Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Later, Fishies!

Today was our last day of snorkeling. The water was very clear and although it rained a bit, it doesn't really matter when you're already in the water.

We went to Coral Gardens, one of the first places we visited when we got here. It's also the place I saw the stingray, so I was a little hesitant to go back but Ed wanted to give it another shot.

Today was probably the best day, fish wise. We didn't see any Lion Fish, which made me happy since they have venomous tentacles, but we did see a host of other fish.

I didn't take these photos, but these are some of the other fish we saw in the reef:Row 1: Queen Parrotfish, Blue Tang, Sergeant Major
Row 2: Peacock Flounder (in both photos) which you can't even see when it burrows in the sand.
Row 3: Stoplight Parrotfish in an early stage, Stoplight Parrotfish in a later stage, Trumpet Fish

I think the Stoplight Parrotfish were my favorite because they were so colorful. It's amazing that a fish can be so turquoise and yellow and green and pink. The Lion Fish are beautiful too, but a little scary. We also saw a lot of white, silver and clear tiny fish - there were thousands of them in a huge school, just swimming around us. I don't know what the name of those are.

The coral was interesting, but not as colorful as I thought it would have been. There are a lot of yellow, orange and purple, but not as vibrant as I expected. There are sea fans and brain coral and sponge coral. It's amazing how many different types there are. And this was all just a few hundred feet off shore and didn't cost a thing.

This was probably the best part of the vacation for me, because I can snorkel and tan at the same time. But now it's time to say goodbye to the fish and underwater creatures.

We purchased brand new snorkels, masks and fins while we were here and they came in very handy - and now we have good quality equipment to take with us anywhere we go. And, I'm super excited about the fact that the swim fins (flippers) we bought are stamped "Made In Italy". Finally, something that didn't come out of China.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

1 YEAR AGO: It’s In The Details
2 YEARS AGO: Plenty Of Places To Roam, No Place To Park It
3 YEARS AGO: E Vac You A She Own!!
4 YEARS AGO: Eddie Steals A Bite Friday
5 YEARS AGO: Steal-A-Meme
6 YEARS AGO: The Day In Pictures

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Beautiful By Nature. Dirty By Choice.

"Beautiful by nature, dirty by choice," said the British woman I was talking to. She had been living here for sixteen months (her husband was working on the island) and gave that for the explanation of the way the place looks.

"Beautiful By Nature, Clean By Choice" is the motto of the Turks and Caicos Islands. But it's not beautiful everywhere, and certainly not clean. These are pictures of some houses taken just a few miles from the resorts, on Beach Road.
People sitting under trees, on concrete platforms, many of them with graffiti.
Trash in the yard or flowing over from garbage cans.
I don't know what this was, but I'm sure some guy spends his afternoons sitting on this chair surrounded by litter.
Laundry hanging outside...
Amid the crap all over the yard.
Would it be so hard to pick up the fence, throw some paint on the walls?
And all over the island, from the less desirable areas to the ones that clearly look like those who reside there have money, are these unfinished concrete homes.
Most of them only have one level, or even half a level. They've just been abandoned, with the rebar sticking out of every wall, weeds growing up and around the entire structure.
Apparently, there was a lot of corruption when the local government was in charge and people lost tons of money. Now that it's back under British Rule, I guess they're trying to rebuild it back to what it was. But from what we've heard, it's not at all a good time to invest here. Although, it is known as an offshore financial center and there isn't any income tax, so someone is making out pretty well.

I just don't understand, and this goes for being in the states too, why you can't clean the crap from your yard. It's one thing to be poor, it's another to be lazy. If you're sitting in your yard, surrounded by trash, broken down cars and overgrown trees and grass and talking on your cell phone, you can't tell me you don't have any money. To me, you're either stupid, lazy, or both.

And these days, even if you're born into poverty, it's unlikely you have no idea of what's going on in the world. I'm sure you have a TV in your house, or have seen one at a friend's house. Don't you know what it looks like to have a neat yard? Why wouldn't you want your place to look better?

Don't be dirty by choice. It's not beautiful.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
1 YEAR AGO: Let’s Go Shopping!!!
2 YEARS AGO: A Magnificent Place To Wait For A Train
3 YEARS AGO: Old Blue Eyes Was Right When He Said It Was A Very Good Year
4 YEARS AGO: The Hills Are Alive…Or Are They?
5 YEARS AGO: Nostalgia
6 YEARS AGO: 37 Going On 20

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Brilliant Island Adventure

Today Ed and I decided to explore another part of Providenciales; we headed out to the western side of the island because we heard about a beach over there that was secluded and had good snorkeling. In this area, the paved roads eventually end and you wind up on secondary roads, most carved right through the limestone. Hard-packed, with tons of rocks and potholes, they're pretty unsettling to drive. We got about four miles in on this road when we hit water - it was completely flooded from the storm. We were going to have to find another way to the beach. The second road we took was through a national park, all sand, one lane. As we got closer to the beach, the sand was getting deeper and I was getting more nervous. We were in the middle of nowhere, not a soul in sight, miles from the main road. I didn't really want to go much further because I remembered the night we got the truck stuck in the sand on South Padre Island in Texas. Along the way, as we got further in, we saw the signs below. These guys are brilliant. And probably get a mint to haul adventurers out of the sand. At one point, I asked Ed not to continue, but in true guy fashion, he said, "It's fine."

Not a minute later, we were stuck in the sand.

I started to cry.

I was so frustrated that he didn't listen to me, that we were stuck in the middle of nowhere, and that we'd likely have to pay a hefty amount to get towed out. Not to mention the fact that we were at least half a mile from that sign, so someone (Ed) would have to go back and get the phone number to call and get us out.

Ed was annoyed that I was so upset. He thought it was an "adventure" and said I was overreacting. He said that "anyone else" would have thought it was fun. I told him that I didn't know ANYONE who would think being stuck in the sand, in the middle of nowhere, on a blazing fucking hot day was
fun. There is not one woman I know who wouldn't be annoyed at her husband/boyfriend/significant for continuing on when good sense said to stop.

Ed's lucky that he's not dating some 115-pound delicate flower because I was the one who pushed the car out of the sand while he worked the gas pedal. He knows more about how to get a vehicle out of sand and mud (and 
snow), but I knew I could put my brute force against the front bumper and do my best to push us out. I was not happy at all to be heaving and hoeing in the blistering heat, but I wanted to get the hell out of there and back to civilization (if you can call it that) as soon as possible.

The idea of continuing on had lost all its appeal. Once we were out, I strongly suggested we go somewhere else. We ended up at another snorkeling spot we knew about; Sopadilla Bay.
It's a beautiful spot and the water is actually turquoise, but unfortunately, the water was super cloudy and we couldn't see a thing. So we scrapped that spot and headed back over to Smith's Cove, where we found the conch the other day. It turned out to be great - the water was incredibly clear and we stayed for several hours.

I found a few more shells and Ed found a starfish! It's totally awesome and yes, we are taking it home. Right now, as it's dying on the patio, it smells like a dead body. I'm not really sure what we're going to do about that, but we'll leave it there to dry out, and then when we leave, I'll wrap it in plastic bags.
We also found this little snail but threw him back into the water. The shell wasn't beautiful enough to take, and he was trying to get out, so we let him go. You can see him in action here:
After our snorkel, we hit the Greenbean Cafe for an iced latte and a muffin. It wasn't great, but it wasn't bad. The muffins were good, but the coffee was not. I loved the shop though - it was decorated in a very island style and had a beautiful outdoor patio. We eventually made it back to our room to peel our bathing suits off, check our underwater creature haul, and take showers. Ed took a quick dip in the hot tub while I went straight into the shower.

Just as I got out of the shower, there was a knock on the door. I thought it was Ed, but it turned out to be Chris, one-half of the British couple we met in the pool last week.
When I opened the door he asked us if we wanted to join them for dinner, they were leaving tomorrow and wanted to spend the last night with us. I was beyond thrilled because in addition to our shared love of Karl Pilkington, they were an interesting, intelligent couple and I loved the idea that they were from England.

Sarah was originally from
Reading, and Chris came from a town nearby (I forgot to ask). Actually, maybe they still live in Reading now...I can't remember...but whatever, doesn't matter. They were awesome. They told us a lot about their life, friends, and family. Chris is a die-hard soccer fan (over there they call it football) and they're both teachers. I had wanted to do dinner with them earlier in the week but Ed kept saying, "They don't want to talk to us - they're here on their honeymoon." I disagreed, but I didn't pursue them, figuring they'd want to enjoy their vacation. We had dinner at the Tiki Hut, which was fantastic. Ed had a porkchop that was amazing and I had ribs that were so fall-off-the-bone, I thought I was somewhere in the South. I think they might even beat out my favorite place for ribs; the Alien Grill in Fargo, North Dakota.

We kept them up as late even though they had an early flight out to Miami, and exchanged email and Facebook information to keep in touch. They started their trip in Las Vegas, then came here to relax a bit and next were planning to spend time in New York. Because of the hurricane, they couldn't leave the island, which sort of screwed up their plans to spend time in New York. Now they will just be flying out, connecting in Miami, and heading back to London straight away.
They were disappointed about losing their time in New York but said that it gives them a good reason to come back.

We'd love for them to get in touch and we told them we could be anywhere in the country, just let us know in advance and we'd meet them for dinner. They said they'd definitely do just that.
And now I know who to contact when I get to England.  I'll need a tour guide and possibly a translator for all the British slang; quid, slag someone off, bollocks, brassed off, knob, and whinge to name just a few. Although, I have already learned a lot from Ricky, Stephen, and Karl.

Great adventure. Great snorkeling. Great food. Great people.
I couldn't ask for more.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

1 YEAR AGO: It’s Getting So Much Easier These Days To Spot The Idiots
2 YEARS AGO: Scenes From Motor City
3 YEARS AGO: Eddie Mad Hatter Friday
4 YEARS AGO: What A Grape Idea!
5 YEARS AGO: You Couldn’t Pay Me Enough
6 YEARS AGO: Due Amici Designs

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Very Expensive Day Of Laze

Today was one of our laziest vacation days other than the day after the hurricane when we stayed inside most of the day. We went to bed late, so slept late and then got up and had a leisurely breakfast. After breakfast, we lounged around the room watching news about Irene and what's happening in her path, and taking in a lot of the Kardashians (Ed was loudly grumbling about that).

Much later in the day, Ed decided to venture out for a walk on the beach (I didn't want to go) but instructed me to meet him at the restaurant across the street at the Grace Bay Club, in an hour for dinner. Orignally planning on the Grill Rouge, we decided instead on their other restaurant, Anacaona. Both restaurants were situated just beyond the beach, with ocean views.

The sun began to set as we looked over the menu.
We started with salads. I had a Mixed Green Salad with Baby Tomatoes, Pear and Bacon in a Warm Bacon Dressing. It was good, but pricey at $13.00.

Ed had the Arugula with Mandarin Sections, Pine Nuts and Parmesan Croutons with an Orange Viniagrette Dressing. It was also a good salad, but very tiny and again, priced steeply at at $14.00.
I shouldn't even be mentioning the prices here because I know my mother is going to read this post to my eighty-nine year old step-father, and upon hearing what we spent, he's going to go into cardiac arrest. Although, I happen to agree with him here - it's fucking salad. I know it has to be flown in, or however they get it here. But really? $14.00 for arugula and a few pine nuts? They didn't even use a whole mandarin orange - there were maybe five sections of it.

There's really no sense complaining because everything on the island is super expensive. And you just know that when you come here, but I think in the back of my head I was thinking maybe I'd find a great little restaurant that wasn't outrageous. That hasn't and will not happen.

For dinner, I had the Garlic-Chili Jumbo Prawns with Grilled Asparagus Spears and Potatoes. Again, it was delicious. But for what I paid for five NOT very jumbo shrimp, I could have fed my entire family this very meal. I had two baby carrots, two spears of asparagus and three slices of potato. It's not the amount of food, because it was quite satisfactory, I felt full when done, but it's the idea that it is such a small amount of food for such a large price. This meal (Mom - don't read him this part) was $46.00. God help me. It was a little too spicy for me, but delicious.

Ed had the Atlantic Sole with Fresh Green Beans, Mashed Potatoes and Melted Leek. I don't know exactly how you melt a leek, but it was freakin' delicious. The sauce was creamy and the fish was excellent. I thought the portion was perfect for him and he too was full when finished. This dish came in at $44.00.

We decided not to have dessert. I was thinking about having a cappuccino since they served illy, but I couldn't imagine it being better than what I had in Italy and I would have been annoyed if they screwed it up and did it island style. The desserts were also expensive ($11-$14) and nothing really thrilled me, so we left and planned on having a little sweet with a cup of tea later when we got back to the room.

The dinner, with beverages (no alcohol this time) and tip, came to $168.23; the serene beach setting, with the jazz playing in the background did not soften the blow.

For that amount, if I were doing what I might normally be doing on a day where I barely venture out into the world, I could have about thirty-seven lazy Sunday Starbucks lattes in Barnes & Noble.

Which I think is going to be my first stop when I go home, because I'm totally jonesin' for a magazine. But I might pass up Starbucks and go for a Dunkin' Donuts iced latte instead.

How do these islanders live without either of those things??

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
1 YEAR AGO: A Little River On A Big Lake In The Middle Of A Floating Stage
2 YEARS AGO: Eddie The Cicada Whisperer Friday
3 YEARS AGO: Maybe We Should Sell Our Truck And Buy An Airboat
4 YEARS AGO: Me And My Man
5 YEARS AGO: If You’re Going To Rescue Me, Bring Sandwiches
6 YEARS AGO: Hurricane Equality

Saturday, August 27, 2011

All-Inclusive Social Butterflies

Today Ed and I spent the day at Club Med. We purchased a day pass for $85 per person to use all of their facilities from 11am to 6pm. The main reason, as I mentioned in another post, was to take the Hobie Cat out on the water. Another place on the island charges $50 for the first hour, $35 for each additional hour, or $150 for the entire day.

At Club Med, for the $170, we get to use the Hobie Cat, their windsurfing equipment and they'll even take you out to the reef to snorkel. Plus, all the drinks you can pour down your throat and all the food you can stuff in your gizzard is free. So we decided to just buy the day pass because it was such a deal.

We got there around eleven and checked in at the front desk. They gave us a little armband and we went on our way. My first stop was the bar for a virgin PiƱa Colada, a quick look at the shops (selling crap and costume jewelry from China) and then a walk around the pool. It was blazing hot standing there in the sun, so we put our drinks down and went for a swim.

The dining room didn't open for lunch until 12:30, so we decided to go out on the Hobie Cat in the meantime and float around the ocean for a while. Ed was beyond excited. The French guy (from San Diego) who helped us on the watercraft looked like Anthony Bourdain. Ed had sailed a Hobie before, so I knew I was in good hands. And he knew that I wasn't going to do a thing - I just wanted to sit, float, get some sun and look at the scenery. The water was pretty choppy and the wind was intermittent so in addition to actually "sailing", we were doing a lot of floating.

They don't let you get more than a mile from shore, which is a ridiculously far distance considering there's not anything to see but water. We didn't go nearly that far out. After about an hour or so, we went back in for lunch; buffet style, sort of like what you'd get at a cruise ship's three-meal-a-day restaurant. The food was pretty good and since we didn't have breakfast we went back for seconds.

After lunch we wanted to go on their snorkeling trip to the reef, but when we got to the snorkel shop, the guy told us because of the choppy water, they weren't going out to the reef and on top of that, the water was very cloudy, which is what we encountered when we went out yesterday, so we decided not to go. On top of that, the wind had died completely down and Ed couldn't go windsurfing - he was disappointed. So we just went to the pool.

Earlier at the pool I saw two women who just looked fun and I wanted to talk to them. So when I spied them at the bar, I sidled up next to one of them, tapped her on the arm and said "Where are you girls from?"

Turns out they were from Westchester County in New York - Mount Vernon, to be exact. Fairly familiar stomping grounds for me. Anita and Caren, sisters on their annual vacation. How cool is that? I would love to go on an annual vacation with a sister - or, Anita and Caren, since I don't have a sister!

We eventually all made our way into the pool and while there, two other women joined our circle - they were from San Francisco - Eva and Ann, also sisters on vacation. Ed was now surrounded by five chatty women. And I think he was quite fine with it.

A little while after that, we were joined by Steve, a single guy who had been on the same flight as Anita and Caren - they did the introductions. Everyone was super-freaking friendly and I don't usually like talking to just any old strangers. I have to get a vibe and they all had a little vibe I liked.

To me, this was one of the best social days of our vacation. We met a few people at the pool at our hotel, but they were very clique-ish and stayed to themselves, even after we tried to engage them. We did meet a great British couple and spent some time talking to them, but haven't seen them around again yet.

Everyone in the Club Med group was great; they talked about family, where they were from, other places they'd been on vacation. Ann (who is Chinese) told a cute story about not being adept at using chopsticks and how her grandfather used to tell her that she'd never be able to find a man who would marry her if she didn't know how to use chopsticks. That's just the kind of story I love.

Eventually, the conversation turned to what we did for a living. Doesn't it always? When us girls were talking earlier, we sort of covered it, but now that Steve joined the group, we had to find out what he did also. Caren was in advertising, Anita worked at large medical facility in Westchester, Eva was in public relations and Ann was an EMT. Then someone asked Steve what he did.

He spoke slowly and deliberately, which caused us all to be fixated on what was coming out of his mouth. "I," he said slowly, "am a United States Congressman." He may as well have said, " an alien." That's how off-guard it caught me.

We all, almost at the same time, said, "No you're not!" There were a few, "Really - just tell us what you do!", a "C'mon, seriously?" and a "Are you lying to us??" That was me.

"No, I'm not lying. I'm really a congressman."

Ed said, "What's your last name?" He didn't answer.

"OK, then. What party?" I said.

"I'm a Democrat." said Steve.

We collectively said, “Oh, good.” and “Thank God." I think I might have had to swim away if he was a Republican.

We didn't talk politics but I did ask how and why he got into the job. He's been in office for fifteen years and prior to that was a mayor, a judge and a lawyer. He got into politics because he had a desire to help in his small town, by becoming its mayor. Oh - and he's also been on one of my favorite politically themed television shows!

He was so nice, very handsome and had on a killer pair of Ray-Ban's. When he first got into the pool, I thought he looked very debonair, a little old-school Hollywood. Not only was he interesting, but he was interested in all of us. He's just the kind of person I love to talk to; the kind who ask pertinent questions and really appear to be interested in what you're saying. Whether they are or not isn't really relevant, because their social skills set them apart just by acting in the manner they do.

He asked many questions about our industry, seemed interested in the fact that our truck had a shower in it, wanted to know how many gears our tractor had, what our favorite restaurant in the country was - which of course, as much as we eat, was an impossible question to answer.

I do recall shaming my Italian heritage by saying Maggiano's, but I did try to throw a few others in there. We go to so many places, often holes in the wall, that it's really hard to say. Ed brought up the Italian restaurant we went to in Montreal one year (in the heart of winter), which I had forgotten about. That was a much better choice than a chain restaurant (even if it is pretty good!).

So meeting Steve was probably the highlight of my trip, people-wise. And the girls were awesome too - I can see visiting Anita and Karen in NY and being totally welcomed by them, they even let me hug them goodbye. I love that. Ed and I are actually considering walking down to their beachfront tomorrow to hang out with them for part of the afternoon.

I wasn't at all impressed with Club Med, but I can definitely see how hanging out with the same people for a week or two can turn into friendships or people you may keep in contact with later in life. Hell, I've met people through my blog who are now friends. I'm so thrilled with all these opportunities to interact with great people - especially since I'm usually so aggravated by the idiots in our society - that finding people like this is the one redeeming aspect of socializing with strangers.

Overall, the day was great. I think I got a little too much sun, but I did break out my Hollywood glamour, wide-brimmed straw hat and my sunglasses. My shoulders are a little red, but at least my forehead didn't burn.

It's now the wee hours of the morning and I need to hit the sack. We have five more days on the island and I need my rest...I have more stingrays to encounter! Yes, I said stingray! More on that later.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
1 YEAR AGO: The $7 Date Night
2 YEARS AGO: Them’s Fighting Words!
3 YEARS AGO: Skulls And Hot Chocolate In The French Quarter
4 YEARS AGO: Once As High As An Elephant’s Eye
5 YEARS AGO: Trouser Snakes On A Plane
6 YEARS AGO: Big Honkin’ Truck Makeover

Friday, August 26, 2011

Room And Board

I love the furniture in our hotel room. It's all by Tommy Bahama. The bed is beautiful; dark wood, lots of detail, covered in stark white linens. It's the kind of decor I'd like for a house. It's a pretty comfortable room.

The bed is okay, a little too soft for my liking but comfortable. The couch is a pull out bed, which we haven't had a need for, and not extremely comfortable if sitting on it for a long period of time. At night, we've been hanging out on either the patio, or inside watching TV. Or eating.

Last night, Ed grilled chicken breast and I made a salad for it to be placed on. With one of my favorite Hawaiian Sweet Rolls on the side and a glass of wine, it was a perfect dinner. Not the best picture, but I can assure you it was yummy. There is a small dining table in the room, which with the kitchenette allows us to have breakfast and snacks and even a full meal or two on our own.
We are not ones to skimp when dining out, and the restaurants here are very expensive. We went to a great place the other night called the Coco Bistro - the place was gorgeous, nestled in a grove of palm trees on an outside patio - photo from Coco Bistro's website, not taken by me.The food was pretty good too. We started with the Grilled Shrimp Satay on Sugar Cane Skewers with Banana Chutney, Jamaican Curry Dip and a Spicy Asian Hot Sauce.

For dinner, I had the Pan Seared Diver Scallops with a Macadamia Nut Crust served on a Creamed Parmesan and Leek Infused Polenta and a Balsamic Reduction and Ed had the Blackened Mahi Mahi on a Papaya and Mango Salsa, Sauteed Ripe Plantain and a Lime and Ginger Beurre Blanc.

For dessert, I had the Coco Bistro Coconut Cream Pie and Ed had the Chocolate Pecan Pie. Everything was delicious. With wine and tip, the bill came to $190.00. That's about the same you'd likely spend in any nice restaurant, and we usually don't drink so if we had nixed the wine we would have gotten out of there for about $157.00.

There are cheaper restaurants, of course, but even a burger will run you about $14.00. There is no burger, in my opinion, that's worth $14.00, but you have to take into account the fact that everything is flown onto the island. This isn't Texas, there aren't any cows on the island. They have no farms here. They don't grow anything. I met a British woman today who has been living here for sixteen months and she said in North Caicos they grow tomatoes and peppers, but the prices are the same as if they came from the states.

The grocery store prices are outrageous. Our first day we spent $114.00 and came away with basically nothing; instant oatmeal, some fruit, yogurt, a loaf of bread, milk.

And although it's pricey (and arranged nicely), most of the stuff is cheaper than eating in the majority of restaurants. I love eating out, and I love good food. But I don't like it when I feel the prices are crazy exorbitant, as if they're "taking me" because I happen to be on an island, even though I know it's pricey precisely because it is an island. Conundrum.

I've looked at a lot of the menus for the restaurants in the area and a steak, ranging from a strip loin to a six ounce filet mignon are anywhere in the $41.00 to $60.00 range. Growing up in a family who owned a steak house, I cringe when I see high steak prices. Because I know. It's not Kobe beef, people, it's regular 'ol cow. We bought two ribeyes from the grocery store last week for $19.00. I made mashed potatoes and steamed some broccoli in the microwave and we had a great, inexpensive dinner. Yes, I rock.

I still plan on trying a few of the other restaurants on the island since that's what one does on vacation. Tomorrow I think we'll try windsurfing or the Hobie Cat at Club Med. Ed is dying to get on the open water with something that is attached to a sail.

Hopefully, it'll be smoother than our sailing adventure in Long Beach.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
1 YEAR AGO: Filler And Fluff
2 YEARS AGO: Ghost Town
3 YEARS AGO: Second Only To Feet
4 YEARS AGO: I’ve Been Everywhere Sunday
5 YEARS AGO: Heading South With One Wayward Goose
6 YEARS AGO: Red Texas Sunrise

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Project Island Life

We headed out to the beach again today to test the waters after the storm. It was as if nothing happened - people on the beach, in the water, having a good time.

We tried to snorkel right off our beach but the water was super-cloudy and very cold. Also, there were a ton of shells washed up on shore (some of which I collected). I did get more sun today, so I'm happy about that.

Ed is heading down to the grill to cook some chicken, while I make a nice salad to lay it on. We're a little wiped out from frolicking in the waves and I'm ready to relax. It's much cooler today and with the breeze, sitting on the patio is quite comfortable.

Tonight - Project Runway, island style!! Which means watching it while wrapped in a pareo.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
1 YEAR AGO: Be Italian
2 YEARS AGO: I’m Not Just In The Granny Lane Anymore
3 YEARS AGO: Where Pretty Resides
4 YEARS AGO: The Sweet Sight Of Summer
5 YEARS AGO: You Oughta Be In Pictures
6 YEARS AGO: Oh, Brother!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hurricane? What Hurricane?

Well we made it through Hurricane Irene, a Category 1 storm when it passed over the Turks and Caicos Islands, where Ed and I are taking our first island vacation.

We watched the news like old people, hanging on every word. My mother was emailing, I spoke to her on the phone several times and I was getting well wishes and updates from my friends via texts and Facebook. The reports were pretty scary and it looked as if it was going to be a category 2 or 3 by the time it got to us. Seeing that swirl of red, orange and yellow on TV, closing in on the little string of islands, tiny really, was a little troubling.

Outside, the winds were picking up and there was some rain, but it didn't seem like a hurricane was coming. In fact, the people here didn't seem to be moving too quickly to do anything. The hotel staff was supposed to take the furniture from the patio but never did. They also said they'd board up the sliding window, but they didn't do that either. We finally took the furniture in ourselves. In fact, the guy who came to our room told us just to pull the curtains and it would be "fine".

Turns out, it was fine. We kept our sliding door open all night, until we went to sleep. I wanted to hear the wind so I could determine its intensity by the sound. With the sliding door closed, we couldn't hear a thing. We finally went to sleep about 2am. I was a little nervous lying there not hearing anything, but eventually fell off to sleep.

I woke at 4am to the sound of the fire alarm in our building going off. Apparently this happened at another hotel too, which we found out when we overheard some people talking over lunch. Except they ran out of their room, into the storm, with their backpacks on their back full of the few belongings they thought they'd need. I opened our door, said "What's going on?" to the neighbor (who knew nothing), went back into the room and got back into bed. I fell back to sleep until the first light.

Once we had coffee and breakfast, we headed out to survey the damage. As you can see in the first picture that leads this post, there was a lot of flooding; there were parts of the island that we had been to yesterday that we couldn't access today. Roads were not only flooded, but many were blocked by downed trees.

These next two images are from the local golf course were there were tons of uprooted trees. Big trees. With big roots. Just toppled like toothpicks.

Debris everywhere. Every time I say the word "debris" I think of my nephew Jake. He's been using that word since he was a little kid; what five year old tells his Nana that they need to go outside to rake up the debris? Jake would have had a field day at this place.

There was even a few palm trees snapped in half. You know what it must take to snap a palm tree in half? They sway and bend, snapping back like an elastic band. You see it in all the movies, they practically get horizontal. I saw a lot of bending with my own eyes yesterday and nothing looked like it was snapping. But here you have one.

One of the local resorts we went to today for lunch put their chaise lounge chairs in the pool. Seems like a good idea, rather than having them blow in there, but wouldn't it have just been better to put them in storage? Kinda makes the hotel staff (and management) look a wee bit lazy.
We ended the ride at the end of the island, where the ferry leaves from. It's not a very attractive ferry port, trash everywhere, a mud parking lot. And that was before the storm.

After our little drive about town, we headed back to the hotel since it was still a bit breezy, the sun wasn't anywhere in sight and there was still intermittent rain. We spent the rest of the afternoon in the hotel room, like this:

I have to say, this hurricane was kind of a non-event. I was nervous excited, hoping to see some serious wind and rain action, but I guess I'm kind of glad it wasn't a category 2 or 3 like it was supposed to be. Once it lost some of its oomph and passed over us as a category 1, I was glad. There was plenty of wind and rain with just that - in fact, the wind was blowing the rain so hard towards the building at one point, that water was seeping under our door.

We are completely impressed with the hotel though. We're on the third floor, an interior room, with a balcony. The sliding doors are so thick, as I said, we didn't hear a thing when they were closed. Some other people we talked to at another hotel said the wind sounded like a freight train. Either they were exaggerating or we really heard nothing. Nothing moved in our building. The electricity briefly went off for about thirty minutes, but other than that, we had electric, air conditioning and TV all night. Even the internet was working. Amazing.

If we ever come back to this island, we'll definitely be staying here. It's close to everything, the beach is just across the way and it's a small enough hotel to feel like the staff knows who you are.

Best thing about today? We made it through a hurricane!! And now I have a story to tell.

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The Summer Of 1947
From Pablo Neruda To Mother Goose
Almost Too Beautiful To Eat On
Sweatin’ Eddie Friday
Steel City Glow
Bravo, Bravo

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

That Bitch Irene Is Trying To Ruin My Vacation

After much online research, reading endless reviews on Trip Advisor, consulting friends on Facebook and reading travel magazines in Barnes & Noble, Ed and I finally decided to go to the Turks and Caicos for our first island vacation. We had visited Roatan, Honduras and Cozumel, Mexico on our cruise a few years ago, but those were only day trips from the boat, one of which we went snorkeling on.

This vacation is two full weeks in a tropical setting. Ed wanted to go for a month but I killed that idea right off the bat (a month on an island???) and whittled it down to two weeks
. We knew before we came that it was hurricane season, and several times we reconsidered going somewhere else, but we kept coming back to the islands. And really, when do hurricanes hit? They're so random, aren't they? We hear about them what, every other year or so?

Yeah, right. 2011 is the year of Irene. And we're here to witness it.

I am sitting in my hotel room, watching the rain come down and the trees sway right and left as the wind picks up. There are whitecaps on the usually calm waters and the local "resort channel" is running a hurricane preparedness video over and over.

A little while ago we tried to return our rental car because we didn't want to be responsible for any extreme damage over and above what we signed for (we got the full coverage collision and damage) but both drop locations were closed. The airport is closed, boarded up and vacant like a ghost town. Not one person to answer a question. Guess we'll be taking the car back to the hotel and riding out the storm with it in our possession.

The news is making the hurricane sound pretty ferocious and according to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, it looks like we're in for some pretty serious shit. I've always been a big fan of storms, but something like this is a little over the top. I felt better after talking to the locals - I actually approached people in the grocery store and asked them if the lived here and if they did, what they thought of the storm. ALL of them were very casual and did not seem very concerned at all. That's how I'll be approaching the storm - with a mix of caution and excitement.

And as long as the internet is up and running, I'll be here writing. Take that, Irene!

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Licking Our Chops
I’ll Start Working On That Sarcasm Font Right Away
3 YEARS AGO: False Security
Protecting The Posies
Asking Too Much
6 YEARS AGO: Slotsa Money

Monday, August 22, 2011

Doesn't A Gastropod Always Have A Helmet On?

Today we went snorkeling at Smith's Reef here on Providenciales. The shoreline was rockier than the other locations we went snorkeling in, so we didn't stay long. Plus, the water was super-choppy due to the approaching storm, so it wasn't very pleasant being knocked against the rocks.

But....before we left, I spied this beautiful conch (pronounced "konk")at the sandy bottom, about 100 feet off shore. I pointed it out to Ed and he dove down and got it for me. Isn't it spectacular? I love how glossy it is. It looks lacquered. As soon as I saw it, I knew exactly who I was going to give it to. This is called a King Helmet Conch.

Look at the pretty spiral on the end...

And the amazing "tiger" stripes on the side and edge...

AND...because it's a sea snail, and I plucked it right out of the water, it was actually alive. See him in there? I took some video of it moving around. Creepy.
I just wanted the shell, not the insides, so we worked at trying to get him out. It was impossible. There was no way to grab the slimy insides, and he was fiercely attached to its shell. Everyone we asked said you had to crack or put a hole in the spiral side of the shell, but I didn't want to damage it. So we turned to the internet and found some suggestions.

One of them was to put it in boiling water for three minutes. Well, we boiled some water, put the shell in the small garbage pail in the room and filled it with scalding hot, boiling water. Then we went down to the pool for a while. When we came back, both Ed and I worked at getting it out. We used a fork, a spoon, tried to cut it out with a knife.

Online it suggested using a needle-nose pliers to get it out, which we called down to the front desk to get, but by the time the guy got to the room with it, Ed had already pulled the sucker out.

This is what it looked like when it came out. Gross, isn't it?
I read that conch is second only to escargot in popularity when it comes to edible snails. Also, every bit of the conch meat is edible, although most people prefer the white part. I'll pass on it all, thank you very much. This is not something I'm interested in eating.

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1 YEAR AGO: This Is How We Do It
2 YEARS AGO: Storage In The Storm
3 YEARS AGO: Devil Horse In The Louisiana Wetlands
4 YEARS AGO: Not Sloppy. No Joe. Just Bob And His Loosemeats Residing In The Ice Cream Capital Of The World
5 YEARS AGO: Playing With Your Money But Not Really SPENDING It
6 YEARS AGO: Glamour Puss