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Hatfield Follies

Taking the Fam to Folly Beach

Those of you that have been with me a long time remember the blue bucket. Who can forget the BLUE BUCKET?

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For those who don't know, the blue bucket was what we used, quite inelegantly, to get my mother-in-law in and out of a Jeep on a trip to St. John back in 2005. We took it everywhere and used it as a step to propel her into the vehicle. (I never claimed to be a great daughter-in-law, folks....)

Fast forward 15 years and you can only imagine how the mobility issues have deteriorated, but her love for travel has not.

Her last trip, and I don't mean most recent...I mean LAST....was in 2014. I don't mean she died. She is alive and well, but travel has simply become too challenging for her. It's heartbreaking to see someone you love lose their ability to do something they love, so we still try to take her where we can.

Last fall, knowing her traveling days were limited due to her extreme mobility issues, we asked where she wanted to go. It had to be somewhere Matt could fly her to, because commercial travel has become an impossibility.

She said Charleston. On the beach.

Jo wanted to see Charleston, but mostly wanted her toes in the sand one more time. We decided to take the clan to Folly Beach.

I had to find a house ON THE BEACH.....not over the dunes, not down a zillions steps, not across a walkway...ON THE BEACH. We had to be able to get her just a few steps from the house into the sweet, soft sand.

This trip wasn't about diving into Charleston's culinary scene. We barely touched it. It wasn't about enjoying the area's wonderful shopping. We didn't enter a single store. It wasn't even about beaching it. We barely beached.

It was simply spending time as a family in a place someone we loved wanted to see. It was about letting her eat some seafood, dig her toes into the sand. and sit and listen to the waves.

So that's what we did.

It was simple. It was sweet. It was just two days and it was perfect for her.

And we didn't even need the blue bucket.

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Posted by vicki_h 07:56 Archived in USA Tagged beach south_carolina charleston folly_beach Comments (0)

Beached on Beautiful Bequia....Part 2

Day 5:

There was no beautiful breakfast on the patio on Wednesday because we were meeting a boat very early that morning.

In my customary neurotic fashion, I had contacted Michael Tours MONTHS before our trip to inquire about booking a day trip to the Tobago Cays and Mayreau.

They found it hilarious and basically told me to calm down, crazy lady.

Who knew if they would be going, when they would be going, or where they would be going this early? I was told to check in with them when we arrived on the island and they’d let me know what they had based on weather and other interested parties. Despite the fact that this gave me heart palpitations and required deep breathing exercises, this is exactly what I did.

We had managed to work out trip for Wednesday because another group was interested in going and that gave them enough people to justify the trip.

This required us to actually set an alarm on vacation.

Oh the horror.

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Even with the alarm and no breakfast or coffee stop…we were late. Not only was everyone waiting for us when we arrived, but we had forgotten our money.

We were total losers.

They let us go anyway and told us to just “come by and pay them later in the week.” Seriously laid back, these Bequians.

No vex.

Much to my delight, there was coffee and banana bread on the boat. This was actually good for everyone, not just me, because there are those people who can wake up, chug nothing more than a whey protein smoothie, run 10 miles, and go about their day. Matt is those people. I, on the other hand, wake up with the speed of a sloth and do well to get my pants on right side out and find matching socks before I have had a cup of coffee. Until I have coffee, everyone is in danger.

I arrived at the boat a tousled mess. Every yawn was just a noiseless scream for caffeine. I think I heard angels singing when I saw the coffee set up.
In cute little handmade pottery cups that looked like the ocean, no less!

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The captain let us know it would be a long ride to the Tobago Cays and told everyone to just find a spot and settle in. It was a really big boat and there were only 6 of us, so finding a private space wasn’t hard to do.

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Shortly after leaving, we cruised past the Moonhole, an abandoned dream found on the secluded western end of Bequia.

In the late 1950s, Tom and Gladdie Johnston retired from the rat race and decided to go all in and move to Bequia, a quiet tropical paradise they had come to love. In their exploration of the island, they visited a geological arch formation known as the Moonhole, far on the very western tip of the island. At the time, that end of the island was accessible only by a wet hike along the bottom of the cliffs.

They began to spend time there, picnicking and camping out, and it quickly became their favorite spot on the island. In the 1960s, they impulsively bought the entire 30-acre tract and started constructing a house underneath the arch, working with local masons from a nearby village who walked in daily with food and supplies.

Tom and Gladdie worked side by side with carpenters and masons from the island and created an architectural wonder, a house literally built from the rock, surrounded by the sea, fashioned out of only natural materials, built into the hillside, and completely reliant on solar electricity, rainwater and propane tanks. The architecture was open-air, with lines blurred between indoors and out. It was their dream.

Before long they started inviting friends and relatives, entertaining them at the huge bar made out of a recovered humpback whale jaw bone. Everyone was enamored with their Robinson Crusoe lifestyle and natural home and they wanted it too.

This might be where the Johnston’s “paradise found” began to become their “paradise lost.”

Persistent dream-seekers urged Tom to build houses for them. Soon, the former ad man who had no architectural or building training, was an in demand architect on the island of Bequia. He agreed to build more houses and wanted to develop the Moonhole as a preserve for writers, artists, friends and others who wanted to get away from it all. Over the next thirty years, he built sixteen more houses, a commissary, office, living quarters for Moonhole staff and a gallery where the community could congregate every Sunday.

Tom died in 2001, and things went south pretty quickly. Moonhole began to lose its once devoted but now-disillusioned staff, and many of the houses became seriously neglected. People left. Homes fell into disrepair, and the dream was lost.

Today, only a few homes remain habitable and the original Moonhole house is in total disrepair and, unsafe to enter, can only be viewed from the sea.

Looking at that house was like facing a ghost. It was eerie and sad.

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As we pulled away from Bequia, the rest of the boat ride was just a smooth passage filled with beautiful water and colorful islands.

We sat back, relaxed, and simply took it all in.

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The family of four wanted to snorkel for turtles, but Matt and I opted to be dropped off on a deserted little island to explore. I had seen more than my share of sea turtles and prefered to snorkel where there aren’t gobs of life-vested people bobbing about in the water. The Tobago Cays, while lovely, were quite overvisited. In my experience, snorkeling with groups typically resulted in your peaceful experience, gliding through the calm water admiring the beauty of the underwater world, being abruptly interrupted at some point by some person in a bright yellow vest flapping around, half swimming, half drowning, definitely scaring away all the fish, and more often than not, standing upright on the coral to get their breath.

No thanks.

I would save my snorkeling for the beautiful reefs of Abaco, where I didn’t have to share it with hysterical people screaming because a fish nibbled their leg hair and relentlessly kicking me in the face mask with their fins, completely unaware of their surroundings.

Being marooned for an hour on a deserted island sounded infinitely more entertaining.

Especially one this beautiful.

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Deserted island + Matt + Yeti thermos filled with (VERY STRONG) rum punch = Bliss.

After the Cays, we were going to stop at Salt Whistle Bay on Mayreau. I was pretty excited about this – actually, more excited than seeing the Cays. The beach looked lovely and I knew there were several good bars and restaurants scattered along the crescent of palm filled beach.

En route, one of the deck guys handed us a laminated menu and told us we were eating lunch at the Last Bar Before the Jungle and they would call in our order in advance. Wha….??

Not wanting to rock the boat, we complied and gave him our order, only to be told they were “out of that.”

STRIKE ONE.

We made an alternative selection. No worries. No vex. It was all good.

When we arrived on Mayreau, a long beautiful beach stretched out before us and, inexplicably, the boat pulled up onto the dirtiest, rangiest, most seaweed littered section on the far end and let us off. Because THIS is where the Last Bar Before the Jungle was located.

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Matt and I gave each other a look as we walked warily up to the bar/restaurant. We’ve enjoyed our share of dilapidated, disheveled, and less-than-sanitary beach shacks. We’ve loved them. This one…gave us pause.

Nonetheless, our food was ordered so we powered on. We went up to the bar, which actually had an impressive drink menu, only to find that they didn’t have the ingredients to make most of the drinks. We ordered two painkillers and were brought something extremely NON painkiller like. Whatever it was, it was TERRIBLE. When the Hatfields refuse alcohol, something is amiss.

STRIKE TWO.

The final blow came when I decided I’d like to wash my hands and made the mistake of going BEHIND the bar in search of a bathroom. What I saw was a grill and counter set up underneath the trees in the open air. Our fish sat there, waiting to be cooked, as large black birds hopped about on the counters, picking at things and pooping as they pleased. Flies covered everything. A guy stood mixing a large bowl of salad with his bare hands.

Y’all…..I can eat in some unsanitary conditions. I have. I do. I am the person that gets diarrhea from the street vendor on almost every vacation. I nearly died from food poisoning on the way home from Honduras because, against Matt’s warnings, I ate an inordinate amount of one restaurant’s house made hot sauce as their pet pig watched. My standards are extremely low.

When I say that “kitchen” made me feel nauseous, you know it was bad.

I walked out and told Matt to pay for our food and drinks and leave.

And that’s exactly what we did.

STRIKE THREE…..AND YER OUT!

We walked to the opposite end of the beach. The walk itself took us past several little shacks of bars and racks of colorful beach sarongs.

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At the very far end, we found a beautiful oasis at the Saltwhistle Bay resort. The setting was lovely, the menu was varied and upscale, the drinks were perfect, and the food was amazing.

Happy with our choice, we worried about those two poor kids that were down there eating that fish. Those parents were going to have a long night.

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We enjoyed our remaining time on Mayreau at the Salt Whistle Bay beach before we knew it was time to head back to the boat. I can’t resist a low slung palm tree. Can anyone??

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It was pretty late when we got back, and we still had to pay the Captain for the boat day. The Captain knew the house where we were staying and told us he’d just swing by on his way home and grab our money.

SO LAID BACK, these people.

We got cleaned up, got him paid, and headed to …..where else…..Da Reef for sunset.

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Again, we had no plans for dinner. Bequia was managing to calm even my over planned, neurotic brain. We headed toward town, the post-sunset views literally igniting the sky.

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We had seen Laura’s on our previous stroll along the Belmont Walkway and decided to give it a try. It was open!

Wine, salad, pasta and a beautiful view of the harbor ended a long day on the right note.

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Day 6:

BREAKFAST! I loved having breakfast on the patio at the villa. The views never stopped being amazing.

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On every vacation, Matt and I like to take at least one day to explore and drive around. We decided this would be the day. Bequia was so small, it would take no time at all to drive the entire island.

So we did.

Our first stop was to drive over to a relatively new resort called “The Liming.” Located on the southwestern tip of the island, the Liming was situated on lovely Adams Bay between the airport runway and the Moonhole. I had gathered from my browsing of the interwebs that this was a relatively controversial development.

Promoters of the resort and travel articles touted it as the “next best thing” on Bequia, an uber luxury resort situated on a beautiful beach. However, devoted fans of Bequia, locals, and long time visitors obviously considered it a blight, a development that virtually destroyed one of the most beautiful and pristine stretches of Bequia. It reminded me very much of the struggle between Bakers Bay and the Guana Cay community in my beloved Abaco. I could feel their pain.

I was glad it was the off season, because I wasn’t sure how I felt about supporting the development by visiting the restaurant, but I really wanted to see the beach. As we drove up, a guard stood at the entrance. We simply asked if it was okay to drive inside and he motioned us in. He did keep an eye on us the entire time, however, like we were going to grab a light fixture and make a sudden run for it.

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The beauty of the place didn’t disappoint, but it did make me sad to see what was probably much more lovely before someone decided to gobble it up and put a resort on it.

We decided to continue our drive out toward Hope Bay, Industry Bay, and Spring Bay. The beaches on the southern side of Bequia were wild and wonderful. They weren’t the calm, turquoise, gin clear beaches that you find on many Caribbean islands, so probably not the best bet for a swim or a beach day, but for exploring and just soaking in their sheer beauty, they were perfect.

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The biggest drawback to visiting the south side in the off season was that the one or two restaurants and bars on that side were closed for the season, forcing us back into Port Elizabeth for lunch.

We found ourselves at Mac’s, just a short hop along the Belmont Walkway, for their famous pizza and what should be famous margaritas.

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And sweet dogs. So many sweet dogs.

Dogs are ever present on Bequia and we loved this. These weren’t sad and thin island dogs, strays looking for love or a handout, these were fat and happy island dogs, ready to eat your pizza crust, follow you down the beach, or just lick your face, whatever the moment demanded.

Then it was back to the villa for naps.

We had noticed a great happy hour was held each night at The Firefly, so we decided to forgo sunset at Da Reef and partake in Firefly’s two-for-one happy hour. Not only did it give us a chance to see this lovely, tropical restaurant and bar in the daylight, it allowed us to sample their house special, the “praying mantis” martini, made from a bottle of house infused vodka stuffed with lemongrass and ginger... TWICE!

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I’m not sure what I loved more, the martini or the bar dog. Both were delightful.

For dinner, we decided at the last minute (I was really starting to get into this “fly by the seat of my pants” vacation) to see if Fig Tree on the walkway was open. Once again, we found ourselves to be the only patrons of the restaurant, but this time, we also had an ENTIRE BAND to ourselves. It was like a private serenade.

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We clapped, we whistled, and we enjoyed a delicious dinner of local island specialties. As we got up to leave, the members of the band told us for our last song they would play anything we wanted.

Anything? Never say that to someone from Knoxville, TN.

Day 7:

It was our last day on Bequia. That meant it was our last lovely outdoor breakfast.

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I wanted to spend my last day at my favorite spot, so we headed to Princess Margaret Beach to see if I was so captivated by it earlier in the week because it was truly lovely or because I’d had one too many margaritas.

It was definitely the beach.

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The Belmont Walkway ends at Jack’s, so we decided to walk up and over to see the views, landing us at Bequia Plantation Hotel, which was closed for the season but a beautiful spot, nonetheless.

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We sunned, sipped, and slothed until lunch and then….margaritas!!

Along with Jack’s amazing burger and fries.

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All week, we had seen a little floating houseboat in the bay that we knew to be Bar One, a super cool floating bar that was purported to have very unique cocktails. The bartenders at Jack’s called them up and before we could say “Duck Fart,” a dingy from Bar One was at the dock at Jack’s ready to take us over.

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The little floating bar was a whimsical delight. Beautiful views, fun swings, and really unique cocktails like the mango black pepper gin and tonic, the ultimate dirty bloody Mary, and, yes……the duck fart, which was crazy good.

Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

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It was our last night, so obviously we had to experience just one more, VERY STRONG rum punch happy hour at Da Reef.

Do you realize that $5 EC is $1.85? Just want to make sure that is clear.

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We had seen the restaurant at Frangipani several times as we wandered up and down the Belmont Walkway and I had heard they were supposed to have the best pie, so we headed in and scarfed down mile high crispy chicken sandwiches and weird green pie for our final dinner.

Weird green pie was good.

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Day 8:

It came and went so fast. Bequia has been all we had hoped for and more. It reminded us of all the things we loved about our old favorite haunt, St. John, and a more recent favorite, Jost Van Dyke, without the things we didn’t like. It was beautiful and offered stunning beaches but wasn’t overcrowded or overdeveloped. The pace was easy and the people were kind. The food was good and the drinks were strong. Dogs slept under your beach chair as you wasted the day doing nothing more than staring at the sky. It was peaceful, quaint, and hit a sweet spot that we hadn’t anticipated.

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Unfortunately, to be cliché, all good things must come to an end. But in true Bequian fashion, even the end was sweet. How better to see us off than with a box of puppies on the ferry!

PUPPIES!

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Thank you, Bequia! You’ll see us again.

PUPPIES!

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Posted by vicki_h 10:43 Archived in St Vincent/The Grenadines Tagged beach island caribbean tropical bequia grenadines port_elizabeth saint_vincent_and_the_grenadine princess_margaret_beach Comments (1)

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.

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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...)

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

IT WAS SUNDAY.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Y’all….that pizza was darn good!

Bequia was full of surprises.

Day 4:

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

None.

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.

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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.

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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)

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)

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