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In Pursuit of Paradise Day 1: Naked and Afraid.

The Bay Islands of Honduras

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Ways I can die in Honduras:

1. As Matt so thoughtfully pointed out, Honduras is the murder capital of the world.

2. There is a zipline on every mountain. Flying 200 feet above the ground on a cable erected by workers in a third world country with severely substandard wages and no US Department of Labor probably isn’t a good idea.

3. Sleeping in a house with no a/c in a country infested with mosquitos is as smart as simply injecting the disease into your bloodstream with a syringe. Hello? Malaria? Zika? Dengue? Chicayunga?

4. You can get Hepatitis from drinking the water.

5. I could be a victim of a Honduran roadside shakedown gone bad.

6. I could get macheted to death for refusing to hand over my camera.

7. They have tarantulas and boa constrictors and I would die of fright if I saw one.

8. Can you get sick from holding a monkey?

9. Spending 3 days alone on a deserted island with Matt could likely end up with one of us dead.

This was either going to be the best trip of our lives or the worst.

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We arrived in Roatan shortly after noon local time. We were immediately thrust into the most crowded, chaotic airport I have ever entered. Hundreds of people from 2 arriving flights were being crammed into a queue to go through customs and immigration. Several “airport volunteers” helped to keep everyone guided in the right direction. The power had been out, so it was hotter than the 3rd circle of hell.

We were asked if we were staying on Roatan or connecting and we advised the volunteer that we were on a 2:00 flight to Utila. We were ushered into another line that moved even slower than our original line, which seemed to defeat the purpose of expediting us so that we’d make our flight, but explaining things in rational terms to these folks didn’t seem to be an option. We went with the flow.

After a long, hot wait….we were fingerprinted (all 10 fingers), our documents were examined, we were photographed, and sent on our way. I imagine it would be easier to sneak into the research and development lab at Apple than Honduras.

We then had to exit the airport and re-enter on the departure side, which was even hotter than the arrivals side. And more chaotic.

Lines streamed behind each airline and a HUGE line extended across the length of the airport under a sign that read “Departure Lounge.”

We found the counter for tiny CM Airlines and were given big plastic cards to use for boarding. We then got in the huge departure line and waited.

And waited. And waited.

It appeared the line was taking us back through immigration to be fingerprinted again.

This didn’t make any sense.

I saw a much shorter departure line with no one in it.

“I think that’s the domestic departure line,” I said.

We moved over and discovered it was, indeed, the domestic departure line. No sign of any kind overhead. The only indicator was a sign painted on the floor. Because you can certainly see that clearly from 200 feet away in a room filled with sweaty bodies.

Inside the “departure lounge” (this is their term, not mine….it was not lounge like in any capacity), we proceeded to wait in another very hot line.

Eventually, we were herded in a very chaotic fashion with a disorganized group out onto the tarmac where we boarded a less than amazing 15-seater plane.

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I suspected they didn’t put a lot of stock in safety when I noticed that my seatbelt appeared to be missing some important parts and there was no safety briefing. I was certain no one had done a weight and balance, and the rear door was shut by the passenger in the back seat.

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No matter. We made it on time, with relative ease, and were on our way to the small island of Utila!

The flight was quick and uneventful. Twenty minutes later, we landed on a tiny airstrip on the island of Utila.

The Utila airport was not much to look at.

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Several tuk-tuks were waiting, so we jumped inside one and asked to be driven to Bush’s Supermarket, the largest grocery store on Utila, where we would pick up our groceries and wait on the boat dock behind the store for Barry Jackson, who would take us to Little Cay for the next 3 days.

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Utila Town was small and lively. Scooters, motorbikes, tuk-tuks, trucks, and vans all competed noisily for the single lane road that ran through town. The air was filled with the mingled scents of exhaust, salt air, and fried dough. Dogs barked lazily in the shade, and music pumped out of several small bars.

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We found Bush's easily enough and were dropped off with our luggage. I had one hour before Barry arrived. I left Matt sitting out front in a plastic chair with the luggage and several old men smoking cigarettes and went inside with my list.

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I have shopped in many small island grocery stores. I know what to expect. Still, I expected more.

Shopping at Bush’s was an experience in patience, frustration, and creativity.

They had the most random, incomplete, awkward selection of products that I believe one could amass in a central location and still call a grocery store. I had come prepared with a list. When spending 3 nights on a remote island with minimal amenities, you need to plan properly. It’s not like we could run to the corner to pick up something we forgot.

List be damned. They didn’t have anything that was on it.

I started to panic, realizing Barry would be there soon and all I had in my cart was a giant block of mysterious cheese and a squeeze bag of refried beans. I scowled as I looked through freezers filled with bags of frozen meat labelled simply, “Ground meat.” BUT WHAT KIND OF MEAT??? I pawed through boxes of produce I didn’t recognize. I flipped over packages that were entirely in Spanish three or four times, thinking maybe there was some English on there somewhere that I just didn’t see the first time.

The most puzzling aspect was that about half of the packages were opened. Like someone just got hungry while they were shopping, decided to pop open a pack of moon pies and eat one. Haphazardly opened packages filled the store. A box of butter might only contain 2 sticks. A box of granola bars might have a few missing.

I was later told that it's perfectly acceptable to open packages at the store and just buy what you need. You can even ask for half an onion and they'll cut it for you. You only want half a can of Coke? They'll actually open one and pour it in a cup.

Despite the randomness of the inventory, I managed to put together what I felt was a pretty decent collection that would serve us well for the next couple of days. I was sweating profusely and was close to a panic attack, but as they boxed my groceries up, my breathing returned to normal and I realized nothing was that important. So I couldn’t find graham crackers. We were on our way to a PRIVATE ISLAND.

It was going to be amazing. Even without graham crackers.

They delivered our boxes of groceries and our luggage to the back of the store and placed them on the boat dock where we could wait for Barry.
Somehow, we managed 15 minutes to spare, so I sent Matt in search of sustenance.

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He came back with margaritas.

Matt is a good man.

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As we gulped the tequila down faster than the ice could melt in the 97 degree heat, Barry pulled up in his boat.

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Then it was off to Little Cay. Private island paradise or the worst experience of our lives? Only time would tell.

As the little island came into view and began to take shape in the distance, my heart started to beat faster.

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It was around 4:00 p.m. when Barry dropped us off on Little Cay with our two suitcases, two boxes of groceries, a cooler of ice, drinking water, and lots of apprehension.

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As Barry’s boat pulled away, the fading of the sound of its motor left behind a very loud silence.

Matt and I were alone on a one acre private island with a modest house and minimal amenities. Purchased by the Jackson family in 1968 and developed about three decades later (“developed” being a relative term), Little Cay was about 6 miles west of Utila Town, but felt worlds away from anywhere.

The house was a very basic, open structure with minimal power provided by solar panels and a giant empty hole where the hand-crank generator used to be. There was running water from a cistern that collected rainwater, but no hot water. There was no air conditioning and random wires stuck out from the ceiling where the fans used to be. There was no television, stereo system, or wi-fi. There was only one working power outlet in the entire house. Our only means of communication was a small cell phone on the counter that had Barry’s number saved on it. Gourmet kitchen? Try a charcoal grill pit and a gas stove with only two working burners that had to be lit with matches every time we needed to cook.

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It wasn’t exactly Survivor. It wasn’t exactly Necker Island. It was something else altogether.

We spent the first moments in delight and disbelief, discovering every inch of our own personal island. We walked from one end of the island to the other.

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This took exactly 4 minutes.

We had no idea what to do for the remaining 3,966 minutes.

What was this going to be like? Did this have the ingredients for an amazing vacation or just a really good reality TV show? I feared it was the latter and started to wonder which one it would be….Paradise Island? Survivor? When Vacations Attack? Snapped?

Most likely it would be Naked and Afraid. He’d be naked and I’d be afraid. We’d only been here 5 minutes and he was already calling it “Naked Island.”

We only had about 2 hours of daylight left, so we needed to unpack, put the groceries away, and get dinner made while we still had some light.

Dinner presented the first challenge.

We had charcoal, but no lighter fluid because I couldn’t find any in the store. While Matt went on a search of the various closets and buildings to see if he could find something we could use, I set about trying to figure out the stove.

There were 5 knobs, but all of the markings had long since been rubbed off, so I had no idea which knob went with which burner. It also wasn’t obvious what position to turn the knob to in order to light the burner.

I proceeded to go through the awkward process of holding down a knob with my knee, while using both hands to light one of the world’s crappiest matches in a windy kitchen, which resulted in the match immediately blowing out. I would have to light a minimum of 3 matches before one would catch and hold. Then, while holding the knob in with my knee and trying to shield my match from the wind with one hand and hold it with the other, I had to quickly hold it to each burner to find which one(s) worked. I found two and I managed to do it without blowing myself up.

Matt discovered a bottle of mysterious blue liquid that he felt certain was lighter fluid and attempted to get the grill going.

Success!

We grilled up some shrimp, cooked some rice, and made a quick salad.

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We managed to get dinner ready in time to eat before the last dying rays of sunlight disappeared, leaving us in utter darkness.

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Yes, the house had a few lights, but they were weak and we were tired. We’d also experienced a 2 hour time change and had endured a long travel day. We discovered on that first night that it was simply easiest to go to bed at 8:00 p.m.

We chose the downstairs bedroom because it had a king sized bed and tons of windows that opened to the breeze. We put up our mosquito net, put flashlights on the nightstands, and called it a night.

Tic…ticticic…..tak….tiktac….tictictiktac……..

I woke up in the middle of the night, completely disoriented. It was so dark I couldn’t see my hand before my face and something was lying across my leg. I swiped at it and lurched forward only to realize it was just the mosquito net, blowing in the breeze.

Tiktac…tikkkky…tactactick……

And what was that noise?????? Dear Jesus. There was something in here with us. Why not? All the doors and windows were wide open. I knew I should have slept with the flashlight under my pillow.

I carefully pulled up the mosquito net and grabbed my flashlight, hitting the button quietly, so the intruder would not be alerted.

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Dozens of hermit crabs were crawling all over the floor.

Tic…tic…tac…tikkkk…..

You know, it’s amazing what you can tolerate when you are really, really tired.

I sighed and hoped they didn’t have any interest in getting into bed.

Posted by vicki_h 07:00 Archived in Honduras Tagged beach island caribbean tropical honduras roatan utila little_cay deserted_island Comments (6)

In Pursuit of Paradise: Intro

The Bay Islands of Honduras

When you tell people you are going to Honduras, the response is always the same:

“Are you going on a mission trip?”

When you respond, “no,” the response is always the same:

“Then why are you going?”

When I told Matt I wanted to rent a private deserted island in Honduras, one that lacked electricity, hot water, and was a 30 minute boat ride from the nearest town, he was less than enthusiastic.

“But it’s a whole private ISLAND….” I stressed.

“Alcatraz is a whole private island,” he responded, “and Honduras is the murder capital of the world.”

It was going to be a harder sell than I thought.

Sure, Honduras does not get high marks in the luxury travel category. High crime rates. Extreme traveler warnings of carjacking and armed robbery. Advice to get Hepatitis shots and take anti-malarial medication. Stories of police shaking travelers down as they drive the only road across the island. Sand flies that are likened to blood sucking dragons. These were the most common things that I found online when I started researching Roatan and Utila.

Had I stopped my research there, I would have concluded from the warnings that only a reckless, death-wish kind of traveler would ever consider a trip there, but I don’t let little things like sky high murder rates and communicable diseases get in the way of my fun.

However, as I continued my quest for information, I started to wonder if maybe I WAS a reckless, death-wish kind of traveler.

I actually saw an article called, “21 Top Dangerous Places to go on Vacation.” Guess what was #1? Honduras. Just in case I needed confirmation that it was not a one-off, I found another titled, “Travel on the Edge: 7 Dangerous (but Awesome) Adventures Worth Having.” Honduras was listed, right up there with Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea, and Somalia. I’ll put that right up there with “Top Sexually Transmitted Diseases,” “Top Foods to Give You Gas,” and “Top Musical Acts Similar to Miley Cyrus” with regard to how desirable being on that list is.

But they also said it was AWESOME.

That was the thing. Pretty much every piece of information I could find on the place was polarized into one of two categories: Dangerous or Awesome. So which one was it?

It seemed to depend on who was doing the talking.

I did get some comfort from realizing that the bay islands clearly had a better reputation than mainland Honduras. Sort of.

While the islands didn’t seem to share in the whole “murder capital of the world” bit, the realities of mosquito and water-borne illnesses, high crime rates, and severe warnings for tourists were still there.

But then there were the accounts that said the islands were amazing. They were described as an undiscovered treasure, the Caribbean’s best kept secret, and a tropical paradise where we would be awed by silky beaches, lush jungles, and a pristine reef. These people described it as quiet, safe, and beautiful.

I needed to satisfy my curiosity. I had to talk Matt into going.

Sometimes I feel inexplicably compelled to just DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT.

I feel the need to combine fear with fun.

I need a new stamp on my passport.

I had nothing left in my arsenal, so I simply showed Matt where I wanted to go:

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When that didn't work, I told him it was only $150 a night.

Who hasn’t romanticized the notion of living on a deserted tropical island, if only for a few days? Especially with a boatload of food, books and your best friend? It only sweetens the deal if that island costs less than an inexpensive hotel room in Knoxville, TN.

That’s all it took. Malaria be damned. Matt was IN.

After doing enough research to make my eyes gloss over, I chose to split our time between the remote, private island paradise of Little Cay, Utila and the popular island of Roatan.

It was time for another adventure in paradise.

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Posted by vicki_h 10:00 Archived in Honduras Tagged beach island caribbean tropical honduras roatan utila little_cay deserted_island Comments (3)

Bikini Hut: Before and After

Bikini Hut is about 115 years old and has served as everything from a home to 13 children (yes, at the same time) to an actual Bikini Store. The cottage had been recently renovated completely, so everything was in top notch shape when we bought it. We just needed to change out the decor and add our own touch to it (seriously....who says "I think the perfect furniture for our beach house would be some red leather sofas and a black leather theater chair"??? Don't even get me started on that PVC and plywood table.....).

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We only had 2 weeks to make it ours, but I loved every minute of it. I decided to keep the name the house came with, because it suits the house and it suits me. Here’s the before and after!

Before:

Exterior:

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Living Area:

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Bathroom:

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Kitchen:

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Dining Area (what is now the Murphy Bed Room):

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Bedroom:

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After:

Exterior:

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Living/Dining Area:

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(There is actually a flipping millipede in the picture above! Damn millipedes!)

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Bathroom:

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Murphy Bed Room:

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Kitchen:

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Bedroom:

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Want to stay at Bikini Hut???? We’re taking a limited number of reservations. Check us out on VRBO!

http://www.vrbo.com/762793

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Posted by vicki_h 05:50 Archived in Bahamas Tagged island caribbean tropical abaco elbow_cay guana_cay marsh_harbour treasure_cay lubbers_landing Comments (8)

Flip This House: Guana Cay Edition Part III

Monday, September 14:

10:00 a.m. Eleuthera was a sweet dream. What a fantastic weekend! But now we are back to Abaco to finish this place up! Before we head back to Guana, we’re going to try shopping in Marsh Harbour again. There are still a few things we need. This will be even worse than the last shopping experience. Not only will we undoubtedly be subject to the frustrations of high prices and limited selection, we will be doing it with two panting dogs.

10:15 a.m. We appear to be in the same faded out mini-van. Wait, this one is a different color. You mean there are two of these?

11:00 a.m. Shopping has not been easy. We can only go into the stores one at a time, because one of us has to stay outside with the dogs so we can keep the a/c in the mini-van on. This has not been efficient. It’s already hard enough trying to find anything in this place. And I'm not sure how much longer this mini-van can keep running.

11:30 a.m. Just left Furniture Plus and will not be back. You know you are being taken advantage of when all of the prices in the entire store are listed in terms of what it costs you per month. I wish I was joking.

12:00 p.m. The power is out at Bed, Bath, and Between but that didn’t stop them from selling me a mattress for $299. This was such a significant improvement over the $600 mattress at Furniture Plus that I bought it in the dark. I am assuming it’s okay…..?

12:30 p.m. Grabbing a quick lunch at Snappa’s before trying to get on the ferry with luggage, 2 dogs, a 6 foot bougainvillea, an anchor, and countless bags of crap. Maybe I should get another bushwacker.

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1:32 p.m. Almost got tossed off the ferry when the operator impaled himself on the bougainvillea, but all is well. Matt is keeping it from blowing off the back of the ferry. I am pretty sure it won’t have any leaves left by the time we get back.

3:00 p.m. It’s raining and the freight boat is about to show up with our mattress. Aaauugghhh!

3:15 p.m. Pretty image: a child playing in the rain without a care in the world. Ugly image: Matt and Vicki running through the rain from the ferry dock with a mattress on their heads.

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5:22 p.m. Matt went over to use the phone at Seaside and came home with new friends. They gave us leftover groceries and a bunch of lemons, so they are now my friends too! On an island where a box of cereal costs $9, the fastest way to my heart is with free groceries.

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7:45 p.m. I love, love, love Kidd’s Cove. I love living next to Kidd’s Cove. Great drinks, great food, nice people. And I only have to take 3 steps to be back home. Or crawl. Whatever the case may be.

Tuesday, September 15

Millipede count: 3

7:25 a.m. A millipede just fell off the ceiling and landed on my head.

9:10 a.m. Rooby and Bella have declared Bikini Hut awesome. They have taken up permanent residence on the sofa that sits below the two windows that face out onto Front Street. They have barked at every resident of Guana this morning. Twice.

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2:30 p.m. I don’t know what made me decide to paint the shutters today. It is so ludicrously hot and humid today it’s hard to even breathe outside, much less do any physical activity. I have sweat rolling into my pants. I didn’t even know that was possible. I might pass out. I don’t have a ladder so I am standing on a cooler. It's getting slippery because I think my feet are sweating. I think every resident of Guana has driven by just to see what I am doing. Twice.

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3:30 p.m. I thought painting in this heat was stupid. Matt is actually digging holes to plant the bougainvilleas. That’s definitely worse.

4:00 p.m. I love the new paint! Love, love, love, love!

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4:30 p.m. Bikini Hut is official! She has her own sign!

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7:14 p.m. Nothing left to do today but have a frozen grabber, watch the sunset, and head to Kidd’s Cove for some more lobster.

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Wednesday, September 16

9:08 a.m. I can’t believe it. We almost have everything done. We will actually get finished today. That means we can actually get out on the boat tomorrow and have a proper vacation day! Whoop whoop!

11:02 a.m. Time to paint the Murphy bed!

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12:14 p.m. It’s time for lunch and I am covered in paint. I need to make something here and I have used up all the food that doesn’t need to be cooked because I have not figured out how to get the gas working on the stove.

12: 17 p.m. Googling “hot point 24” gas oven” right now.

12:31 p.m. Matt is recovering after coming inside to find me with my head stuck in the oven. I’m not sure what he thought was going on, but he now understands I was just lighting the elusive pilot light.

12:58 p.m. We have cooked our first actual meal in Bikini Hut!

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3:32 p.m. I feel like I have been painting this Murphy bed forever.

4:42 p.m. The Murphy bed is painted and dry. All that is left is to affix this wall decal that looks like a headboard. Seriously, how cool is that????

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4:44 p.m. Carefully peel the decal from the backing paper. Simply press to the wall and smooth with your hands.” Well that sounds easy enough.

4:48 p.m. That was easy! It looks amazing! Wait, it’s a little crooked.

5:02 p.m. Why, why, why did I peel it back off? I can’t believe it just stuck to itself and crumpled into a ball like that. I read several DIY blogs before I did this. They made it sound very easy. They are obviously liars. Or they possess DIY superpowers that I don’t have. For heaven’s sake! Every time I peel a piece away from itself it sticks to another piece. Is it possible that it is getting even more stuck the more I unstick it??????

5:14 p.m. After 24 minutes of trying to return my decal to a decal-like shape instead of a wadded-up-ball-of-sticky-paper like shape, I have walked away. I am going to do some angry cleaning (you do that too, don’t you?)

5:40 p.m. I am back at the decal. I will not be defeated by this.

5:43 p.m. Matt just walked in, started to say something, looked at my face, turned, and walked back out. He is a very smart man.

5:52 p.m. Time out for several minutes of angry crying.

6:04 p.m. Hot damn and hallelujah! Somehow, I got the decal to let go of itself and have managed to get it back on the wall.

Wait.......I think it’s a little crooked....

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6:15 p.m. Ta-da! The Murphy bed nearly killed us both, but it is complete.

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7:40 p.m. I just made our first “real” meal (pita bread pizzas don’t count) in the Bikini Hut kitchen. Tacos with plantains and smashed potatoes, fresh guacamole, and chips and salsa. Sitting down to a real meal for the first time in “our beach house.” I think I just gave myself goosebumps.

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Thursday, September 17

Millipede count: 5

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7:00 a.m. Today is the first day we don’t really have a lot to do! We are finally going to take that boat out today! Yee haw!

8:04 a.m. It’s raining. Like, really, really raining.

9:22 a.m. Raining.

10:16 a.m. Raining.

10:25 a.m. Used all those lemons to make lemonade.

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11:17 a.m. Matt got bored and drank all the lemonade.

11:38 a.m. Raining.

11:49 a.m. Even the dogs are bored.

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12:04 p.m. There is a brief break in the rain. We have been cooped up in here all morning, so we are going to run to Grabbers for some wings.

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12:54 p.m. We can see the clouds, but the rain is still holding off. We’re going to see if we can grab lunch at Nippers.

1:33 p.m. Eating at the bar. Why? Because it’s raining.

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3:45 p.m. You guessed it. Raining. I did go out to find some driftwood when the rain slacked to a drizzle for about an hour. I saw this DIY driftwood fish on Pinterest:

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Is it just me or does mine look insane? It's like a crazy fish. It’s probably angry about the rain.

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7:27 p.m. I don’t think we are getting out on the boat today.

Friday, September 18

Millipede count: 4.5 (Rooby must have gotten that one)

7:01 a.m. It’s BEAUTIFUL today! Boat day….here we come.

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8:10 a.m. Matt just informed me that we have to have the boat at the boatyard on Marsh Harbour by noon today so that they can pull it out of the water for storage. They are closed tomorrow. “Boat Day” just became “Boat Hours.”

9:04 a.m. Cooler is packed with lunch and drinks, towels are in the beach bag, sunscreen is on. Let’s make the most of this boat day!

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9:45 a.m. I can’t think of a better place to be.

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11:00 a.m. Time for a boat drink! I have rum. I have limes. I have ice. I have pineapple juice. I have…..no cups.

11:05 a.m. It pays to be married to a boy scout.

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12:10 p.m. Bye-bye boat. See you next time!

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12:45 p.m. We are at the nursery buying another giant plant. I am afraid the ferry operator is going to throw us off when he sees it after what happened with the bougainvillea.

1:15 p.m. Waiting at Snappa's for the ferry.

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1:31 p.m. The ferry operator cringed when he saw us, but he said nothing. The plant is safely on the ferry.

2:24 p.m. I just paid Milo $25 dollars for 3 conch shells that I can get on the beach in front of Grabbers for free. Why? Because it’s Milo.

5:10 p.m. This is the most relaxing and wonderful day so far. The house is done, it’s clean, we are clean, and there are no tools sitting on my sofa. This is what it feels like to have a beach house. It feels good.

7:05 p.m. There is nothing better than a beach walk with Bella and Rooby.

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7:45 p.m. We are at Kidd’s Cove again. Seriously, why not when it is THIS close to Bikini Hut?

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I am pretty sure it’s our new favorite. In addition to the best lobster and great drinks, they have Eddie G.

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Saturday, September 19

9:10 a.m. It’s already time to pack, clean, and get ready to go home. :-(

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7:00 p.m. We spent an uneventful day packing everything, securing the house, doing laundry, and cleaning. Time for one last meal at Island Flavors.

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Sunday, September 20

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9:30 a.m. I can’t believe we are already flying home. It flew by. We have a lot less stuff than we had coming down.

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I can't wait to come back. Bikini Hut is now home.

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Want to see the before and after? Click HERE!

Posted by vicki_h 05:43 Archived in Bahamas Tagged island caribbean tropical abaco elbow_cay guana_cay marsh_harbour treasure_cay lubbers_landing Comments (2)

Flip This House: Guana Cay Edition Part II

Taking a vacation from our vacation: A Weekend in Eleuthera!

Sometimes you need a vacation from your vacation. When the vacation has been spent painting, sweating, getting blisters, and picking up an endless army of millipedes, this is certainly the case.

We decided to treat ourselves for “getting over the hump” by flying over to North Eleuthera for the weekend. I was a little worried that this would stymie our momentum and that we’d return on Monday and never get finished before it was time to go home.

A weekend off turned out to be the best decision we could have made.

I picked Eleuthera because it was close. I picked North Eleuthera because, in true neurotic planning fashion, I knew it was off season, so I had emailed EVERY SINGLE RESTAURANT ON THE ISLAND to see what was open. Most of the places I found open were on the north end. So the decision was made.

I settled on Ocean Tally as a place to stay for several reasons: 1) The website was simply gorgeous; 2) the cliffside location and whitewashed buildings reminded me of Greece; and 3) She said Bella and Rooby could come.

Friday, September 11

The flight from Marsh Harbour to Eleuthera was short and uneventful. Within 30 minutes, we were flying over the north end of Eleuthera and landing at the North Eleuthera airport.

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On Eleuthera, you don’t get online and reserve a rental car. You don’t even call a rental car agency. You call a “guy.” Our guy was Wendell and he had left an extremely sandy Ford Explorer at the airport. It even came with shiny beads and a broken stereo remote which, despite its non-working status, was displayed proudly and prominently on the dash with velcro. We paid cash and there was no paperwork. I was pretty sure this car did not come with roadside assistance.

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For the bumpy, rough, dirt roads of Eleuthera, it was exactly what we needed.

We arrived a bit after lunch time and we were starving. Thankfully, the drive out to Whale Point was pretty quick.

Upon arrival, we were warmly greeted by the owner, Annette, who quickly took us to our cottage, asked if we needed anything, and left us to get settled, directing us to just come up to the lighthouse bar/restaurant when we were ready.

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I knew that Ocean Tally was a fairly new place, but I had no idea we were the first overnight guests EVER. We were also the only guests. It couldn’t have been more perfect.

Our cottage was perched right on the ocean and it was impeccably clean and bright.

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We dropped Rooby and Bella off in the cottage and walked up the short, sandy path to the lighthouse where the bar and restaurant were housed. It was stunning.

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They started us off with cocktails as we perused the lunch menu. The cocktails were a heavy pour.

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Vicki liked.

I expected the usual Bahamian lunch fare: fish sandwich, hamburger, cracked conch.

I did not expect delicate stuffed crab with pickled red cabbage and butter curry lobster.

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Vicki loved.

The past week had been exhausting. Sure, we were on an exciting new island with new things to see, but all we really wanted to do was sleep. After our booze and lobster filled lunch, we crashed. We all slept for the rest of the afternoon.

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We woke up feeling better than we had felt all week. The crisp, fresh linens were soft and cool and the views from the windows that wrapped around 3 sides of the cottage fed our senses.

We were so happy to be here.

We took Rooby and Bella for a walk around the grounds before dinner.

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Did you know that you can eat sea grapes? You can. They are mostly pit and taste pretty much like a tart, slightly astringent grape, but you can eat them. You know. If you want to.

(Of course I ate one)

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We were too tired to drive anywhere for dinner, so we decided to eat at Ocean Tally again. Our first meal was so spectacular, we couldn’t wait to try another. When the food and view are that amazing, why go anywhere else?

While we were the only overnight guests that weekend, there was a small and lively crowd at the lighthouse enjoying sunset cocktails and chatter.

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We started off with spicy shrimp with polenta cakes, followed by blackened grouper topped with fresh mango.

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Dinner was absolutely as good as lunch. We agreed that Ocean Tally had the best food we have had in the Bahamas.

For dessert, I had the key lime pie, but for some reason, the photo was blurry. Probably because I was shoving it into my mouth as I tried to take the photo.

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Matt had the pastry wrapped banana with ice cream. It was delicious, but there is literally no way you can arrange those three items on a plate and it not look inappropriate…..

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Saturday, September 12

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Thanks to the hospitality of Annette, we were feeling rested and rejuvenated. We woke up early to watch the sunrise.

Annette showed up at our cottage with a wonderful breakfast tray each morning: cereal, milk, fresh squeezed OJ, fruit, yogurt, spread, and baked goods. I couldn’t imagine a more beautiful place to eat breakfast than the deck of our cottage.

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Ocean Tally is located on Whale Point, a finger of land that juts out with the ocean on one side and a calm bay on the other. The cottages are located on the rocky cliffs on the ocean side, but Annette has a little golf cart that guests can use to ride a short distance down the road to their beach.

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We found the beach entrance easily enough.

There was no one on the entire beach but us. I spent at least an hour beachcombing because the beach had more beautiful shells and sea glass than any beach I had been on in a long time.

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Matt found himself some seats and took a load off. I’m not sure, but I think this means the crates are seats, so don’t steal them. Whatever it means, it gets my vote for best sign ever.

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When we felt like the dogs had their fill of beach running, we took them back to Ocean Tally, dusted them off, and sent them into the cottage for naps while we drove a short distance to The Cove resort for lunch.

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Developed by New Orleans entrepreneur Sidney D. Torres, IV, the Cove is touted as one of the best resorts in the Bahamas. As we walked onto the grounds, I could see why. Tall palm trees, as lithe and elegant as runway models lined the walkway that led us through grass so green and lush it didn’t look real. Stylishly chic geometric cottages dotted the landscape, separated by clean walkways and beautiful outdoor spaces. A rocky cape separated 2 perfect coves with soft white sand beaches. The grounds were littered with driftwood benches, elegantly crocheted hammocks, and perfectly white sofas. It was white on white with a side of pink sand.

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We made our way to the restaurant and bar where a cool blue infinity pool beckoned invitingly. We were immediately greeted and made to feel welcome, despite the fact that we were obviously NOT part of the jet set that frequents this place.

Along with lunch, we were able to pay $35 each for a day pass. This granted us access to all of the luxurious amenities the Cove had to offer. I once paid $50 for two crappy beach chairs and a slightly crooked umbrella pressed against 500 other beach goers in Seaside, FL. $70 seemed like a bargain.

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We started off with some cocktails while we decided what to do first: beach or pool?

Beach.

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Not being actual guests of the resort, we were surprised when the beach attendant came running over to open our umbrella, lay out clean, cool towels and bring us ice water before we even set our bags down.

When we wanted a drink from the bar, all we had to do was stick our little Cove flag in the sand and someone showed up instantly.

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This drink was champagne with a touch of kiwi puree. Seriously. That must be ½ a bottle of champagne.

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We did nothing more than soak in the sun and sip giant glasses of kiwi infused champagne until we were hungry for lunch. Lunch could be served on the beach, but I wanted a clean, cool, fly-free lunch experience.

The restaurant was as elegant as the rest of the property. The interior was decked out in white on white with the occasional dash of driftwood, with floor to ceiling walls of glass that let the beauty of the outside in. I felt transported to another place entirely. Like Ocean Tally, this was not your typical Bahamian dive-y, paper-plate happy, fried food establishment. There was no sand on the floor, no lizards in the bathroom, and no flies on my food.

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I dove enthusiastically into the bacon cheeseburger and fries while Matt watched his figure with a jerk chicken wrap.

We spent the rest of the afternoon lounging in the infinity pool.

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We made a quick stop at Surfer’s Beach before heading back to Ocean Tally.

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Ocean Tally was hosting a birthday party dinner that night, so we got to enjoy the festivities. They had live music and a fire pit on the ocean.

Because of the number of guests, dinner was a set menu: crab cake salad (AMAZING) and chicken piccata (AMAZING).

We agreed that, while the Cove had an outstanding setting, Ocean Tally’s food blew it away.

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Not only that, we thought Ocean Tally beat the Cove in all respects. Sure, the Cove had glitz and glamour, but Ocean Tally was intimate and special. It had a beautiful location, spectacular cottages with significantly more privacy, and, because of its smaller size, Ocean Tally was more personal and warm. It suited us perfectly.

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Sunday, September 13:

We woke to another outstanding sunrise at Ocean Tally.

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We were also treated to another delightful breakfast on our deck.

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Rooby believes breakfast should be a shared experience.

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After breakfast, Matt and I decided to brave the rocks and walk down to the tide pool below the lighthouse. This was not an easy task in flip flops, but that was all we had, so we just walked very…..very…..carefully.

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After a soak in the pool, we walked the grounds and just took in the amazing details of the property. The Cove was like Ruth’s Cris, fancy and upscale, but not particularly unique. Ocean Tally was like that amazing little bistro that you have in your town where the desserts are all made by hand and original art hangs on the walls. There was so much time, effort, art, and love put into every inch of the place.

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After taking the dogs for a walk, we loaded up in the car and set out to find Ben Bay beach. We had seen it when we were flying in and knew we had to go there.

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The only negative about Eleuthera is that the beaches are hard to find and hard to get to even if you have incredibly good directions. I had good directions, but they looked like this:

From the highway turn right, then left-right-left. And there you'll be, at a really pretty beach.

What the directions failed to mention was that, once you left the highway, the remaining 20 minutes of your journey would be on extraordinarily rough dirt roads that were approximately ¾ the width of your car and that you would scrape against every shrub, bush, and tree that grew beside the road, would come across multiple turns that you couldn’t clearly identify as a road or a driveway or a footpath (is that a turn?), and would encounter multiple spots where the road was submerged under a foot of muddy water. There are also no signs of ANY KIND. None.

We ended up at a dead end, had no room to turn around, and had to back down the road for about ¾ of a mile at one point.

As we scraped past one particularly large bush for the second time, I was suddenly very happy that we had paid cash for the rental car and had no paperwork. Clearly, this was more of an advantage to us than it was to the person that owned this car.

Somehow, we found it.

It was worth it.

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Ben Bay was a perfect cove. The water was shallow and clear, the sand soft and white, and no one else was there.

This, my friends, is the beauty of the Bahamas. Where else are you going to have a beach like this to yourselves?

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We spent several blissful hours on Ben Bay before we started to get hungry.

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Before we headed back, however, I convinced Matt we needed to find the “blue hole.” No, not the famous blue hole on Eleuthera, the other one. The one no one seems to know the location of and the one you can’t find directions to ANYWHERE.

I had used my clever interweb skills and had pieced together what I believed to be a reasonably close, albeit sketchy, set of directions. It was very close to where we already were, so Matt agreed.

God love him.

Leave it to me to bypass the tourist friendly, well mapped Ocean Hole of Eleuthera, a blue hole that has signs, a park, and picnic tables for guests and, instead, head straight for the “blue hole in north Eleuthera that is somewhere in the midst of the ganga fields…be careful that you don’t step into the wrong area.”

Sure, I wasn’t 100% certain where the blue hole was and there were an inordinate number of dirt tracks that all looked the same, but a gun battle with ganja farmers was not on my radar. I wanted to jump into that blue hole!

My directions proved to be spot on, thanks to a little help from a Google satellite image where I was pretty certain I had identified the hole. We found it easily enough.

All of my bravado instantly evaporated, however, when I actually stood at the edge of the hole. I found myself staring at a 25 foot jump into an endless chasm of cobalt water.

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How did I know there weren’t any rocks down there? How deep was it? How far was it really? How hard would I land? How would I get out?

It literally took every ounce of nerve I had to jump off that cliff. And it hurt like hell.

The difference between Matt and Vicki can be perfectly illustrated by our jump into the blue hole.

Matt: Jumps off with enthusiasm and confidence. Body is immediately symmetrical and straight as an arrow. Glides into water like an angel. Lands perfectly, feet first.

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Vicki: Starts off badly and gets worse. Is she running? Awkwardly starts to slide sideways. Lands on ass.

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That's going to leave a mark.

Luckily, there was a rope to help us get out, but it still wasn’t easy. Especially with a 6 inch bruise on my butt.

Fear and adrenaline made me hungry. We decided to drive to the ferry dock and take the 5 minute ferry ride over to Harbour Island.

‘Briland, as it is known to locals, is one of the poshest villages in the Bahamas and caters to the rich and famous with its 3 mile long pink sand beach. Water taxis make the 5 minute, $5 trip all day.

I knew that most establishments would be closed, but we had visited Eleuthera and Harbor island about 15 years earlier and I still remembered that pink sand beach. I had to see it again.

I had found one restaurant on Harbour Island that was supposed to be open, so we grabbed a golf cart at the ferry dock and set off to find Aquapazza, an Italian restaurant with a Bahamian flair.

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Sure, it won our lunch business by default, but it turned out to be excellent. It was located on the water, and the views were breezy and beautiful.

I ordered their house cocktail made with Prosecco and Campari while Matt went Bahamian with a goombay smash.

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For lunch, Matt ordered the spaghetti aglio with chili and conch and I had the marinated Spanish-style “pil-pil” salad. Both were perfect, and that wasn’t just because there was nowhere else to eat.

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As luck would have it, Acquapazza is located next to Harbour Island’s famous “haunted house.” Legend has it that the home was built for a wealthy family in 1945. The tale is that the entire family that lived there simply vanished one night, leaving the lavish dinner table set for the evening meal. They never returned. It sat empty until the 1960’s when a Greek shipping magnate purchased the beautiful mansion for his new bride. The wife left the house shortly after entering it and refused to step back inside. In the 1980’s, looters and fire claimed the beautiful house. What remains today are faded swirling pink walls that make it the perfect place for a post-lunch stroll… as long as you don’t mind the ghosts whispering in your ear.

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Back on our cart, we made our way to one of the many entrances to Harbour Island’s famous beach. I couldn’t remember….was it really pink?

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Yes, yes it was.

And because it was the off season, we had it completely to ourselves.

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We did a short golf cart tour of town before heading back to the water taxi. It was getting late and we had some hungry puppies back at Ocean Tally.

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After showers had been taken, dogs had been walked, played with, and fed, and the giant bruise forming on my butt cheek had been inspected to ensure there was no permanent damage, we cleaned up for dinner.

Of course we ate at Ocean Tally again.

We had fully intended to spread our dining love around to the other open restaurants on the island, but we just couldn’t tear ourselves away.

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This white dress was exceptionally beautiful before I awkwardly spilled an entire glass of red wine on it. I looked like a scene from Carrie.

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After a quick change back at the cottage, I celebrated my new, clean dress with spicy prawns and pasta puttanesca. Matt loved the blackened grouper so much, he ordered it a second time.

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A creature of habit (he likes what he likes!), Matt also re-ordered the banana dessert. Thankfully, someone had the sense to put two bananas on the dessert this time so that it didn’t offend my coconut tart.

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Monday, September 14

It seemed like each sunrise at Ocean Tally was even more spectacular than the one before it.

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Our time on Eleuthera was done. We enjoyed our final breakfast, bid a sweet farewell to Ocean Tally, and headed back to Abaco. The weekend was perfect. Ocean Tally was perfect. It had left us relaxed and refreshed. We were ready to get back to work.

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Before we flew back to Abaco, however, Matt flew us over the glass window bridge. I really wanted to see it from the air. The narrowest point on the island, this strip used to be a natural arch that separated the calm, shallow Caribbean sea from the deep, blue, turbulent Atlantic Ocean. The natural bridge washed away in a hurricane and was replaced by a man-made bridge, but it was no less fantastic to view from the air.

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We also got a peek at Harbour Island and Ocean Tally from above. Bye-Bye, Ocean Tally! Bye-Bye delicious meals! Bye-Bye rest and relaxation!

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It was time to get back to work.

Next up: Flip this house - Guana Cay Edition Part III!

Posted by vicki_h 06:11 Archived in Bahamas Tagged island caribbean tropical abaco elbow_cay guana_cay marsh_harbour treasure_cay lubbers_landing Comments (0)

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