matt was right and I was wrong.

Posted by vicki_h 05:35 Archived in Honduras Tagged beach island caribbean tropical honduras roatan utila little_cay deserted_island Comments (4)

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