A Travellerspoint blog

Conched Out, Caicos Style

Providenciales, Turks & Caicos

83 °F

BEACH: Best Escape Anyone Can Have. And what better place to flee the cold than TCI. Providenciales is one of Caicos islands in the Turks & Caicos archipelago. It’s an easy island to get to and get around, and is home to the famous sands of Grace Bay Beach.


And we are lucky enough to have friends who own a lovely home on Provo, which is where we stayed. We snagged a 4 night opening at Barefoot Palms just after our December 6 anniversary and invited our good friends to join us.


We flew from BWI to PLS with a quick stop in FLL.


This customs experience was hands down the easiest and quickest we have ever encountered. Soon we were loaded into our crappy rental car…a Toyota Belta. This was, without a doubt, the worst vehicle we have ever rented. But it got us around and that is all that mattered. First order of business was to make a one-stop-shop at the large and well stocked Graceway IGA. Wine, beer, liquor, beverages, breakfast foods, and snacks. We and our luggage barely fit. Where did we think bags of groceries, a case of water, and a case of beer were going to go? As the saying goes, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

We arrived at the villa, nestled in the quiet community of Leeward, and quickly unloaded. It was too late to hit the beach, so we made a cheese tray, poured a drink and enjoyed the tropical backyard and Tiki bar, and started to unwind.


Before freshening up for dinner, we checked out Pelican Beach, a couple of blocks from the villa, just after sunset.


We decided on a casual dinner tonight so after everyone freshened up, we set off to The Landing, a cool looking place with a sailboat for a bar and sand for a floor (though not on the beach). But the vibe was not what we were looking for so we decided to stay for a drink and move on to Jack’s Fountain, which would turn out to be a favorite. Maybe they were perturbed that we would not be dining with them or maybe they didn’t like the looks of us, but we were relegated to the table closest to the street and furthest away from everything. And were asked every two minutes why we didn’t want to eat. Had it been a romantic dinner for two, this place would have fit the bill, but we were ready to laugh and kick back, and this definitely was not the atmosphere for that. It’s a shame too because the menu looked good.

We found exactly what we were looking for at Jack’s. Festive and lively with a fun island vibe, this place was great. I honestly can’t even recall everything we had, but I know it consisted in part of fresh guacamole, conch, and tuna. And an unusual key lime pie. They also have great shirts here.


At home, we listened to some tunes and the chirping smoke alarm high in the vaulted ceiling, and had some wine. I let Ramona know that if we had access to a ladder, we could change the battery, but the ladder was locked up. So she got the security company out there at 10:00 PM on a Saturday night to fix the problem. Now that’s service. Then as soon as our heads hit the soft pillows on the super comfy beds, we were out.

The next morning dawned bright and clear.


We enjoyed our coffee by the pool, and fed the cats that had appeared.


A brief weather disturbance passed by then we were off to while away the morning on the beach in front of Hemingway's.


Then a delightful lunch of cracked conch, fish tacos, mojitos and Turk’s Head beer just a few steps off the beach.


Since it was Sunday, the boys wanted to watch football so we dropped them off at Danny Buoys, and Allison and I hit the shops of Salt Mills, all of which were closed except for Wellingtons. Where we purchased matching necklaces.


We decided to check out the Deck at Seven Stars for a drink. Then back to Danny’s to join the fellows. They had befriended a local named Burl (spelled Beryl but pronounced like Mr. Ives) who looked like Santa (and who ate their nachos) and a wonderful 11 year old boy named Kendall. He actually opted to sit with us at our table instead of with his friends. Don’t worry, his mom was there and approved.


The plan was to get carryout sushi and eat dinner at home. But it was closed. So we had to figure out a place to go. SharkBite in Turtle Cove it was. It was dead as were most places. The week before high season is nice and quiet. The wings, firecracker cracked conch, and grouper sandwiches were very good. And we made our own karaoke night.


Monday was another beautiful day in paradise.


After a lazy morning at the villa we headed to Pelican beach and set up camp between the sea grapes and the water. We listed to some tunes, watched the waves, floated in the sea, searched for shells and enjoyed tropical libations. It was perfect.


Well, except the part where Reed decided to hurl a conch shell through the air (they don't follow the same arc as a football but rather take a curve while airborne) which missed my head by mere inches. That would have put a damper on the trip. But all's well that ends well.


When our stomachs started rumbling, we headed back to unload and freshen up before moving on to Da Conch Shack for a late lunch.


We had delicious wings in a variety of island sauces, and of course lots of conch. All washed down with a pitcher of The Perfect Storm (aka Dark & Stormy). We played with the Potcakes on the beach, purchased a conch serving dish, then were on our way.


Next stop: Turk’s Head Brewery. This is an unexpected oasis amidst an industrial compound. A bright, bustling place with a bar, fun signs, lots of merchandise to buy, and a walkway out over the brewery. I don’t drink beer, so I was perfectly content to sip on some water while we were there. But Allison is always looking out for me and produced a delightful sparkling vodka cranberry in a can. We chatted it up with other patrons, the bartender/owner, and Mark made yet another young island friend. And of course they sampled the beer tasting flight. This is a great way to spend an hour or two. We picked up a cool sign for our Tiki Bar too.


Since we were denied sushi the night before, we stopped by Yoshi on our way back to pick up some carry out. Sun, fun, rum, and beer wore Mark out so he took a little cap nap on a bar stool while we waited for our food. The ladies in the restaurant got a giggle out of that.

We went home, turned on the tunes (we did not have cable all week due to an outage, but that’s island life for you. Besides, who wants to watch TV in paradise), and enjoyed our sushi. It was good but not as good as on a previous visit. Then we played a card game and had some laughs before calling it a night.


Nothing is better for the soul than waking up to the sound of palm trees rustling in the breeze, and sunlight streaming in on your face. After a cup of morning liquid sunshine and a bagel, we donned our swimsuits and set out for Grace Bay. This time we chose the stretch between Club Med and Ocean Club. Relax, rinse, sip, repeat.


We also took a stroll down to the point. I love points of white sand fringed by turquoise water, and flanked by coconut trees. My absolute favorite is Shoal Bay East in Anguilla. But this was very picturesque and had shells for the taking.


As we settled back into our beach chairs, we watched a steady stream of Club Med snorkelers parade down the dock with bright yellow life preservers draped around their necks. If I thought we packed a lot into our little car, it was nothing compared to amount of bodies and gear they stuffed onto this excursion boat. No thank you. Not that I have anything against excursions, in fact I love them. The right ones. We almost did a tour with Island Vibes…cooler boat, way fewer people and a more fun itinerary. But since this trip was short and we were flying by the seat of our pants as far as a schedule (this is very unlike me), we opted against it.


For lunch we chose Bay Bistro. This is a lovely setting overlooking the beach. We were the only ones there. The food was good but the service was less than inviting.


Then it was back to the house to chill by the pool and catch up on emails until it was time to get ready for dinner.


But first a little beachcombing...


This was our most anticipated meal of the week. Coco Bistro. What could be better than dining in a coconut palm grove.


And it did not disappoint. Well the only thing that was slightly disappointing is that were not seated in the main palm grove, but rather a deck off to the side. Still lovely and surrounded by swaying palms but not quite the same. I would have asked to move but the boys were happy and the restaurant was packed.


The food was outstanding. As was my martini and wine. And the boys’ coffee drinks. I’m embarrassed to tell you how many they each drank. We started with a salmon tartare appetizer (we are still kicking ourselves for not also ordering the tune poke). Mark and I both enjoyed the grilled lobster, Allison had the blackened Mahi and Reed chose the tuna. This ranks up there with my favorite Caribbean restaurants...Jacala and Veya on Anguilla, and Extra Virgin on St. John.


Stuffed and happy we piled into the Belta and set out for a nightcap at our favorite watering hole, Jack’s.


We sat at the bar this time and chatted with fellow patrons and the staff. We had the best time sharing stories and drinks with the charming owner long after the bar closed. He shared his homemade limocello out of a mason jar and let us sample the finest tequila that has ever crossed our lips.


The last night of vacation is always so sad.

The next day dawned cloudy and drizzly so we took our time packing since we were robbed of one final morning on the beach. We took one last spin around the circle at the “intersection” by the house. Never could we just leave or return without going around multiple times while shouting “Look kids, Big Ben, Parliament.”

We did some shopping and stopped by Potcake Place then moved on to Mango Reef for lunch.


The last time I went to this restaurant it was located at Royal West Indies. It's much prettier at night so with all the lights so if you have a choice between lunch and dinner, I'd opt for dinner. But the food was very good and our server was sweet. The unexpected star of this meal was the pizza. It was awesome. Mango and conch are great toppings. And because we like to go out with a bang, Mark’s last cocktail was a LIIT (8 different liquors in a glass with some ice). Provo’s version of a Long island Iced Tea I guess!


The airport process was again very smooth. We hit a snag in Ft. Lauderdale though. Since we used Mobile Pass to clear customs, we didn’t need to show our passports until the very end when we got to main area of the airport. Mark’s was missing. We dumped out all our bags to no avail. There would be no entry into the U.S. for him unless it was found. A bit of panic started to set in. Surely this has happened before and there must be some protocol. But before we had to start that process, we asked if the plane could be searched. We thanked sweet baby Jesus that it was there. It must have fallen out of my bag or out of his pocket. Crisis averted. And thank goodness we had a long layover.

We killed some time and had dinner at Margaritaville before dragging our tired bodies onto the plane for the final leg home. Mark’s beer at the airport would be his last for almost a week as he caught some sort of awful cold on the plane and was down and out for a while. Cheers to another successful friend-versary vacation in the books.


Posted by Out_of_Office 11:28 Archived in Turks/Caicos Islands Comments (2)

Na'vi, Heat & Hurting Feet

Disney World & Universal Studios

Who: Mom, Dad & two 13 year olds
When: August 26 - 31, 2018
Where: Animal Kingdom Lodge & Loew’s Royal Pacific Resort

We are a tropical beach vacation family all the way, but every now and then we like to mix it up. With our daughter in middle school, taking her out for a week has become a thing of the past. So I figured that by late August many kids would already be back in school and crowds would be lower. The heat we can handle. Maryland summers can rival Florida in August. But the daily storms were another story. They were either an annoyance or ruined our afternoon plans. But overall we had a great and memorable trip.


We started out dark & early on Sunday morning to make the hour plus drive to Reagan National airport. After a couple wrong turns due to construction closures, a wallet left in the car, a backpack left on the shuttle bus, and a crushed toe due to a flight attendant dropping a heavy object on it, we managed to make it to MCO…ready for the magic to begin.


While waiting in line for the Magical Express, our daughter’s friend, who we nicknamed Calamity Chloe, let her suitcase tip over and it landed on a child in a stroller behind us. Loud wailing ensued. Thank god she appeared to be okay, but we never did see her walk. We profusely apologized and boarded our bus. Phew.


Our motto, and many of the sayings we repeated over and over were borrowed from the hilarious John Crist YouTube video about taking kids to Disney World. If you haven’t watched it…go. "We made it to the happiest place on Earth. It's 9 a.m., and I've gotta schedule every minute of our day until 9 p.m. Pay attention and stay close."


It was off to Animal Kingdom Lodge. We have previously stayed at Pop Century, All Star Music & Port Orleans French Quarter. We loved AKL. From the awesome soaring lobby to the incredible theming.


I had booked a standard room with a parking lot view but as we searched out our room, we noticed the odd numbers were all on the side facing the Savanna. Could it be?? It was! While not directly facing the main Savanna, we had a great view of the back Savanna where it meets the main one. So we were treated to two different habitats. And pretty sure we saw more animals than many did. Giraffes, Zebras, Wildebeests, Naylu, and many other species were always in view. My husband’s favorite activity was sipping his morning coffee as the sun rose, with a wildlife field identification guide close by. For anyone wondering whether or not to spend the extra money for a Savanna room...do it. It’s well worth it and was the highlight of our stay.


Once we dumped our luggage, it was off to the Mara for a quick, early lunch before heading over to Epcot. Only a few of our fast passes for the four days were useful. Either the line wasn’t long to begin with, or the ride was broken down and we had to return later with everyone else who was denied.


Our first ride was Nemo, then Spaceship Earth, and Test Track, which was a lot of fun. But too short, as were most of the rides. Then the new Soarin’ Around the World. This is one of my favorites. Just breathtaking.


Since it was a million degrees, we scooted over to Club Cool to sample sodas from around the world. Then we rode the intense version of Mission Space. This makes me want to puke. But I never do since I close my eyes when I start feeling nauseous.

Poor Chloe noticed new cracks on her already busted phone and started to fret. But that frown turned upside down when she spotted the iridescent mouse ears she had been looking for. Cue their favorite line from the YouTube video… “$45 for bedazzled mouse ears?? You want these, baby, or you want to go to college?”

We headed to World Showcase hoping the line for Frozen Ever After wasn’t as ridiculous as the app showed, but it was. So we rode The Three Caballeros in the Mexico pavilion…a cute, original ride. Since we didn’t have time to wander through all of the countries, we walked back to Future World so I could ride Figment. A silly ride but nostalgic for me. No one else appreciated it. Memories people…that is what Disney is all about.


Just as we got back to the room, it began to rain, so the timing was perfect. We all took turns rinsing our sweaty bodies, then Mark and I left for Kidani Village and our reservation at Sanaa. The girls got take out from the Mara and ate in bed.


Sanaa was just fabulous. Everything they say about AKL restaurants being superior is true. We had a wonderful and knowledgeable waiter whose recommendations were spot on. The Indian style bread service with nine accompaniments was fantastic. Several varieties of puffy, flavorful Naan breads with a large assortment of dipping sauces. Mixing them to create new flavors was the best part. Try Coriander and Tamarind together. You can thank me later. Even though we were stuffed after all that Naan, we tried the African meat sampler…sausage, pork & lamb. Again, top notch. Sadly we did not save room for dessert but rather savored the rest of our red wine before walking back to Jambo House and calling it a night.


Monday was Animal Kingdom Day...with morning extra magic hours. The anticipation for Flight of Passage was high so we tried to get there for rope drop, along with thousands of our closest friends. Fast Passes were impossible to get for this ride. But we were determined to ride no matter what. At that time of morning, the queue wound through Pandora, and while it was a very long line, it never stopped moving. We waited just under 1.5 hours but it seemed much quicker.


What can I say about Flight of Passage except that it lived up to the hype. Phenomenal “ride” which Ellie said she would wait in line 10 hours for. It’s like you are transported to another world with all of the sights, sounds, smells, and realism of another realm. Simply incredible. And very exhilarating. Then the girls got a Night Blossom frozen drink with lime, apple, and pear swirls topped off with passion fruit boba balls. On our way over to Expedition Everest, we stopped for It’s Tough to be a Bug. Always a cute show. Everest was fun, but at this age, the girls wanted more thrills. The plan was to go back and ride at night. Next up was lunch at Yak & Yeti. We have eaten there before and it's always a solid choice. Mark lugged around a back pack with rain gear, mouse ears, and water bottles etc. Thank goodness he did. With as hot as it was and with as much water as we went through, we would have gone broke buying small $4 bottles.


Ellie was dying to head back to Pandora to ride FOP again. This time we went through a different queue. More inside, and past the Avatar in the chamber. Total time to wait and ride…1.5 hours. It was just as amazing as the first time. And watching the look of pure joy on Ellie’s face as she rode was priceless. Note ~ All Pandora photos were taken outside of the ride. No way to take pictures as you are riding on the back of your banshee.


Even though it was “too early to get wet”, since we were all hotter than a jalapeno’s armpit, we decided to wait the “35” minutes for Kali River Rapids since our fast past wasn’t until later. 35 minutes my a$$. It had broken down earlier in the day so all the people with fast passes from the morning were given priority. 50 of them to 2 of us. It was ridiculous. Then they kept having to stop the ride for various reasons..one of which was some idiot decided to open an umbrella while riding in order to avoid getting wet. Once we finally made it on, we were stuck again for some unknown reason. Finally we get moving and of course get soaked. I was literally wringing out my denim shorts for hours afterward. But before we could get off, we came to a halt two rafts away from the dock. In the baking sun. Normally I love to bake in the sun…if I have a swimsuit on, cocktail in hand, and can jump in the pool. This was torture. On top of that, the cast member barking at us was the least friendly WDW worker I have ever encountered.


Next up was the Na’vi River Journey ride. I did have a FP for this. It is a slow, cool, dark boat ride though Pandora. Very pleasant and beautiful, but also underwhelming after FOP. Also very hard to get good photos.


Then the storms started. And outdoor rides were shutting down. We decided it was a good time to head back to the hotel since we were coming back later. And since we were already soaked from the rapids ride, no one bothered with ponchos. And it was raining hard. We looked like drowned rats once we got to the bus shelter.

After we watched the animals from our balcony, dried off and freshened up, it was back to AK.


Dinner was at Satu’li Canteen. Great quick service restaurant. The rare sliced beef bowls hit the spot. And the cheeseburger pods were a fun twist on a boring burger. And we had to try a traditional Na’vi dessert…Blueberry cream cheese mousse.


We all rode the Primeval Whirl while the sky was spitting some light rain…what a rough a bumpy ride that is. Then we made our way to Asia as a rainbow appeared and the the sun was setting. Animal Kingdom is a very pretty park. We got on Everest just after dusk...the views are great and the ride is scarier in semi-darkness.


Ellie begged us to ride Flight of Passage one more time. This makes three times in one day. We admired the lights in Pandora as we walked to get in line.


The wait was up to 2.5 hours but we had nothing better to do since the park was closing. So we got in line. We only ended up waiting 30 minutes. Score! Ellie had tears in her eyes as we departed the ride for the final time. And Chloe had tears of despair in her eyes as she exited the restroom where she informed us that she had dropped her phone in the toilet, and in an effort to save it, sucked the water out with her mouth. Public toilet water. Good lawd. We decided to withhold this tidbit of info from her mother/my friend who we talked with and facetimed on a daily basis until 24 hours had passed and we were certain she hadn’t contracted some terrible illness.


Everyone fell into bed and crashed hard while visions of Toy Story Land danced in our heads.

On Tuesday, were up before the sun as we were every morning. We had a schedule to keep.


This day was hotter than yesterday if that’s possible. The sky was blue, the sun was blazing, and after a photo op, we were standing in a long, hot line to ride Slinky Dog Dash. To be fair, the line moved pretty quickly. Disney is definitely getting better with making queues more enjoyable and quicker moving. This was a fun, yet tame, smooth new coaster. But this as well as the rest of TS Land is definitely geared toward younger kids. After shooting at aliens in Toy Story Mania we all said in unison “you know what I want to ride? A park bench in the shade” and so we did. Then it was on to Tower of Tower, which the app indicated had a relatively short wait time.


We tried to use our fast pass for Aerosmith’s Rockin Roller Coaster, which was shut down. Back to the other side of the park to ride Alien Swirling Saucers. This was our least favorite ride. The Teacups far surpass this snoozer. Then we walked right on to Star Tours. Then had our one and only character encounter…Goofy.


Next up, lunch…burgers and Mickey pretzels. Mark was so thankful that beer could be found with relative ease. The girls were dying for a good coaster ride so we stood in the ridiculously long fast pass lane for Aerosmith...the line looked worse than it was.


We wanted to do ToT again but the sky looked very threatening so we opted to watch the Indiana Jones Stunt show. Another nostalgic crowd pleaser. As soon as were seated in the open air auditorium, the heavens let loose. Torrential rain, booming thunder, and cracks of lightning so loud that it shook our seats. Of course the show was cancelled. So we waited for about a half hour for the storm to let up. It only did by a little, and we had to get back to the hotel, so we made a run for it. Our dollar store ponchos served their purpose.

Once back in our room, we let the girls take over the bathroom to shower and primp, and we enjoyed a drink on the balcony while watching the animals graze, roam, and nuzzle. Tonight we had reservations for the Boathouse in Disney Springs. This was a great meal, in a relaxing setting overlooking the water. And we had another stellar server. And Calamity Chloe entertained us by knocking her drink all over the table.


After dinner we wandered around and poked in and out of shops. I found an adorable Orange Bird shirt that I had to have. He was my absolute favorite as a kid when we visited Magic Kingdom in the 70s. Anyone else remember sipping juice from the cute little cups shaped like an orange? I need to get my hands on one of those too.


We fell into bed at midnight which had become our pattern for the whole trip. Asleep after midnight and up by 6 am after averaging 11 – 13 miles of walking each day.

Wednesday was Magic Kingdom day. But not before admiring the sunrise over the savanna.


First up, the obligatory entrance and castle photos...


Then we made our way to Tomorrowland Speedway. The speed of these cars seem to get slower each year we visit. Then we rode the tea cups where the girls main goal was to spin as fast as possible while I tried not to toss my cookies. Then we took another trip down memory lane on It’s a Small World. Then Haunted Mansion, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and Aladdin’s Magic Carpet ride.


In an effort to amuse themselves, embarrass us, and entertain those in line around us, the girls beat up on each other and made inappropriate comments…all week. If anyone reading was witness to this, I apologize.


We needed a break, and a refreshment. The delicious, cold Dole Whip hit the spot. Then we met up my a former co-worker of mine who is now a cast member on Main Street. We were melting again so it was time to get wet on Splash Mountain (this was our best fast pass use). Ellie kept saying the bottom of her heels felt like stumps from all the miles we covered. “Hurry up, pretend your feet aren’t sore, this is Disney, use your imagination.” We barely made it before a storm shut down the ride so we decided it was a good time for lunch. “No you cannot have Goofy shaped nuggets, sit down, your mother brought ham sandwiches.” That is totally something I would do but alas we ate at Pecos Bill Tall Tale Tavern. I was quite impressed with their Mexican rice bowls.


Space Mountain…an original ride from my childhood that still gives me a thrill. And the Jungle Cruise. Always fun and entertaining. We had attempted the Astro Orbiter but lightning in the vicinity nixed that twice so decided it wasn’t meant to be. And Seven Dwarfs Mine Train was closed during our fast pass hour as well. We made our way back to Main Street so the girls could get their matching crown rings from Pandora.


Mad dash to shower and change before heading back out to the Polynesian Resort and our reservation at Kona Café. This was one of my favorite meals last trip but I found it to be just average this time. And the Kona Cone Ellie had been anticipating had changed and no longer had that wow factor.


The restaurant was running behind that night so we had to eat and run to the monorail in order to make it to the Kingdom for Happily Ever After. Holy Crowds. But it was a lovely display. Then we tried to untangle ourselves from the masses so we could enjoy a few rides before closing. Much to our chagrin we found that the our re-issued fast pass for 7DMT wasn’t valid during extra magic hours. Ugh! So we went back to Space Mountain then decided to suck it up and wait in line for the Mine Train. Another new, fun, smooth coaster with great views of MK. On par with Slinky Dog Dash as far as the thrill factor. We were struggling at this point as it was almost 11 but the girls did Space Mountain one last time before we dragged our weary bodies back to the bus.


One last sleep at AKL before departing bright and early for Universal in the morning. We slept like babies.

We called an Uber and 20 minutes later pulled into the Loew’s Royal Pacific Resort. Totally different vibe from AKL but we loved it as well. It reminded me of a newer, brighter version of Disney’s Polynesian Hotel. Shout out to my friend Kelly for the recommendation. After stowing our luggage, receiving our welcome leis, and taking photos in front of the frolicking elephants in the courtyard pool, we ate a quick breakfast in the open air lobby eatery, then followed the sidewalk along the canal for the short stroll to City Walk.


Since we were on day five of non-stop go-go-go, we did not want to attempt to do both Universal parks in one day so we made the final decision that morning to make Universal Studios our park for the day. Based partly on the fact that most rides were inside and well…you know our luck with storms and ride closures. We will be back to check out Islands of Adventure though.


Of course as soon as we arrived and I went to pay for our tickets, I realized my wallet was not in my bag. I knew rationally that it had to be in my tote which I left with the bell hop, but I am a worrier and if I didn’t know that it (and all my cash, credit card, and license) was safe, I would not be able to enjoy the day. So Mark and his sidekicks proceeded into the park while I power-walked back to the hotel. Of course I somehow managed to make a wrong turn and ended up by the highway vs the canal with no way to cross over except just do it. And of course the wallet was safe and sound so I tucked it into my crossbody and made my way to the dock to take the boat back to the parks. I wasn’t up for that hot walk a third time in a half hour.


By the time I re-joined the crew, they had only managed to do the Shrek 4D show. They didn’t realize our room key doubled as an express pass and that they could have walked right on. I much prefer Universal’s “fast pass” system as it allows you priority access to ALL attractions, unlimited times. And it’s a no-brainer to stay at one of the resorts on property because you get express passes for everyone for free. They sell for $100 per person if you do not stay in the park. It essentially pays for your room.

We immediately headed to Rip Ride RockIt, the biggest coaster in the park. And we basically walked right on with our express pass, as we did almost every ride. The ascent to the first drop puts you flat on your back as you climb to the top. And these newfangled coasters have cameras at each seat so it takes a video of you for the duration of the ride. Priceless. Everyone loved this ride though the drop isn’t as steep as you might think. Must try the Hulk next time!


Next up was Jimmy Fallon’s Race Through New York. This was another favorite ride…a 3D simulator (as were most of the rides in this park). This had an awesome queue as well. First watch a cappella singers, then videos of the Jimmy Fallon show, then he “talks” to you “personally” before finally boarding the ride.


The Revenge of Mummy was cool…I love that when you see fire, you feel heat. But it was too short!! These designers are going for quantity of people who can ride in a given time vs quality of the experience, in my opinion. Stupidest ride of the day was Fast & Furious. Minions was cute. Harry Potter World was amazing as far as theming but the ride broke down multiple times so we didn’t get the full effect.


Lunch was at Mel’s Diner...a very cool 50s diner themed with American Graffiti. Food choices were limited and overpriced but we had gotten used to that. After lunch we walked over to ride E.T. Just as we were getting on the ride, Chloe realized she had left her retainer on the table wadded up in a napkin. I was so looking forward to this ride but it was marred by the stress of her mother killing her if she lost that retainer. And let’s face it, chances were that it was tossed, along with the rest of our trash. I had visions of us spending our afternoon digging through bags of garbage. We hightailed it back to diner and low and behold that napkin, which she had pushed to edge of the table next to the wall, was still there. Thank god we chose a booth in the way back where it wasn’t as busy. Crisis averted.


Now it was time for Simpsons Land. This was great. A re-creation of Springfield. The ride was pretty awesome. Again, sights, sounds, smells and thrills thrust you into another dimension. Since Men in Black was right next to it, we decided to ride. This was okay. Not my favorite but better than F&F. Then Transformers. Not my cup of tea but a good ride I guess. Reminded me of Mission Space! The girls were dying to get back on the Rip Ride RockIt so we did that one more time before heading out. Another cool feature is that you get to pick which music you want played during your ride.


We hopped a boat back to the Loew’s and took much needed showers before heading back to City Walk for dinner at CowFish, the sushi/burger joint. They had some fun cocktails and the calamari and tuna nachos were great. They also had some fun and unique sushi offerings. Unfortunately we couldn’t linger since we wanted to get back to the park.


The girls rode the RockIt again then we went back for a re-do of Escape from Gringotts. I have never seen the movie. Blasphemy I know. But it was a neat ride which unfortunately took longer than expected, We had wanted to ride The Simpsons one last time but time was very tight. We sprinted from HP to Simpsons land and missed the cut off by ONE minute. No amount of pleading got us on. We dejectedly walked back to HP to claim our stuff from the locker. This is another Universal feature that I love. Free lockers for big rides so you don’t have to worry about your bag, sunglasses etc while riding. Just must remember the locker number!

As we meandered out of the park we stopped to watch the fireworks display, which was really nice. The girls were dying to get a hair wrap so we settled in for that. Thankfully Mark fetched us margaritas from Margaritaville to sip while we sat to people watch and wait for the hair wraps.


I really like City Walk (much like Disney Springs but more compact) and the whole Universal Complex. Everything is close to everything…easy walk or boat ride. My next trip will look something like this…stay at Loews, visit both Universal Parks plus Volcano Bay. The only thing I didn’t like about VB was that it sits right on the highway. I think I got splashed in the Uber as we rode by. Disney water parks are pretty awesome though so that could be a contender. Especially if we go back to Animal Kingdom for Avatar.

We hit the hay after midnight but were so excited not to have to wake at the crack. We had a 6 PM flight so tomorrow we would sleep in then enjoy a relaxing day at the pool. We clocked an impressive 13 plus miles today. I claim 14 since I had that extra trek back to the hotel.


I woke at 7 but had slept like a rock (maybe I need to start exercising at home so I can sleep better), and was sad not to see our wildlife family outside the window. I had sent Mark to claim chairs by the pool then we met for breakfast as the girls were rising. They had their own private breakfast as we grabbed another cup of coffee to sip poolside.


We had a nice day and ate lunch in our lounge chairs. Tip...order the $15 nachos. It was enough to feed all of us. Of course Mark had already ordered the tacos which were also huge. The pool bar food at this resort gets my vote for best bang for the buck. Drinks on the other hand were way overpriced. Lest you think Calamity Chloe has been forgotten…she managed to crack her retainer on this day...the one that was saved from garbage disposal doom. But I still loved her.


We showered in the gym locker room…so nice...with every toiletry you could need. We also found the zen-like whirlpool room. We are not hotel people, we rent villas or condos when on vacation so I was not even aware that this existed. Note to self for next time.


Bags are collected, Uber is called, and we are waiting at the curb. And Chloe realizes she doesn't have her retainer. She lost it somewhere between the pool, locker room, and lobby. She races back to look. The Uber arrives. We wait. We cannot miss our flight. She finally appears…sweaty and without the retainer.

I need a vacation.

Posted by Out_of_Office 12:31 Archived in USA Tagged lake world lodge animal studios disney orlando pacific royal kingdom universal vista buena kissimmee lowe's Comments (0)

A Mermaid Hooked My Husband

Our First Abaco Adventure

Years ago I started following an awesome travel blogger. Her side-splitting wit and gorgeous photos drew me to her a like fruit fly to an overripe mango. We eventually started emailing, then we met up when they visited our neck of the woods, and finally we planned a trip together.

On a Friday morning in April, we met Vicki and Matt in Florida, hopped into their 6 seater Seneca and took off across the pond to paradise. Our jobs were insanely stressful at this time so a beach break was desperately needed.


1.5 hours later we touched down on Treasure Cay airstrip. Matt had to do some work on their boat before we could take it over to Guana so Vicki, Mark and I (and their 2 little dogs) headed over to Treasure Sands Beach Club for some lunch and pool time. Very nice, and very swanky for the out islands. We enjoyed a lobster BLT, spicy chicken sandwich and tomato and feta salad. And of course some colorful cocktails.
We walked down to their beautiful beach but it was very windy so we settled into a cushy lounger with a glass of prosecco.



Then it was time to meet Matt at the marina. So we waited at the taxi stand...


Treasure Cay Marina


And soon we were treated a violent crossing of the Sea of Abaco. We were bounced around and sprayed with chilly seawater for what seemed like forever. Before docking we cruised by exclusive Baker’s Bay...land of vacation homes for the likes of Reese Witherspoon, Tom & Giselle, Michael Jordan, Elle MacPherson, and JLo. We hopped into a golf cart and made our way to the settlement of Guana Cay. Matt and Vicki to Bikini Hut and us right around the corner to Beach Walk cottage.

We settled in, freshened up and made the short stroll to Grabbers for sunset. And I got to try my first frozen Grabber. Ahhhh.



Dinner was at tiny Kidd’s Cove which was literally 6 steps from Bikini Hut. And it was pretty great. Conch fritters were outstanding. The lobsters were small but tasty. And Mark had a massive steak. All served on baking trays. But take my advice if you go here...avoid the mixed drinks!


Since we had been up since 2:30 AM to catch our flight from DC, we called it a night.

We woke to the sound of a rooster crowing and to a beautiful day.


The wind had died down some but not enough to make it all the way to Pete’s Pub so we worked our way as far South as we could.

First order of business was a morning boat drink....bloodys for the boys and limoncello mimosas for the girls.


We stopped at the beach at Man O' War Cay to play in the water and relax in the sun.


When our tummies got rumbly we cruised down to Firefly restaurant on Elbow Cay. I loved this place! We all ordered Firefly vodka drinks except for Matt who preferred the creamy Peter Whacker cocktail. Lunch consisted of juicy burgers and blackened hogfish sandwiches.


Full and content, we climbed aboard Painkiller and made our way to Tahiti Beach. This was a place I was very excited to visit, and it was very cool, but I found that I liked other spots we visited better. We walked along the beach and sat in the shallow water with Vicki's homemade rum punch. It was a delightful way to spend an hour.


Final stop of the day was Hopetown. This should have been an easy docking but my husband accidentally tangled the perfectly coiled lines so we had to idle and circle around by the dock for what seemed like forever until he got them loose #firstmatefail. I was stressed at this point and forgot to look for the resident manatee. Vicki and I took off to do some shopping while Mark took Matt out for a couple of beers. Hopetown is such an adorable settlement. I could easily live here. We found the boys enjoying the view at the Hopetown Harbor Lodge. Cute, quaint, friendly place on a beautiful beach.


Tonight we had reservations for Mermaids on the Rocks. My other favorite restaurant. We arrived wind-whipped from the golf cart ride in time to catch the sunset. The non-existent sunset. No matter, the view was beautiful and the cocktails tasty.


But the wind was getting worse so went inside to find our table.
Surprise surprise…Vicki had arranged for a belated birthday mermaid themed celebration! Balloons and props adorned the table. Such a sweet and fun gesture! For apps we had wonderful lobster fritters, then I had a lobster pasta for dinner. And we shared some delicious cake for dessert. The staff here is just awesome. I really hope this place sticks around.


Sunday Funday dawned bright, clear and windy. After a bagel and coffee breakfast on the little deck of our cottage, we bumped along the now familiar roads on the golf cart to get to the boat.


Seas were rough on this day so we only went as far as the lagoon between Guana and Scotland Cays. What a beautiful, protected oasis.


We sipped strawberry frose and drank in the view.



Unfortunately you must vacate before low tide or you will get stuck. After putting the boat back on the lift, we headed to Grabbers for lunch, and of course a frozen Grabber. This is a such a colorful and fun yet low key place to while away an afternoon. And the fresh conch salad made right in front of you gets two thumbs up.



Then it was time for Nippers. I was anticipating it with a sense of both excitement and anxiety based on the stories I've heard. And here is where my title comes into play.


This apparently wasn't a super crazy Sunday but there was a good crowd and the music was playing and drink were flowing. I had my first frozen Nipper and while it is similar to the frozen Grabber, it had more of a banana flavor. Both are delish!


After a bit of people watching and photo taking, Vicki and I hit the dance floor leaving the boys to guard our table. I knew the Nipper had done its job when this awkward white girl started shaking it to Booty Call. We boogied over to a group of fun looking ladies and joined their dance circle as well.


The day was hot so we all descended the steep stairs down to the beach to cool off in the water.


Then back up for another cocktail and to soak in the pool and listen to the music.


After a while we decided to call it an afternoon. To my husband's ears, this means we are leaving NOW so he promptly made his way down to the beach to make our way home. The rest of us were still in the process of getting out of the pool, trying to dry off and pack up. We had no idea where he went. We wandered around Nippers for a long while trying to locate him.

Meanwhile, this woman who had been eyeing Mark all afternoon made a beeline for his solo-self standing on the beach. She approached him and asked if he would assist her with putting on her mermaid outfit and then help her up on a big rock in the water. Always polite, he agrees. So he is on the beach holding open her mermaid tail while she steps in. By this time a crowd has gathered above and is cheering him on. Next up, hoisting his buff sea siren onto the rock so she can pose and do handstands. I wish I had seen this. He said he thought he was on candid camera. Somehow I got not one photo her but here is a good likeness...


Finally we see him in a new shirt and swimsuit walking up the road entrance. After he had escaped her clutches, he walked the 5 minutes home to see if we were there and decided to change his sweaty clothes and grab a beer. The moral of the story ladies is to not lose sight of your man (even if he is almost 50) at Nippers on a Sunday.

Then on the way into our cottage, I accidentally kicked one of the conch shells which lined the steps and my foot was impaled by the sharp point. It took weeks to heal. It's not an Edsall vacation if someone doesn't get injured.

Before dinner we toasted our red wine to the cloudy sunset which signaled the impending cold front. And who do I see giving me the evil eye from her perch at the tiki bar across the street...the sea siren...sparkly butt on one bar stool and mermaid tail draped across another.


Then it was off to Orchid Bay for dinner. The men folk had a full proper seafood meal, but V and I chose to split a large pepperoni pizza. Boy did that hit the spot after a day of fun in the sun. We carted home quickly as the sky was threatening and the wind was whipping.


The rain started in the morning so we had a leisurely start to the day. When the wet stuff let up we did a little shopping at the local establishments.
By 11:00 the sun was back out and we headed off to the boat with a stop a long the way to see the Dreaming Tree.


Then back to Man O' War Cay (aka the boat building capital of the Bahamas) for lunch at Dock N Dine. Tasty cracked conch and lobster sandwiches all around. Then V and I hit some shops while M & M went back to the boat to chillax. Great shopping on this island, including the famous Sail Shop.


The conditions were just good enough to be able to anchor at Fowl Cay which boasts an awesome tide pool.




The sinking sun signaled that it was time to make our departure.


One last Grabbers sunset...


Our final dinner was in Nippers vintage dining room. Picture it: kitchsy, wood paneled, and reminiscent of the seafood houses in the 70s where I went to dinner with my parents. Hogfish, fried shrimp, cole slaw and a brick of mac and cheese. All washed down with wine in a plastic cup. Surprisingly delicious.


The next day was a long travel day home after too short of a trip. But we got a taste of a new out island, and we were hooked.
Cheers to new friends and more exciting adventures to come.


Posted by Out_of_Office 18:45 Archived in Bahamas Tagged man war o treasure elbow hopetown abaco guana cay Comments (2)

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