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It's better in the Bahamas...but it's gooder in Guana.

It may be better in the Bahamas, but it’s gooder in Guana.

We just can’t seem to quit Guana Cay. We all want to find paradise don’t we?

I have found my paradise. It is a perfect streak of white and green amidst the bluest of sea. It’s got sand in all the right places, a beach bar exactly when and where I need it, and it’s alluringly empty. It’s balmy and sun glazed, soft to the touch and rich with impossible color and flavor.

Let’s go to Guana, why don’t we?

Shuffle through the sand with me and for a moment, forget your office chair and scoop up a handful of sea shells, feel the peace, and smell the sunshine above the hectic buzzing of your day.

DAY 1: HURRY UP AND GET THERE.

We arrived before 10:00 a.m. and in no time had our toes buried in that soft Guana sand.

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The flight to Marsh Harbor takes about 4.5 hours from where we live. It’s a quick and easy trip and when I see that water appear, my heart does a little backflip.

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We had 4 newbies with us this time – my aunt and uncle and friends of ours from Canada that flew down to join us. We had a great little house, Seaside, that sat right on the water with a nice dock and a huge boat. We were also on the island for a full week this time….something we rarely do. AND we were finally here during lobster season, something we usually miss.

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We were greeted at Grabbers, a great beachside bar and grill, by Sunny, the coconut toting wonder dog.

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Nothing starts a vacation better than throwing a slobber coated coconut to a sand covered dog, while perusing a menu filled with fried things.

One of the things I love about the Bahamas is that they see nothing wrong with frying lobster. The only thing that makes lobster better is frying it. Well…..or maybe putting some bacon on it.

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One lobster in da bag and 2 frozen grabbers later, we spent the afternoon doing nothing more exciting than unpacking our bags, watching the hermit crabs crawl across the deck, and grabbing some lobster bites at Grabbers for dinner.

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DAY 2: WHEN THEY KICK YOU OUT OF NIPPERS, MAN YOU’RE REALLY DRUNK.

There is no sight more beautiful than the beach on Guana on your first morning on the island.

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It was Sunday. Anyone who has read my blog before knows what Sunday is on Guana Cay.

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Sunday is Party Day at Nippers. There are frozen drinks, loud music, bad dancing, and an island buffet filled with BBQ pork and Bahamian mac n’ cheese.

As we made our way toward that rainbow fence leading to all things fun and hilarious, I only hoped it didn’t end like the last trip where I found myself at day’s end sitting in a too warm swimming pool filled with what appeared to be puke and floaties of cole slaw, too nippered to even think about moving, but instead, just shooing the cole slaw away with one limp hand, wondering who puked in the pool, and hoping it wasn't me.

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The key to the frozen Nipper is to count. Keep up with how many you have had. Once you lose count, well, it’s pretty much over for you.

We enjoyed the beautiful day, the sparkling pool (which appeared to be puke and cole slaw free this time), the fabulous food…and then somewhere in the afternoon….. I lost count.

Darn it.

Those frozen Nippers get me every time.

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It was a fun day, no one got hurt, no one got thrown out, and we all managed to make it back home with all of our limbs and teeth intact.

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I think I slept through dinner.

We’ll call that a good day.

DAY 3: FUN WITH BOATS 101.

This was our day to get familiar with the 26’ Hydrasport that we were going to be using for the rest of the trip. This was bigger than the boats we were used to and it had a few mechanical glitches that we needed to get figured out before there was going to be any smooth sailing.

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For that reason, we thought sticking close to home was a prudent choice.

We decided not to go any farther than Man-O-War cay.

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We ran into our first problem when we entered on the shallow side, like we are used to doing in our smaller boats. We noticed a man on the shore waving at us.

“These people sure are friendly,” we thought as we all smiled and waved back.

In reality, he wasn’t giving us a “Hey, how you doing?” wave, he was giving us his best “What the hell are you doing????? Get on the other side you idiots, before you run aground!” wave.

We figured that out when we found ourselves on the sandbar.

Can you believe that nice man jumped in his little boat and towed us back off?

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I got the impression he’d done this before.

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The boat was on empty and there was no gas on Guana, so we headed to the marina to fill up. After getting gas, the boat wouldn’t start.

Wouldn’t even turn over.

Well, this was just ducky.

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Forty-five minutes of cleaning battery connections, checking wires, and finally buying a brand new $235 marine battery later, we were in business!

We headed into the Dock and Dine on Man-O-War for what might, quite literally, be the best burger in the universe. It was good enough to make us forget all about that $235 battery.

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As we walked the streets of the quite little island, we realized it actually has several very nice shops.

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We found some hand printed fabric in one and of course, we had to visit the Albury Sail Shop where the ladies still turn out canvas bags sewn on old fashioned sewing machines.

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Despite it’s ….challenges….the boat was a super nice boat and was equipped with a GPS marked with all the local lobster houses. The boat’s owner had shown us how to find them.

What is a lobster house, you ask? Bahamians build habitats to attract lobsters. There are lots of them, but you’ll likely pass right over them without ever noticing them if you don’t know where they are. A lobster house might be a car hood, a piece of corrugated roof tin, or a storm shutter set in place and attached to a cinder block.

Essentially an artificial miniature reef, these types of structures are illegal in the U.S. but in the Bahamas, they are part of the regular program. Lobster season runs from August 1 through March 31 and you are allowed to have up to 10 lobsters on one boat.

Don’t dare have live caught lobsters and dive gear on the same boat, though. It’s not legal to catch lobsters using dive gear in the Bahamas. Only free diving is allowed.

We were about to go buggin’ in the Bahamas.

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Sooooo.........Our first lobstering experience was not exactly a success. It was getting too dark, the water was too rough, and we had no idea what exactly we were looking for. We must have gone back and forth along the shore for an hour without seeing the first lobster house.

We finally got frustrated, called it a day, and went to Grabbers for a lobster dinner.

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Bon Appetit!

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DAY 4: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME.

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Still not 100% sure how confident we were that we’d gotten all of the boat’s issues worked out, we still didn’t want to venture too far. We thought we’d just head to the north end of Guana Cay and visit Spoil Bank Cay, aka Shell Island.

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Because Shell Island is located very close to Baker’s Bay…we decided to wander in.

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There are many who were not supportive of the Baker’s Bay development or of what it did to Guana Cay and the potential lasting effects of that development on the reef. This is not a vote for or against Baker’s Bay and all that it stands for. We just decided to have lunch there.

And dang it, we enjoyed it.

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Baker’s Bay is a beautiful and exclusive development that land locked the most beautiful beaches on Guana Cay. You can still visit them, you just have to do so by boat. We also found that, despite its exclusivity, Baker’s Bay was very welcoming when we pulled up to their docks for lunch.

They have a very nice Market Restaurant, but it was a beautiful and breezy day, so we opted to eat down by the water at the Conch Shack. They made us some delicious rum punches and I had a lobster salad sandwich. Prices are higher than most places around Guana (about $15 for lunch), but we decided it was a nice option when visiting north Guana.

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After lunch, we headed toward Shell Island.

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Shell Island is a small uninhabited cay just off the shore of Guana. Formed as the result of undersea dredging to make a cruise ship channel, it now provides an excellent place to find an absurd number of shells. It’s a beautiful spot and you can literally spend hours here, just prowling through piles of shells or relaxing in the clear water just off the beach.

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I have been to Shell Island many, many times, but have never done anything more than prowl the beach near the boat. I decided to walk all the way around. This would, in fact, make me feel like a superhero or triathlon caliber athlete. Yes, I walked around an entire island.

I am going to pretend that you are impressed.

The far side was eerie. What must be the product of several hurricanes, it’s just a pile of sunbleached, leafless trees, piled in a twisted heap along the shore. I had to walk out into the water just a bit to get around, and as I stepped on what I thought was some rock, my foot sunk deeply into squishy clay.

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Gross!!!!

It made a huge sucking sound as I pulled my foot out and literally danced the remaining 40 feet across the clay lined shore, screaming, “Yuck! Yuck! Yuck! Yuck!” the whole way.

I made my way back around to the boat and no one was there. Apparently, they had all followed me around and were now, no doubt, knee deep in that squishy clay.

Is it wrong that I thought that was funny?

As the others came around the bend, I could see that Syd had something big in her hand. I squinted and peered. What was that? Did she find a big conch shell? A coconut?

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She walked up to me with a 6 lb. mass of clay.

That she wanted us to rub all over our bodies.

Right that moment.

While Sydney was thinking, “Oh my goodness, it’s like a free spa treatment. Do you know how much a sea mud treatment costs? It will leave our skin all smooth and amazing…” I was thinking, “What the hell is in that? What if there are microscopic parasites? How do we even know what that shit is? It could contain some 30 year old toxic cruise ship waste. What if we break out all over? I don't want to end up on one of those Discovery Channel shows where they find thousands of spiders inside someone's elbow.”

But Syd had carried that giant ball of clay for 30 minutes, so I did what any good friend would do….I grabbed a handful and smeared it fearlessly ….all….over….my….body.

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Now, I realize that this probably doesn’t sound very smart, but I should point out that no one has accused me of being very smart.

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Friends at home: We are not trained professionals. These photos were taken of idiots who unwittingly smeared a mysterious clay-like substance all over their bodies without thought of the consequences. We do not recommend trying this at home.

It actually felt great. This was awesome. What a fantastic idea! It was silky soft and felt good on my skin. It didn’t have any smell and was cool and luxurious. I was just starting to think this was an AMAZING idea….when I started to itch. All over my body. I looked at Sydney and Susan.

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“Are you guys itching?” I asked.

“OH MY GOD, YES!” they screamed as we all plunged into the water and started scrubbing ourselves furiously with sand.

The good news is that we emerged with super soft skin and no one broke out. The bad news is that we’ll never really know what the hell we rubbed all over our bodies.

Ignorance is bliss, I always say.

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We decided to eat in that night and grilled steaks, baked potatoes, and tossed a salad. I found some apple crisp mix and canned apples leftover in the pantry and whipped us up a dessert.

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The sky put on quite a dinner show as we ate.

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DAY 5: THERE IS ALWAYS HOPETOWN.

I did not wake up with blisters and welts on my skins. No hives. No rash.

Praise the lord. We had survived the great beach mud adventure. Now it was time to decide what to do for the day.

A trip to Elbow Cay is a must on every trip to Guana. Not only is Hopetown a great destination all in its own right, but you can combine the trip with a stop at Lubbers Quarters and a visit to Tahiti Beach. It simply makes for a phenomenal day.

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We did Hopetown and all that it entails: a visit to Vernon’s, a cruise through all the shops, and a final stop at Hopetown Harbor Lodge’s Reef Bar.

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There aren’t many bars in the world with a view like this one.

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I wanted to eat lunch somewhere new, and we knew that Lubbers Landing over on Lubbers Quarters was open. We were headed to Tahiti Beach anyway, so it seemed like a great idea.

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It was a great idea…..except that they had no refrigerator since the hurricane and couldn’t make us anything but drinks.

Never mind the lack of food….this place was AMAZING. I have no idea how I have missed it up until now. If you are a regular visitor to Abaco and you have not been to Lubbers Landing yet, do yourself a favor.

Go.

Go now.

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It had the most perfect décor ….open and airy, with a chic, tropical bohemian vibe. Classy, but earthy. I am not sure how they pulled it off, but it was just right.

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We grabbed bags of chips off the boat and sampled their saltwater margarita. If everything else is as good as that margarita, I can’t wait to try this place again.

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They also had a pole. While your first thought might be, “Drunk girls dancing,” let me assure you, it’s not that kind of place. Okay, at least the day we were there.

The pole is a unique twist on the hook and ring game. You throw the ring around the pole and as it unwinds, it may or may not ring the hook, depending on how good you are. If you are good enough, you get a free shot of Patron.

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We were not good enough, but they did let me parade around in this dazzling hardhat, one of several that are required of spectators.

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Any beach bar with a fabulous margarita and a hard hat that I can wear is tops in my book.

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We ate enough chips to put off lunch for a while longer, so we motored on over to Tahiti Beach.

It was right at low tide and the sandbars were doing that thing they do so well.

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Everyone wandered around looking for sand dollars and sea biscuits, while I embarked on a margarita-fueled, one-woman endeavor to save every beached starfish that was stuck on the sandbar that day.

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They probably all died anyway, but Greenpeace would have been proud. I think I’ll tell them about it the next time I see them downtown. Maybe they’ll make me an honorary member and give me one of those cool jackets or something.

All that starfish saving made me hungry, so we stopped back in Hopetown to have a late lunch at Captain Jacks.

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This coconut fried lobster with a side of macaroni and cheese might have been my favorite meal of the trip.

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We spent the evening at the house, as Syd made her legendary taco salad. I had learned to love this dish on our first sailing trip with Sydney and her husband, Keith, in the BVI. Nothing tastes better than this taco salad after a day in the sun.

Well, except maybe bacon.

Or lobster with bacon on it.

Fried.

With a side of macaroni and cheese.

I’m going to stop now.

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DAY 6: LOOKING FOR TREASURE.

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It had been a windy week, which doesn’t make for the greatest boating, and we’d been waiting for a semi-calm day so that we could try to boat over to Treasure Cay.

Windy weather is tough when you want to go boating. In the Abacos, it can be brutal. With sea swells that turn a pleasant boating experience into an exercise in survival, I feel like calling up Mother Nature and telling her to fire Wind. Who gives a crap about Jack Frost or Father Time? Dammit, give a promotion to Sunshine or Beach Weather.

By Thursday, with only 2 days left, we figured out that we weren’t going to get a wind free day. She was going to blow and we were going to like it or go cry in our cocktail, it was our choice.

We chose to like it.

The passage from Guana to Treasure is a bit tricky, because it gets very shallow. The sea was choppy and we were in a much larger boat then we were used to, but we had a good GPS, our handy Dodge Guide, and an excellent description of the passage provided by Dr. Ralph (http://www.drralph.net/DontRockPassage.html) so we felt good to go.

The passage was no problem and the views of the water were spectacular.

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The problem came when we got there.

The water was just too rough. We couldn’t anchor the boat properly and there was no way to get ashore without getting totally soaked. I know because I tried. And I got totally soaked.

After the 5th wave struck me as I tried, unsuccessfully, to climb the ladder to get back on the boat, and I began to envision something like the scene in A Perfect Storm where the boat capsizes under a wall of watery doom, I looked at Matt and screamed, “Abort mission! Abort mission! Operation Get Ashore is not a go. I repeat – NOT A GO.”

We jumped back on the boat and motored around to the Treasure Cay marina, which is what we should have done in the first place. It’s literally across the street from the Coco Beach bar, so we were able to leave the boat tied to the dock and walk across.

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It was a beautiful day at Treasure Cay and we celebrated it with a round of their sky high frozen drinks.

These might be the weakest drinks in all of Abaco, but they are also the most delicious.

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Coco Beach bar will let you use their beach chairs and umbrellas if you are eating and drinking with them. I like this because it’s one of the only places on our vacations to Abaco where I can lay in a beach chair like a civilized human and not end up with a bucket full of sand up my wahoo by the end of the day.

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We left early enough that the boys could try their hand at lobster fishing again while there was still some good light. Now that we had figured out the GPS “direct to” function, it was easy. Find a lobster house on the GPS, tell it “direct to,” and go.

When we spotted our first lobster house, you’d have thought we just saw the real Santa Claus or found a suitcase full of money.

“There!” Matt shouted as he looked at the underwater camera screen, which gave us a perfect view of what was directly underneath the boat. Immediately, the boat was in neutral and the guys were grabbing masks and fins and plunging into the water.

Bill surfaced with a big grin. Thumbs up. They found the lobster house.

Matt grabbed the spear, the gloves and the lobster bag and down they went.

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We sat nervously…waiting….seeing nothing but bubbles come to the surface.

That’s when they both popped up with lobsters in hand! Yee-Haw!!!!! We had bugs!

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Once they got the hang of it, it got easier. They kept going until we had 6 lobsters, one per person. Or three for me and three for everyone else to split. Whatever everyone felt was fair.

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Lobster. It’s what’s for dinner.

I told the guys that if they would boil them, I’d grill them after. I felt bad enough stealing the little fellas from their homes while they watched Spongebob with their families, there was no way I was shoving them in that pot of boiling water.

Yes, I understand the obvious irony of my starfish saving frenzy the day before in light of my new found penchant for crustacean murder. I won’t try to explain that it’s totally different when it’s lobster, because that will make me sound like the hypocrite that I am. And Greenpeace might take away my cool new jacket.

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While the guys did lobster-killing duty, the girls fixed pasta and salad. It was a feast fit for a king.

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The sun set on another perfect Guana Day.

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DAY 7: FINALLY, MY PERFECT BEACH DAY.

What’s better than eating six fresh lobsters that you caught yourself for dinner?

Why, eating a lobster and bacon sandwich for breakfast.

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I told you the only thing better than lobster was lobster with bacon.

It was our last day and I had not yet been to my favorite place on Guana Cay…the north end beaches.

Yes, those coveted beaches that have been so needlessly cut off from us riff-raff by Bakers Bay. But I had a boat, and that beach was going to be mine.

We usually motor all the way around the northern tip, to the ocean side, before pulling up to the shore. There is a beautiful and deserted slice of perfect beach there that has become one of my favorite places in the world.

However, Mother Nature had not yet fired Wind. He was still doing his best to huff and puff and blow my house down, so the ocean side didn’t seem like such a good idea.

That’s when we saw this stretch of perfection.

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It had my name written all over it.

You know the only thing better than a beautiful deserted beach? A jar of homemade Tennessee mango moonshine to go with it.

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In a word….it was PERFECTION.

It was my perfect beach moment.

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It was a beautiful day, so we decided to return to nearby Shell Island, this time for shells, not mud.

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As we motored over, we were joined by a pretty large pod of dolphins. We counted about 6 of them. I am not an action photographer. I am painfully slow and I am not good at shooting moving subjects. Like dolphins. I usually end up with a photo that has some obscure black blob in it that I have to insist is a real live dolphin, feeling like the guy that took that grainy shot of the Loch Ness Monster or that blurry Big Foot photo.

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No, really. That’s a really live dolphin. Really. It is.

We stayed on the boat until the sun was low in the sky. We were loath to go in because it was our last day. It’s hard to let go of all of that sunshine and impossible beauty and head back home.

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We ended the day with a sunset at Grabbers and more fried lobster goodness at Nippers.

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Goodbye Sunshine. Goodbye Beach Weather. Goodbye fried lobster and sea mud. I will miss you all.

Goodbye Wind. I won’t miss you. You suck, really, and your super nature powers should be removed...or at least severely limited.

Thanks for going to Guana with me. I’m sorry the moment is over, but I appreciate you sharing it with me.

Now go shake the sand off of your feet, dig the swimsuit out of your butt crack, step back into your office, and get back to work.

I’ll see you next time.

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Posted by vicki_h 11:33 Archived in Bahamas Tagged beach island tropical bahamas abaco guana_cay Comments (0)

Eat. Drink. Bicycle.

A Sun Drenched Key West Amuse Bouche.

amuse-bouche(uh-MYUZ-boosh) noun. This is a tidbit, often tiny, served as a free extra to keep you happy while you are waiting.

Winter had only recently arrived, but the joy of the holidays had come and gone, taking with it brightly wrapped packages and twinkling lights, the freshly baked cookies and endless cups of cocoa, and the mistletoe hanging from the chandelier.

Despite it having barely begun, I found myself waiting for winter to end.

I felt like a used up bit of forgotten tinsel that had lost its shine and is hanging limply from the edge of the sofa, waiting to be swept out with the dust bunnies.

I needed a pick-me-up.

A weekend in Key West sounded like a perfect tiny tidbit to keep me happy while I was waiting.

How can you only go to Key West for a weekend, you ask? I am still asking myself that very question.

Two days in Key West is like being given a glass of Dom Perignon White Gold Jeroboam and only being allowed a sip. It’s like holding an oversized triple chocolate cupcake with dark fudge frosting and being told you can only lick off the sprinkles. It’s like being given just the strap of a limited edition Louis Vuitton bag. It’s like a 20 second full body massage.

Fabulous, but not nearly enough.

However, much like Shelby Eatenton Latcherie in Steel Magnolias…… I’d rather have a weekend of wonderful than a winter full of nothing special.

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We arrived in Key West on a Friday afternoon and hit the ground running pedaling. I had been deprived of the opportunity to rent a bike on my virgin trip to Key West, some 6 months earlier, and I more than made up for it this time. My bike and I were inseparable.

Remember when you were a kid and you could spend all day on your bike, cruising from sunup until sundown, until you finally heard your mom calling for you in the dim light of sunset? You had nowhere to go but just rode for the sheer joy of it? Having a bike in Key West was a lot like that.

We had no agenda, no plans, and our days were nothing more than a carefree ride from one eatery to another with a little shopping thrown in for good measure.

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We arrived too late for lunch but too early for dinner – thanks to a freak storm that filled our morning departure from TN with ice and snow. We filled the gap with getting our bikes, getting our groceries, and settling into our digs for the weekend: Casa Loca.

Wow! What an awesome house this was. Not only was it simply gorgeous, it was spacious, enjoyed a super location on Petronia, and had the most amazing courtyard pool.

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Matt lives for raw oysters, and he had barely been able to contain his excitement since our wheels had touched the runway, so the first order of business for the evening was to hit one of the many happy hours that include $6/dozen oysters.

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Our choice for the night was Turtle Kraal because they were having turtle races! How fun is that?

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Okay, really, it’s not so much fun. It sounded much better after a few “happy hour cocktails” at the house than it was in reality. Turtles don’t race well. I've seen my grandmother run faster trying to get to the early bird at O'Charley's. For several minutes, they simply refused to move. Then, mine started going backwards as another turtle crawled over his back.

Regardless, it was an excuse to have another drink and to toast my backwards turtle!

Our friend’s turtle won so he was allowed to choose a key from the super fabulous and shiny key box. This key might or might not fit the equally fabulous treasure chest which contained $200. You can probably tell by his face which way it turned out.

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All was not lost, however, because Matt had his 3 dozen oysters and the rest of us ate so many happy hour munchies, that dinner was out of the question. We had a bucket of bones (great BBQ ribs), smoked fish dip, conch fritters, peel n’ eat shrimp, and wings.

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That was all fine and good, though. Travel day had taken its toll and we were all ready for nothing more exciting than a good nights sleep.

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There are few things I enjoy more than a good sunrise, so when I found myself awake at 5:30 a.m. I decided to jump on my bike and ride down to White St. Pier and watch the sun come up over the ocean. Matt heard me stirring around and decided to join me.

Riding down the streets of Key West in the dim half-light of the early morning is a WONDERFUL experience. The city was still asleep with the exception of a few chickens, a handful of dogs stretching lazily on the front porches of colorful conch shacks, and a couple of regulars getting their morning caffeine fix at Sandy’s. The streets were quiet and the air was cool.

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Once we made it to the pier, we found ourselves in the company of a few dogs, their owners, and the bird man.

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He said he tries to come feed the birds every morning. I wonder how many times he’s been pooped on?

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The sunrise was a moment of awesome beauty.

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As we pedaled back to Petronia, we had to stop at Croissants de France, enticed by the smell of freshly baking pastries. The pastries were still warm as we bit into the delicate, flaky crust.

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The guys wanted to do some “guy stuff” so the girls spent the morning riding our bikes with no real destination in mind. We ended up near Mallory Square where we had a little too much fun with the statues, saw a very stylish pelican, and bought some great handmade sandals for $12.

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Shortly after noon, we got a text from the guys to meet them at Bayview Park. It was time for the Key West Seafood Festival. Put on by the Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen’s Association, it was an explosion of seafood goodness. It was an absolutely gorgeous afternoon and the park was lined with tents serving up steaming crab claws, iced shrimp, spicy chowder, and lobster dripping with melted butter.

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It was hard to know where to start. I settled on a lobster platter and a heaping of Key West Pinks.

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All that was left was the carnage.

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We spent the afternoon doing a whole lot of nothing and it was simply fantastic.

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5:00 p.m. in Key West means only one thing to my husband: raw oysters for $6, so we headed out to Half Shell so that he could do his damage.

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Three dozen raw oysters later ….we met up with the rest of the group just in time for a Mallory Square sunset.

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This trip was all about casual and easy, so we grabbed dinner at Amigo’s. Nothing beats tater tots and tacos.

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After leaving Amigo’s, we wandered into the Smallest Bar because I had heard that you could get a drink in a pineapple and everyone knows that drinks taste better when served in a pineapple. However, instead of a pineapple drink with a colorful umbrella, someone instead handed me a shot of tequila.

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My memory is sketchy on the rest of the night, but I do recall a drag queen named Porsche serenading my husband and a guy wearing nothing but a strategically placed bandana.

The morning brought another great sunrise from White Street Pier enjoyed with a hot cup of Cuban coffee from Sandy’s.

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After breakfast, we rode our bikes over to Ft. Zachary. The beach here was just beautiful and we simply wandered in the sunshine and enjoyed the simple pleasure of the sand beneath our feet and the sun on our faces.

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Sometime around noon, we pedaled our way over to the Southernmost Café and enjoyed the bloody mary bar.

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Our friends wanted to take their dogs to Dog Beach, so we pedaled that way. When they arrived at the beach, there were several large dogs in various stages of canine ecstasy, swimming in the ocean after tennis balls, catching Frisbees, or simply rolling on their huge, wet backs in the cool sand.

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Our friends looked down at Pisa and Punkin’, their dainty little Italian Greyhounds, and then looked back at the massive, wet, writhing giants on the beach and decided maybe today wasn’t their day at the beach.

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For heaven's sake, those other dogs would have thought they were chew toys.

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Instead we headed up the stairs to Louie’s. They told us that dogs could eat at the bar, so to the bar we went!

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The view was fantastic and the hangover burger was even better.

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The afternoon was spent riding the streets of Key West.

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I thought about calling about this cottage, but when they said "sell or trade," I was pretty sure they wouldn't take a slightly used husband and a bottle of hot sauce for it.

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We kept it tame that evening and had a simple dinner at La Trattoria.

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It was our last day, so I couldn’t miss the sunrise.

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I did myself proud by opting to have a giant slice of key lime pie from Blue Heaven for breakfast. Oh yes, and a beignet from Croissants de France.

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It was our last morning of bike riding bliss, so we made the most of it, pedaling the streets until at last, it was time to go.

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Before heading to the airport, we stopped at Peanut Butter N’ What? for a quick bite. I love sandwiches. I love peanut butter. This place had my name written all over it.

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I finally settled on a Fat Elvis: peanut butter, honey, bacon, banana, shredded coconut, and cream cheese grilled until it was a mass of ooey gooey perfection.

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With a bottle of milk and a game of Connect Four, my bicycle sitting outside, I felt like I was nine all over again.

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As I licked the dripping, warm peanut butter from my hands, Matt reminded me that it was time to go.

It hadn’t been an exciting trip. It hadn’t been a long trip. It hadn’t been an exotic trip.

It had been a wonderful 3 days with good friends, good food, and lots of rest.

And a bike.

Really......does it get any better than that?

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Posted by vicki_h 12:28 Archived in USA Tagged island tropical keys key_west duval Comments (2)

Brazil: Part II, Day 3

Ilha Grande, Our Own Fantasy Island

The next morning dawned bold and beautiful.

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I woke long before Matt the next day and was excited to see a bright blue sky staring down at me. We had made a good decision by saving today for boat day!

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I took an early morning walk to the village and just enjoyed watching the sleepy town come slowly to life.

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Remember how I mentioned there seemed to be dogs everywhere? In the morning, they all seemed to be on the main street in town in various stages of sleeping, waking up, and playing in the sand. We'll call these four: Stayed Out Too Late Last Night, Still Asleep, Trying to Wake Up, and Already Had Too Much Coffee.

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Matt was up by the time I returned and we headed to breakfast so that I could get some more of those hot weenies. Yum!

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Before we sat down to eat, I asked the girl at the desk about a boat for the day. She told us we had 2 options: a large schooner that would be inexpensive but force us to share our day with about 50 other people or a private speed boat. While Matt wasn’t looking, I quickly told her “private boat.”

Within minutes, she had found us a boat for the day and told us to be at the dock at 9:30 and he’d pick us up.

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At 9:30 a.m., we were on our way! Within minutes of leaving the dock, he slowed the boat to point to a large pod of dolphins in our path. He stopped and let us enjoy them for 10 – 15 minutes before they finally headed on their way.

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Our first stop was at Lagoa Azul, or the Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is a natural shallow created at low tide between some small offshore islands and the island of Ilha Grande. It’s filled with beautiful coral and tons of colorful fish.

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We had arrived before any other boats. It was deserted. While we had it all to ourselves, we snorkeled for a while and then spent about an hour lounging on the boat in the sun, watching boat after boat after boat arrive.

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This was one of those places that was truly so beautiful, that you almost couldn’t believe what your eyes were seeing. The colors of the water, the blue of the sky, the lush green foliage…..I could scarcely take it all in.

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We could have spent all day there, bobbing gently on the water, but we finally had to tear ourselves away.

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Our next stop was a beach. I don’t know the name of it, but it was striking. Several tall, thin palms lined the middle of the beach, like little soldiers welcoming us to their tiny stretch of sand.

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The beach was small but incredibly perfect. A delicious little crescent of white sand, clear blue water, swaying palms.

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We were dropped off on shore and left to enjoy the beach for a while.

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Waterlogged and pruny, we finally motioned for our boat to return from the middle of the bay. He picked us up and once again, we were on our way. The views from the boat were amazing. I couldn’t believe how incredible this place was. I had been to beautiful islands before, but not beautiful islands that were so pristine and untouched.

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As we rounded yet another deep blue cove, lined with white sand and lush green palms, the boat slowed. Thinking we were visiting another beach, we looked up at our guy expectantly. He spoke no English but we had managed to communicate effectively all day. There are only so many words needed on boat day.

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He handed us a menu, pointed to shore where we could see nothing more than some shallow sand and trees, and raised his eyes in question.

Do I EVER say no to food?

We nodded in agreement and called someone on the radio. Within seconds, a small boat came whizzing out of nowhere and pulled up beside us.

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We piled in and the little boat headed toward the shore. Eventually, the water became so shallow that all 3 guys got out of the boat and pulled it with me sitting inside, very princess like.

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I felt very much like the water version of Cleopatra and decided that this should be my mode of transport from now on. It suited me.

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When the water got too shallow for even the tiny boat, I was forced out into the shallow water in a very unprincesslike manner. We waded toward the shore.

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Had my mother been present, she would have been certain that this was the moment when they would take us back into the woods, chloroform us, and hack out our organs for sale on Ebay. I had no worries. I was excited about this little adventure. We had no idea where we were headed and we didn’t care.

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And there it was. A cozy little tropical restaurant all tucked up into the jungle.

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This place gets my vote for coolest bathroom.

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I was pretty used to the fact that caipirinhas in Brazil were like getting a glass of water as soon as you sit down in a restaurant in the US. They were always there.

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We decided to try a Brazilian specialty: Moqueca de Camarao. It was basically a shrimp stew and had appeared on virtually every menu we had seen.

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Moqueca is a savory stew made only with fish or shrimp. It has its origins in Bahia and is a staple of the Brazilian comfort food diet. The Brazilians have been making this dish for over 300 years. Its simple name, which translates to "shrimp stew," belies its complex flavors.

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Moqueca takes hours to prepare. Fresh shrimp are simmered in a coconut broth and palm oil with a sauté of onion, garlic, bell peppers, cilantro and tomatoes. They say the palm oil is so rich, that a teaspoon takes a year off your life. Hey, the year comes off the slow end, so who's complaining?

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It was served with rice, the ever present bowl of farofa, and a bowl of something we didn’t recognize. I ate it, because I am always up for something new.

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The weird gravy-like substance didn’t have a very strong taste and it certainly wasn’t offensive, so I slathered it on and lapped it up. Matt is not a fan of the unfamiliar and took a pass. After we returned home, I looked it up to see what it was. Pirão is a kind of gravy usually made from fish broth and cassava flour. It is typically made from a broth obtained by cooking a fish head and scraps not used in whole fish dishes (i.e., the parts you ain’t supposed to eat), with other ingredients such as coconut milk, tomatoes, parsley, garlic, chives, pepper, and fresh cilantro.

At the time, I had no idea I was eating fish head and guts gravy, so……Bon Appetit!

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After a long and leisurely lunch, it was time to be carried, Cleopatra-Style, back to our boat.

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It had been a full day and we were certain it was time to head back, but were surprised when we were pulled up onto yet another pristine beach. This might have been the best yet because we were the only two people in sight.

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We had about an hour of “deserted tropical island experience” before it was time to head back.

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We were dropped off back at Sagu. Matt was feeling a little off again and went in to take a nap.

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He woke up sounding like a 97 year old smoker.

His head was pounding, he had a terrible cough, and he was hoarse and raspy. I had some Aleve and gave him one but he really needed something for that cough.

“I saw what I think was a pharmacy in the village,” he said.

We headed into the village. Our vision was that we would walk into a pharmacy that looked just like a US pharmacy. We would see medicine we recognized on a shelf and we would buy it.

Are we really that dumb?

Instead we stepped into a tiny pharmacy that had no medicine of any kind out front. There was a pharmacy counter in back and everything was on shelves behind Mr. Pharmacist in non-descript, unrecognizable, black and white printed boxes.

We walked back, hopeful that the pharmacist spoke some English.

Are we really that dumb?

Of course he didn’t speak English. He also didn’t carry any American medicines. Matt proceeded to do an elaborate game of charades that included mimicking a cough and a pounding head. Mr. Pharmacist returned with a strange box containing a little bottle of vile looking brown liquid and a teeny tiny cup. He held up 3 fingers and pointed to the cup. Did that mean 3 cups or 3 times a day?

We were pretty much on our own from there.

I had no idea what was in that bottle, but I am certain that it was not FDA approved.

It made Matt feel better, though. Probably because it was a combination of morphine and crack.

We took it easy and just crashed in a couple of chairs by the water at Cafe do Mar.

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It was a cozy little place that was open to the ocean and filled with twinkling lights and candles.

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Matt said he wasn’t hungry, probably because he was high on morphine and crack, so I took the liberty of ordering us a “snack.”

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We had a fresh caprese salad, what was basically fried cheese on a stick (GENIUS), and the most amazing garlic shrimp. It was lick-the-plate good.

We even had live entertainment as a very convincing pirate seemed to stroll up out of nowhere. Literally.

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He was promptly chased off by the bar dog.

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It was time to get Matt to sleep before he overdosed on the unidentifiable medicine.

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The next morning Matt was worse. A lot worse. It was obvious that he had something akin to the flu. Caught from the lady on the plane that was hacking up a lung for 8 ½ hours, no doubt. The worst part was that we had to load up, take a 1 ½ hour ferry ride, then drive 2 hours back into Rio de Janeiro, and then find our accommodations in the heart of that vile city.

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To shore us up, we had our final breakfast at Sagu. Bye, bye hot wieners.

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As we piled onto the ferry for the return trip, I couldn’t help but be apprehensive. Matt was sick. We had a long drive. We had to find our way back into that horrible city that we thought we’d never get out of a few days before.

What would the next 2 days have in store for us? Only time would tell.

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Posted by vicki_h 16:34 Archived in Brazil Tagged island brazil south_america ilha_grande Comments (1)

Brazil: Part II, Days 1 & 2

Ilha Grande, Our Own Fantasy Island

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The ferry pulled away from Angra dos Reis at 1:30 p.m. It was a really ugly day, so it was perfect for a travel day. The ferry ride was long (1 ½ hours) and boring. It was noisy and smelled like diesel fuel and exhaust no matter where on the boat you went. This did not help Matt’s pounding head. He was feeling worse by the minute.

At 3:00 p.m. the ferry pulled up to the small village of Abraão on Ilha Grande. We had arrived.

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Ilha Grande (pronounced Ilya Granjee) is a small island off the coast of southern Brazil. The island is undeveloped and is known for its natural beauty, filled with tropical beaches, luxuriant vegetation, parrots and monkeys, and rugged mountains. There are no roads or cars on the entire island and the largest village on the island is called Vila do Abraão, with a population of about 1900 inhabitants. The island is considered “paradise,” particularly for those who are somewhat adventurous, with its jungle trails and waterfalls in the mountainous, it’s rain forests and deserted beaches, and it’s shimmering waters.

I was psyched.

Matt was sick.

It was obvious at this point that he had some kind of cold or something, but he wasn’t feeling 100% terrible….yet. The good news was that there was a shiny white speedboat with a sign that said “Hatfields” waiting at the ferry dock, ready to whisk us over to Sagu Mini Resort so that we wouldn’t have to carry our luggage.

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Sagu was a small resort with only 9 rooms, scattered about the hillside, tucked up into the lush rainforest. The main building sat right at the water’s edge. As we walked down the long wooden dock, brightly colored buildings with clay tile roofs peeked out, half hidden behind thick green palms. Riots of flowers bloomed everywhere. It was hidden, private, and as exotic as I’d hoped.

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We settled our luggage into our room which was a large cottage with a private verandah overlooking the water. There was a mosquito net over the bed, which I hoped was just for ambience, since the room had air conditioning. I like nature….but not in my room.

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I thought Matt would want a nap, but he was finally hungry, so we decided to walk over to the village for a late afternoon bite.

It was about a 10 minute walk along a path at the water’s edge from Sagu to the village. This location gave us the privacy we craved but kept us close to all the restaurants and shops. It was a perfect location.

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I expected something rather primitive, but Abraão was a beautiful little town filled with upscale restaurants and shops as well as street vendors and casual oceanside eateries. The main street bordered the beach as it curved around the harbor. Tall mountains rose up behind it. The buildings were colorful and bright, with bougainvillea and hibiscus spilling out between them. Dogs seemed to be everywhere.

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We made our restaurant choice in a very discriminating way: we chose the closest one with a good view. We were seated at an outdoor table in the sand with a great view, despite the gloomy day.

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Pe Na Areia Restaurante served up a mean caipirinha and some fantastic marinated olives.

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We had only intended to get a light snack, but we were HUNGRY. We ended up ordering shrimp in a cream cheese sauce. This came rice and a mango salad.

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Bellies full, we wandered around town a bit to get the lay of the land. The village was small and could be walked across in just minutes. There were lots of cute shops and plenty of restaurants. When I saw this place, I made up my mind that I HAD to eat there. Forget the fact that the most amazing smells were wafting out the windows, look at how CUTE this table is!

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We took the afternoon off to let Matt recharge his quickly depleting batteries, in hopes that he would feel better the next day. We spent the afternoon and evening listening to the soft sounds of samba music, swaying in the hammock, napping, and reading underneath the giant palm tree beside our verandah.

Because lunch had been so late, it was very late when we got hungry for dinner. Sagu is supposed to have one of the very best restaurants on the island, Toscanelli. We decided to stick close to home. We made the 30 second walk to the restaurant and found that we were the only patrons.

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The restaurant was an open air wooden building sitting at the edge of a hill overlooking the water. It had a tropical feel to it that turned romantic as two tall candelabras were lit behind us. We ordered a bottle of wine and I opted for a banana wrapped filet for dinner. It was thick and cooked perfectly rare, served with couscous and a slice of some sort of potato pie. Double starch me again, baby, I like it!

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After a long day, a good steak, and a couple of glasses of wine, sleep came easy. And no, I didn’t need that mosquito net.

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Breakfast at Sagu was a self-serve buffet on the verandah behind the main building, overlooking the water.

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They had everything….baskets of rolls and cheese bread, several platters of cakes, sliced breads for toasting, cereals, granola, plates of fresh fruit, meats, cheeses, bowls of yogurt, eggs….but despite all those offerings….I became hooked on these:

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Yes. Those are sliced up wieners in hot sauce. My true white trash nature comes out every so often, particularly when I am in close proximity to yard sales, Vienna sausages, pork rinds, or anything with rhinestones on it. Oh my, but they were good. Don’t worry, I had plenty of carbs to balance out all that hot dog protein.

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We had 2 days on Ilha Grande and had only 2 things we really wanted to do: 1) do a hike through the jungle to Lopes Mendes beach and 2) rent a boat to take us around for the day. The weather looked iffy. Not wanting to waste the money for a boat on an ugly day, we decided to do the jungle walk.

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Matt was feeling better this morning, so we were hopeful that whatever had him down the day before was brief in passing.

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The trail head was very close to Sagu and we headed up into the jungle. The park map had said that it was a 4 mile, 3 hour hike through the jungle, over the mountains, to Lopes Mendes beach on the other side of the island. Up, up, and up we went.

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It was a tough hike, but rewarding. There was very little flat ground on the 4 mile hike. We were climbing steeply up or steeply down. The jungle was dense and lush. It was peaceful and quiet and the exercise felt good after so many days of leisure filled with so many carbohydrates. There were some amazing views.

I was keeping my eyes peeled for monkeys. There were monkeys in this jungle, and I was going to find one.

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After about an hour, we came to a beach. The sign told me it was not our beach.

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We had arrived at Praia Grande das Palmas, or the “Big Beach of Las Palmas.”

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There appeared to be a very small village, and I am using the term “village” generously, applying the east TN standard. In rural east Tennessee, you can call something a town if there is a fireworks store, one movie rental/gas station/tanning bed combo, and a post office.

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This village had 2 tiny restaurants, a few houses, and a church.

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We decided to stretch out and relax for a bit before pressing on.

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We headed to the far end of the beach where a sign pointed up a steep rock telling us “that way.”

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We hiked through more steep jungle. I still hadn’t seen a monkey. Where were those darn monkeys? It was like the Montana moose hunt all over again.

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After another hour we came to another beach.

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It was GORGEOUS. A long stretch of blinding white sand, gently lapping water, and swaying palm trees. We saw only one other person on the beach. The sun was starting to pop out and we needed a break, so we decided to stretch out on the sand for a while, get some sun, and take a leisurely swim.

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Matt found a friend. I don’t know what it is, but strange dogs and strange kids always gravitate to Matt on vacation.

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After an hour or so, we felt sunned and refreshed and decided to make the final push to Lopes Mendes. It was so tempting not to, with so many beautiful beaches tempting us to stop along the way.

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We walked to the end of the beach and saw a small booth, a sign with an arrow, and a man.

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He told us Lopes Mendes was about 20 minutes through the jungle and that his boat would take us back to town if we wanted, at 4:00. Not wanting to make that steep, hot, 4 mile trek back, this made my day.

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Hot diggity dog. We were almost there AND we had a boat to take us back. The only thing that would make this day better were some monkeys.

We were about 5 minutes into our final walk through the jungle toward Lopes Mendes when we saw them.

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There were about 10 of them and the largest were no bigger than a kitten. The marmoset monkeys dangled on the branches of a small tree right at the edge of the trail. They peered curiously at us from behind branches, caramel colored eyes bright and inquisitive. I’m pretty sure they hoped we had some cookies in our pocket. We didn’t.

I had already eaten them all.

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After enjoying their antics for a while, we pressed on for our final destination: Lopes Mendes. Although, I didn’t really care about seeing the beach at this point because I had seen MONKEYS!

Lopes Mendes is one of the most famous beaches in Brazil and is the most famous beach on Ilha Grande. It was reported to be a huge stretch of glistening sand, soft as sugar, with towering mountains and palms behind it and wildly crashing waves pounding the shore. There are no buildings or restaurants on the beach, just sun, sand, and sea.

When we finally broke out of the trees to see the beach, it was as breathtaking as everyone had said. Lopes Mendes turned out to be worth every steep, muddy, slippery, hot step.

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We tucked up under the shade of a palm tree and just took it all in. The beach was absolutely huge, length and width. It was also absolutely beautiful.

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We lounged. We walked. We splashed.

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We watched all the interesting people. Everything they say about Brazilian beaches and beachwear is true, by the way. Virtually every woman has on either a thong or a bikini so tiny it may as well be a thong. Virtually every man has on a tiny speedo. It does not matter what your age, body type, body size, or how much body hair you have. They bare it all.

That is not always a good thing.

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When we’d had our fill, we made the walk back through the jungle to the beach with the boats.

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We had 30 minutes to kill so we headed to the one little restaurant on the beach. It wasn’t really a restaurant. It was more of a garden shed with a food window and some plastic tables.

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I’m still trying to figure out if that dog is the same dog that was on the earlier beach, a 30 minute jungle hike away……

We hadn’t had lunch and my new pig belly was growling for some potatoes or rice. I ordered us 2 caipirinhas and an order of batatas fritas (french fries).

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Those drinks were so strong I believe they could be used to strip paint.

We had been sitting and waiting on those darn fries for a while. We only had 10 minutes until the boat left and I still didn’t have my fries. Matt was going all restless and squirrelly on me, the way he always does when we are in an unfamiliar place and his boat/taxi/train/bus is about to leave and I am distracted by something like food/monkeys/shiny things.

“Five minutes,” he said as he started walking toward the boat. “I am getting on the boat. You can wait for the fries if you want. The boat leaves in 5 minutes.”

And with that, he left me there.

He’s only a saint to a point. Even Matt has his limits.

I refused to leave without my fries. I had forgotten that this wasn’t McDonald’s but that I was at a shack on a beach in the middle of the jungle where they probably had to go dig the damn potato up before they could make the fries.

I waited. Four minutes. I waited. Three minutes. I waited.

With literally seconds to spare, my fries were delivered. I gave the owner a huge tip and a huge smile as I grabbed the salty potato goodness and literally ran for the boat.

Me and my fries made it.

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Because he declined my giant greasy pile of fries on the boat, Matt was ready for dinner by the time we got back. We quickly got cleaned up and headed for the village.

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We stopped at O Pescador to see if we might want dinner there. Located on the ocean, it has a great view and is supposed to have incredible seafood (and they speak English!). We ordered caipirinhas (of course we did) and perused the menu. Nothing really grabbed us, so we decided to find dinner elsewhere.

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As we walked down the street, we smelled a heavenly garlic scent drifting through the air. We followed our noses and guess where they took us? Right to that adorable little table I had seen the night before. We instantly made it ours.

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We noticed in Brazil that about half the restaurants we went to had English translations in the menu. This was extremely helpful, despite the fact that the translations weren’t always spot on.

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I wonder….does “Chilly” mean cold soup or the stuff with beans and beef? What the hell is “weird rice?” And who can resist ordering something called “Neebles?”

Neebles might just be my new favorite word.

As in most restaurants, we resorted to the point and grunt method of ordering. Here is Matt attempting to communicate with our extremely NON-English speaking waiter.

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The meal was fantastic. We started with a seafood bisque (although I really wanted the chilly). That was followed by olives and a crab spread with baguette slices. For an entrée, I had the pasta Bolognese, which was loaded with rich meaty sauce.

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We strolled around town a bit. My favorite thing were these giant rolling dessert carts. There were several of them and they were filled with unimaginable goodness.

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Eventually, it got dark and we got tired. We picked our way along the trail with flashlights and were soon nestled in our soft bed, fast asleep.

Posted by vicki_h 15:24 Archived in Brazil Tagged island brazil south_america ilha_grande Comments (2)

Sun, Sand, and Sea

A quick trip to Elbow Cay

Everyone has that “go to” destination. That place you have been so many times that it’s like a second home. That place where you can get around with your eyes closed and where a trip requires virtually no planning. It’s that place you go when you have a few days and decide to take off at the drop of a hat. Abaco is our “go to” place, and we headed down for a quick getaway in early November.

Day One: Travel Day

Knowing the weather in the Bahamas is not as warm as the Caribbean in the cooler months, we decided to stay on Elbow Cay where there are more “out of the water” activities than our usual haunt of Guana Cay.

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This gave us the chance to rent our own boat at Marsh Harbor rather than taking the ferry which was a really cool change of pace! We stopped at Seahorse boat rentals, tossed our luggage into our boat and were on our way. It was a pretty quick hop over to Tahiti Beach on the southern end of Elbow Cay and we were amazed at how much time we saved by not having to wait for the ferry.

We had toes in sand and drinks in hand by noon.

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Ahh....bliss.

We stayed at Barefoot Bay, an AMAZING house near Tahiti Beach. The first thing everyone wanted to do was grab a cold drink and run up to the Crow’s Nest deck and take in the amazing views.

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And people wonder why we keep coming down here.

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We had brought newbie friends, John and Kelley, with us and Barefoot Bay provided a perfect set up. Not only did it have amazing views of Tahiti Beach and Tilloo Cut, but the house was split into 3 separate buildings, offering tons of space and privacy. The main building housed a beautiful kitchen, dining, living space with a great sound system.

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Then, each of the other two buildings had a large master bedroom and two smaller bedrooms. This place can seriously sleep a lot of people.

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Not to mention the pool....

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Once we had all settled in, we took John & Kelley into Hopetown for lunch and to grab a few essentials.

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By “essentials,” you all know I mean one of Vernon’s key lime pies and several bottles of rum.

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Seriously, do you need anything else? You have all the food groups covered. Fruit & Veges: Limes. Dairy: all that darn creamy stuff in the pie. Meat: Hello....merengue. What do you think it’s made out of? Eggs. Duh. Grains: I think graham crackers can be considered a grain. And don’t forget the rum food group, because it deserves one all on it’s own.

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We were sad to find the Reef Bar at Hopetown Harbor Lodge closed for a wedding, but happy to find that Cap’n Jacks was open. Hello, jackhammer!

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When I saw coconut fried lobster with mac n’ cheese on the menu, I was all over it.

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We took it easy for the rest of the afternoon and, after seeing the condition of the road to town post-hurricane, decided maybe we’d stick close to home for dinner that night!!

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Besides, I was dying to try out a new place, Firefly. Like any good southern girl, I love Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka and couldn’t help but notice the bar highlighted the delicious South Carolina libation in their cocktails.

It was a beautiful restaurant with a nice outdoor deck and sparkly sign. I love sparkly.

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The menu was small and seemed to highlight unique, creative, and fresh items. I ordered up a firefly cocktail and a curry lobster salad with papaya. Both were fabulous and refreshing!

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Travel day over, we retired to Barefoot Bay and watched the stars come out to play.

Day Two: Nippers or BUST (literally)

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What we didn’t know when we decided to head down to Abaco was that it was going to be UNGODLY windy the entire time we were on Elbow Cay. I think the wind averaged 25 knots each day we were there.

It was Sunday and that always means one thing: NIPPERS BEACH BBQ. Staying on Elbow, that meant a 45 minute boat ride to get there. When I looked outside our window and saw that the swimming pool was whitecapping….I knew we had a problem.

Not realizing the wind was a permanent fixture on our vacation at this point, we decided to head down to Tahiti Beach for a while to “give the wind time to die down.” (I laugh on the inside as I type this….ah….hindsight…you devil, you).

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Tahiti Beach is one of my favorites. A long curve of sand down one side, fringed with beautiful palm trees, takes you to a small point, where the beach then curves in, forming a perfect crescent beach with shallow water that goes so far out, you can almost walk to the next island.

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We noticed the sandbar had moved/vanished/shifted, I guess due to the hurricanes of the summer, but the beach was still magically beautiful.

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When we returned to Barefoot Bay, totally planning to boat it over to Nippers, we found the house owner’s brother, a super great guy we had met the day before, hanging out to see if we were heading over. He was down with a group of guys on a “guys’ maintenance week” trip on their other house. I put this in quotes, because we all know what this means. This means, they spend 4 hours drinking beer and then change a lightbulb. Spend another 2 hours sipping frozen Nippers and then rehang a door. Right?

They were also planning to head over to Guana that day and thought there might be safety in numbers. I mean, 9 idiots on the water who have no business being there is certainly better than 4.

We loaded up and headed out.

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HOLY MOLY. That was one rough ride. I think I would have fared better trying to stay on a mechanical bull for 8 minutes than trying to endure that boat ride. It was like trying to ride a really slippery, wet bucking bronco with nothing to hold onto as someone pours a bucket of cold, salty water over your head every 3 minutes.

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Our level of dedication should tell you how good that Nippers mac n’ cheese is.

Kelley and I held on for dear life. I made the mistake of thinking it might be easier to ride in the front. We were coasting along and I thought, hey, this isn’t so bad. I’ve got this! Just then, we hit the first big wave, sending me about 3 feet up into the air, after which I crashed down on the hard fiberglass deck of the boat and am pretty sure lost about 3 inches on my spine. I’m pretty sure I am now significantly shorter than I used to be…and I think a chunk of my tailbone is somewhere up around my ears.

I quickly jumped onto the padded seat, squeezed my eyes closed, and held on for all it was worth.

Soaked and salty, we finally pulled up to that familiar dock in that familiar town on that familiar street where all roads lead to Nippers.

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When we got to Nippers, I looked out at the ocean. What I have come to know as a tranquil sea of blue green that stretches calmly into forever, was a raging ocean of foam and waves. I have never seen it like that. It was pretty wild. Since there would be no swimming, I guess that meant we just had to do more eating, drinking, and dancing.

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We had our frozen Nippers and BBQ and sat back to enjoy the show. It was a pretty quiet start to the Nippers BBQ….until this guy showed up.

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Frozen Nippers have the ability to make even the most stiff legged stuffed shirt get out and bust a move and before long, we were all at it.

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We shook it until the sun started to go down and suddenly realized…Holy Crap…were not staying on Guana….we still have a boat ride!!!!

The group high tailed it out of there, hoping we had just enough time to get back before the sun finally set.

I think we made it with about 2 minutes to spare. Maybe one.

We grabbed dinner at Sea Spray and I think I had a chicken in a bag, but there is no photographic evidence and my brain was a little Nippers fuzzed by then, so I really can’t tell you much more than that. Bon Appetit!

Day Three: We Ain’t Afraid of No Wind!

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We had planned to see some beaches by boat but the wind and waves were even worse than they had been the day before. Rather than push our luck, we decided to head into Hopetown for a while.

The Reef Bar was OPEN…but there was no Gary. :(

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We enjoyed a little time on the Hopetown Beach. This has to be one of the most beautiful beaches ever. I never get tired of seeing it.

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There’s nothing better than a burger on the beach, in my opinion, so I dove head first into a Reef Burger and washed it down with a rum punch.

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Inappropriately confident, due to our previous day’s boating success, we decided that the weather wasn’t going to keep us off the water. We were smart enough to stick close, however, and only headed for Tilloo and the Pelican Cays.

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It was a pretty quick trip and relatively painless, but when we got to what I think was North Pelican Cay, the water was so rough, none of us had the heart to get in. Well, except Matt, but I am pretty sure he regretted it.

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Instead, we just enjoyed some tunes and rocked along on the boat, watching the incredible colors of the water.

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When we got back to Elbow, we just walked over to Tahiti Beach where we spread out in the sand with beer and chips.

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It was late in the day, so we settled in to watch the sky go from blue to gold as the sun dripped down into a golden haze on the horizon.

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Sometimes it’s the simplest things that bring the greatest pleasure.

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We ate in, throwing together a platter with some cold cuts, cheeses, olives, smoked salmon, and baguettes.

And pie.

Within minutes there was a knock at the door.

Our new friends stopped by to let us know that there was Karaoke at Ray’s that night.

Ha. Me? Karaoke? Fat chance. I sing like a badly scratched record and no one EVER hears me sing. No not ever. Never.

Not gonna’ happen in this lifetime.

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Okay, so apparently, after enough adult beverages, pigs do fly and hell freezes over.

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Day Four: Searching for Treasure

We woke up to strong winds AGAIN and decided (wisely) that the boat was not an option. We had met a couple on the beach the night before that were sailing and they really talked up Treasure Cay. As soon as Kelley heard them say it was named one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, she was there. She was going and she was not going to take no for an answer.

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We had nothing else to do, so we decided to take the ferry over, grab a taxi, and visit Treasure Cay. Uber planner that I am, doing something unplanned with no information left me a little unsettled…but hey….a ferry, a taxi, a great beach…what’s to worry about?

I’ll tell you what’s to worry about: A total of 2 hours to get there from Tahiti beach between golf cart rides to the ferry, ferry rides to Marsh Harbor, and taxi rides to Treasure Cay and a total of $25 per person for the ferry and $175 for a cab. Ouch!!

But…what’s done was done. By the time we realized how long it would take to get there and how much it would cost….we were already there.

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I can’t say I regretted it, though. We had nothing else to do and despite the windy seas, Treasure Cay was GORGEOUS.

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We set up camp at the Coco Beach Bar, a great beachfront place that let us use their thatched umbrellas and chairs as long as we were eating and drinking. For a while, we just took the lazy route and crashed in some chairs.

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When the smell of food got to us, we headed up to the bar for some fried grouper fingers and conch fritters.

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And an amazing Pina Colada that was reminiscent of a soft serve ice cream. Oh yummy.

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After lunch, we decided to walk the beach. I am so happy we did. If you stick to the area of beach behind the Coco Beach Bar, beautiful as it is, you will have seen only the least attractive part of Treasure Cay. Head down toward the water, turn right and walk as far as you can. Head toward the little cay you see offshore in the distance. You won’t be sorry.

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The first part of the beach just stretched out long and blindingly white, with crazy turquoise water lapping the shore.

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As you rounded a point, an entirely new and remarkable vista opened up.

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The water was super shallow and clear….stretching out to delicate sand bars that popped up just off the beach like tiny oases of white sand and bejeweled water.

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Beyond that was a small cay, shimmering just off shore like a mirage. No matter how far you walked, it never seemed to get any closer.

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There were beautiful shells, starfish, and sand dollars along the way to look at and enjoy. I found tons of these little guys along the beach. They are definitely too small to be sand dollars. I think these are sand pennies.

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As we splashed in the shallow waters and enjoyed the beautiful views, we all agreed that this alone made the entire trip worth every minute and every dollar. If you ever get a chance to go over to Treasure Cay for a day, you should do it.

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For our “last meal” we returned to Cap’n Jacks for more lobster. I know there is something about food always tasting better after a day on the beach, but I swear, Kelley and I both agreed this was our favorite grilled lobster EVER - perfectly grilled and juicy, with a squeeze of lime and dripping with melted butter.

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It seemed over before it had really begun. It was time to head home. As always, Abaco delivered beautiful vistas, the most perfect beaches and the most beautiful water, lots of frosty island cocktails and beach eats, and even some new friends.

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I watched the islands disappear from the plane window, a haze of blue and green below me, and I couldn’t help but wonder what next time would hold……

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For more photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/42427255@N00/sets/72157628127135090/

And if you want to check out Barefoot Bay:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/42427255@N00/sets/72157628122881444/

Posted by vicki_h 10:03 Archived in Bahamas Tagged beach island caribbean bahamas abaco Comments (2)

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