Back Home

We have fewer airline troubles coming home (I don’t think I wrote about how we had to board our flight to T&C three times – same plane – had to disembark and re-board three times.) We stayed with an Atlanta friend that night, going to get beer and pizza at his pretty awesome brewery (Slice and Pint – if you’re in Atlanta, you should try it. Next level food, really comprehensive bar list.)

Slice and Pint!

Slice and Pint!

Then we got up very early the next morning and headed over to Nashville to pick up the kids, before turning right around and heading out to go back to NOLA. I had to go to work the next day – all in all, that 14 hours of travel essentially wiped away any relaxation I had stored up.

Reunited with our three kings

Reunited with our three kings – plus the canine in the back

The next week was Jack’s birthday week. For his actual birthday night, my firm was holding a baseball game marketing event, and they gave me tickets for the whole family. So we had a fun baseball night with the boys.

Stair steps

Stair steps

Remove that sticker from his glasses at your peril

Remove that sticker from his glasses at your peril

The boys

The boys

Green Wave won!

Green Wave won!

Nine years old

Nine years old

We staggered through that week – it’s so hard when you have no weekend to get you set up, but at least I’d frozen some pre-made meals, so we had something to eat. That weekend, Jack had a slumber party birthday party. We had just a few boys over, and it went smoothly. Of course, I had to bill 22 hours writing some last minute briefs, so that was chaos.

Making their own pizzas

Making their own pizzas

Mine. I'm no food blogger, this isn't a great pic, but it was a great pizza!

Mine. I’m no food blogger, this isn’t a great pic, but it was a great pizza!

Movies and popcorn

Movies and popcorn

Writing briefs in between time. THREE. Three briefs. 15 pages each. Started Friday, due Monday.

Writing briefs in between time. THREE. Three briefs. 15 pages each. Started Friday, due Monday.

My little bat

My little bat

All Jack wanted for his birthday was a ouija board and one of those blow up dino costumes. So that’s what he got!

Dino

Dino

They set up a Dino-Man Lemonade stand. Sold very little. I told them $2  a glass was too steep.

They set up a Dino-Man Lemonade stand. Sold very little. I told them $2 a glass was too steep.

While we’re here, I’ll put up a couple of more pictures. Then I’d better go make dinner! Happy Saturday!

It's cool, girl. That dead squirrel is all yours.

Saw this hawk in the middle of the city randomly while running the other day. It’s cool, girl. That dead squirrel is all yours.

Morning commute

Morning commute

Posted in Everyday Adventures, Holidays and Celebrations | Leave a comment

Last Full Morning

 

Hot, bitter coffee, espresso. I finish The Secret Chord this morning, on the settee on the porch. I feel rinsed, wrung. I have to be dragged back here, to this tropical island, from the scrubby, brutal, bloodwashed Israel I have occupied. I immediately download Swing Time, by Zadie Smith. Only a few more days to read for pleasure.

Last night we played cards on the little wooden table on the back deck – Spit, and Rummy, in the fading light. Then we headed over to the open air bar for a quick drink – eighteen dollars apiece, these drinks, and we have limited ourselves each day to just one. I got an espresso martini – it tasted like iced coffee, truly, although it was beautifully presented with a head of cool foam and five diagonal perfectly placed coffee beans. Above us we saw at last the stars, which have been hidden by clouds the past two nights. The lighting was low – they make a point to minimize light pollution here – so we saw more than we would at home, in the city. I settled into a long, low couch full of pillows, the Prof across from me in a low wicker chair. Behind us, at the bar, four people lined up on stools and enjoy whiskey, cigars. Across from us were several employees on a night off, enjoying a drink, dressed up. Above us was a pergola with no vines – the bar is new, I don’t know if they will plant anything here and train it up the sturdy poles or not, but it seems a little funny to build a roof that is not a roof – slatted, keeping off neither rain nor sun.

Back to the room, I read some more. I skimmed through a few work emails, nothing substantive, but enough to note that we lost a big appeal. I put it out of my mind. Then I slept, in the four poster bed, surrounded by sheer net curtains. They turn down the bed each day and untie the curtains, then tie them back up in the morning.

Four poster

Four poster

Now it is morning on our last full day, and the wind is gone at last, the sky seems clearer. Perhaps we can go to the beach without being sandblasted today. My muscles are somewhat sore so I do some yoga on the damp wood of the porch. Breakfast soon.

Last Morning

Yesterday was a fairly lazy day. After breakfast – over easy eggs, sausages, bacon – we started the day with pooltime. Relaxing – still windy, but still enough today that we can open an umbrella and not be fully cooked under the sun. Some trailing through the water, I swim a few laps. There are children this morning, noisy and splashing.

I read a little of Swing Time, stare out over the ocean, doze.

Midday, after a quick and very hot run through the plantation path, we move to the beach. I kayak once more. We lounge. We walk out to the shallow sandbar area – the tide is in, and the water comes up to our waists, but no higher. I see someone taking instagram pix on the shore – I see lots of this, posed pix. I mean I’m taking pictures, don’t get me wrong, but it’s funny to see women (always women) splaying their limbs and looking dramatic, all over the place. They are all very pretty.

That afternoon, we retreat to the room and I watch a show on Netflix, taking a break from the hot sun. We have afternoon tea – peanut butter and chocolate cakes, passionfruit macaroons, Darjeeling tea. Then a bit of snoozing before drinks and dinner. They serve complimentary drinks and appetizers at the beachfront bar – a “Drink with the Manager” type thing. We have oceans of wine and lots of delicious bites, then head over for our dinner reservations. We share a bottle of Spanish red wine, a salad, basil and mozzarella pizza and a lamb ragu with pappardelle pasta. Nothing stunning here but good, just the right amount. Then to bed.

This morning, we go to breakfast, then take another walk along the plantation path and run into an Earth Day celebration of sorts. We hadn’t intended to participate in this, but are greeted so warmly that we pretend we meant to join them all along. Some staff have gathered a few guests and we are planting trees – except we are permitted to do the bare minimum of work. Someone else dug the hole, unwrapped the coconut sapling, piled dirt – we literally pick the little tree up, put it in the hole, and then kick some dirt in. It all felt a little silly, but we were good sports I think.

Such hard work

Such hard work

Breaking a sweat here

Breaking a sweat here

Get that angle just right

Get that angle just right

Finished product

Finished product

After this, we walk down the path behind one of the plantation workers, and he takes us to a little table where he uses a machete to cut a hole in some coconuts so we can drink.

Our hero

Our hero

These trees have been sponsored by local school children

These trees have been sponsored by local school children

With our coconut cups

With our coconut cups

Fully grown tree

Fully grown tree

Our little group leaves the plantation

Our little group leaves the plantation

Then he carves me a little spoon out of a coconut hull, so I can scoop out some of the flesh. It’s lovely. The staff tell us some ways that coconut can be prepared – a way to make a sort of peanut brittle out of it, in a skillet. After enjoying some coconut delicacies, we head off down the path and say good-bye to the group, and I show the Prof the stream I ran by the other day.

Traipse

Traipse

This is a slutty scarlet whore of a flower, and I love it

This is a slutty scarlet whore of a flower, and I love it

More NSFW vegetation

More NSFW vegetation

Striped bark

Striped bark

Then it’s time to go back and pack up, take the ferry boat back to the main Cay where the airport is. It will be good to see the boys, but tough to leave paradise.

Brill

Brill

Path

Path

Nook

Nook

Poolside

Poolside

Patio - where we had daily breakfast

Patio – where we had daily breakfast

Bar in the round

Bar in the round

Panorama

Panorama

Posted in Travel | Leave a comment

Second Full Day

It is our third night – the evening of our second full day here.

Last night we shared one starter (pork and shrimp Asian dumplings – four of them, really good), one main (chicken stir fry – average) and one dessert (a coconut cheesecake confection with coconut ice cream and basil leaves and little pearls of sweet cream, which was an odd but perfect combo). I had a local bottled beer, he had a cocktail. We ate by the pool, under what would have been a starry night if it wasn’t so overcast. Nevertheless, the tall poolside palms rustled, the other guests murmuring discussion and the lapping water, and the flicker of the candle – it was a relaxing evening.

We went to our room and I continued to read “The Secret Chord” by Geraldine Brooks, a wonderful and difficult and brutal and lovely novel all about King David (of Biblical fame, though this is not a book you would buy at a Christian bookstore – it is historical fiction). I fell asleep, book in hand, at about 9:00, and didn’t wake til 6 the next morning – though I’m told by the spouse that I coughed through the night. My sore throat was worst this morning, but it has definitely abated through the day and is largely recovered this evening, for which I’m thankful.

I laced up my shoes and was out the door, jogging down the banana plantation path, by 6:30 a.m. I wound my way along the white gravel paths, none of which were marked, until I came to a clearing. The low palms cleared, and small mangroves stretched as far as the eye could see. I was stopped short by a gurgling, knee deep stream, wide and moving with purpose. I could have waded across if I’d wanted, but instead I took several pictures and then turned back – we were going to a yoga sun salutation class together at 7:30, and I didn’t have time to go wading.

Mangroves as far as the eye can see

Mangroves as far as the eye can see

Out of breath

Out of breath

Closeup

Closeup

A tale of adversity with an unhappy ending

A tale of adversity with an unhappy ending

 

A few happy miles later, I glanced at my phone and it was 7:16 – I was going to be late for class. I dashed back as quickly as I could, and met the Prof at the class (we went to the wrong location but eventually found it, a couple of minutes late). We did our chatarangas and downward dogs facing the west, sun rising behind us, looking out over the pool and beyond, over a short hump of scrub brush, the blue green clear ocean. As I lay in child’s pose, the instructor came and pressed on my back and shoulders. I felt tension melt away.

One hot shower later, we were once more at the buffet breakfast. Granola with berries, sliced bananas, and soy milk; an almond croissant; tapioca with diced mango; smoked salmon and ham and smoked cheddar. I drink gallons of coffee and iced water, and read the NY Times on paper instead of my phone. The Prof orders eggs benedict but I am happy with my buffet offerings. We are stuffed full of good things and slathered in sunscreen by 9:30 am, lounging at the beach.

Unfortunately these first two days have been almost fully occupied by scattered storms and, more annoyingly, a fierce and irritating wind. This morning at the beach I am constantly spitting sand out of my mouth, wiping it out of my eyes, and though I close my beach bag tight, the wind forces it into the cracks and soon our bag is full to the brim with sand. The wind draws lines on my sunscreen sticky legs with sand, tracing the less rubbed in spots, and I am sure I will be shaking it out of my hair for days. I get up to take a long walk down the limestone littered beachline to my right, opposite of where I walked yesterday, and reach the very edge of the cay, walking around it. It is just short swim to the cay next door, though I don’t attempt it, but walk back. There is a distant sandbar and most of the sea from shore to sandbar is so shallow it barely covers your ankles, so I walk out far and never get any deeper than my knees.

Limestone

Limestone

Path to the beach

Path to the beach

Stormy seaside

Stormy seaside

Luv

Luv

 

But the wind blows fierce, sea spray in my face and lungs, water splashing roughly around my legs, and I feel buffeted. I head back to sit and be buffeted by sand instead of water for a bit, and watch some adventurous folks get out the water equipment – kitesurfing, paddleboarding, some snorkel. I had wanted to wait until the wind died down, but decide that it may never happen, so I go and ask for a kayak. It’s a bit of a battle getting the thing out past the waves, and I have to paddle hard just to keep it in place – any time spent resting and the wind blew me swiftly back toward shore. I paddle around for a while nonetheless, in water choppy and unforgiving, and eventually give up and head back. We decide to decamp for the slightly less abusive poolside lounging.

Poolside

Poolside

Obligatory feet-while-lounging shot

Obligatory feet-while-lounging shot

Sitting in the poolside restaurant, looking out at the pool

Sitting in the poolside restaurant, looking out at the pool

I read and rest at the pool. It rains a bit, but not for long, and soon a pool attendant brings a pina colada and a local lager. After we linger over drinks a while, we grab a late lunch at the poolside restaurant – a burger and a jerk chicken sandwich. They seat us on a long low bench along the back wall, so we are facing the pool and ocean, behind us vented plantation shutters open to the green tropical foliage.

It is about 3:30 pm when we finish lunch and grab some bikes for a jaunt around the island. There are numerous private properties around the island, as well as much more expansive (and expensive) properties for rent, for the truly outrageously rich. We pedal around them, and through the banana plantation, eventually finding our way to the other end of the cay entirely. Our way out is along gravel roads, a bit rough on the saddle, but we come back along a neat, narrow paved road, designed for golf carts (not cars – no cars allowed on the island).

Bicycling

Bicycling

Fetching

Fetching

Outdoor shower

Outdoor shower

We park the bikes back in the bike shed and then head over to the spa to rest weary muscles in the Jacuzzi – after running several miles, morning yoga, kayaking, and bicycling, plus yesterday’s workout at the gym, I’m sore. I position each joint in turn over the jets, pummeling poor joints and muscles with hot jets of water, which is just absolutely fantastic. After this, we return to the room – and here we are, dressed in warm clothes, bathing suits draped and drying. The sun is going down before me, everything honeyed and warmly lit as twilight sets in. We won’t have dinner tonight, given our late lunch – but perhaps a drink at the poolside bar . . .

Aside from a brief check-in today, I’ve largely stayed away from social media, and aside from the printed paper at breakfast, I’ve also avoided the news. I have had the discipline not to even look at work email, and while I check personal email once or twice a day, that’s not at all stressful. I don’t count typing these memories out as “screen time” – it’s just much easier to keep a journal this way, than by hand. This has been a lovely and needed timeout from information overload, as much as anything, and also a chance to reconnect with my body, to live in it a bit more than usual. The wind appears to have died down today and I think it will be less windy tomorrow, so we hope to go snorkeling (without being battered and abused by wind-tossed seas). Here’s hoping to a perfect last full day on the island . . .

Posted in Travel | 4 Comments

Evening – Recounting the First Full Day

I feel nourished by the food here. This morning I have granola and soy milk, with fresh berries on top. A berry smoothie, in a small glass bottle with a rubber stopper, lined up next to others that have been plunged in an ice bath at the bottom of a silver tub. Slices of cold ham and thick square slabs of cheddar, creamy lemon pastry, coffee, toast with butter and honey. The butter is piled in circlets on a plate, the honey in a jar with a large dipper fastened on the lid. They melt and mingle on the toasted whole grain bread. Just looking at this food makes me happy.

We won’t eat again until 7:30 pm, except for the fruit piled in bowls everywhere you go, so I overfill myself. The Prof orders banana stuffed French toast. The bananas are grown on a plantation on site, as are the coconuts for the coconut tart I pop in my mouth, bite-size and zesty. We order coffee and she brings a ceramic coffee pot, a small white jug of cream. They supply photocopies of the NY Times and a British paper full of news about British tv and sports, none of which interests me but I read it anyway. I have not picked up my phone since we got here.

After a breakfast that leaves me waddling, we head down to the beach, just a short walk down a stone path from the terraced dining area. The beach attendants supply us with a fitted towel to go over our lounge chair, as well as loose towels for drying off. No umbrella today, as the wind is fierce – we’d surely lose it to a gust. Small puffs of black cloud dance around the sky, occasionally blocking the sun and once in a while pelting us with rain, for just a minute or two. The sun does come out frequently, however, and I don’t mind the weather, though many guests are grumbling. It’s been hot and sunny in New Orleans for a while now, so we are ok with mild temps and overcast skies, so long as it is warm enough to sit on the beach. We do feel a bit . . . sandblasted, I guess, and my beach bag quickly fills with sand. But no matter.

Overcast but still luminous

Overcast but still luminous

Fairly stormy weather that first day

Wind-tossed palms

Cheers

Cheers

We get sorted and then I face the water, turn to my left, and walk until I can’t walk anymore. The sand is light colored, not white but very light – the water is turquoise, taffy-colored, the water is clear and fairly cold. To my left is a short hump of dune, behind which grows foliage. Every hundred feet or so is a pathway into a private villa – we don’t have one of those, at thousands per night, but they look lovely. Up ahead is a rocky outcropping that guards a small bay, and I make my way to it, walking about forty minutes there and then forty minutes back. It feels good to walk. The rough sand on my feet, the sun peeking in and out of the clouds, the taffy-colored waves, my thoughts. No phone, no law partners, no kids, no interruptions.

Sandy toes

Sandy toes

IMG_1576

Starburst shells – in yellow, red, orange, everywhere on the beach. I pick three of my favorites for my three sons.

Upon my return, the Prof hops up and walks the other way, a rockier and probably more interesting trek – I’ll do it tomorrow perhaps. While he is gone, a Coast Guard helicopter flies overhead, someone comes running and hops into a small boat with an outboard motor, then takes off in the same direction. I wonder, but never learn, what that was about.

We lounge, we read, I do splash in up to my knees but it’s quite windy and choppy, and not really a good day for swimming or kayaking or any other sea activity. After several hours and several applications of sunscreen, we gather our things and move to the pool.

Infinity pool

Infinity pool

The pool is infinity style, with a beach-style entrance – in other words, a gentle slope from 0 depth to about 4.5 feet. It is elevated above the ocean, with several yards of riparian scrub between beachside and ocean, but from a standing position at the edge of the pool there is no clear delineation between pool’s edge and ocean, a soothing effect. We swim a few laps, and the pool is heated – tepid, but not freezing, which helps in this wind. We have been similarly set up with fitted-towels on our chairs by the pool attendant, who eventually brings us fruity beach drinks that cost an arm and a leg, and we are sipping them and reading lazily when the rain comes pouring. We make a quick dash to the nearby poolside bar, chat with the friendly bartender, who is from near Como in Italy. A Swiss couple are perched on stools near us, and they converse with the bartender in what appears to be at least three languages. They eat bananas and wrap up in the large towels, and we finish our drinks and don’t order any more. The rain eventually stops, and we take the opportunity to move along. I go to the gym for a bit, and the Prof sits by the pool and reads a tremendously boring book about multinational corporations, which I tease him about.

We have afternoon tea and coconut cookies at the hotel’s library, stocked with books in many languages and including a large muted tv playing some sort of soccer/football quarter final. After tea, we head to the on-site spa to check out the facilities. While I am tempted by a massage or facial, the price tag makes my eyes goggle and we settle for the complimentary co-ed outdoor Jacuzzi and free Evian. I use the water jets to batter my sore muscles, joints still tender from my 5.5 mile run at my parents’ place a few days ago, muscles starting to knot after a gym session. It feels good, almost like a massage.

It is raining steadily when we head back to the room, but not too chilly. The rain clears while I am inside taking a shower – taking the time to wash my hair before dinner. Now I am on the porch. Pandora plays Indian flute music and some sort of bird makes a call that sounds like a cassette tape being played backwards. (I will later learn, through tortured attempts at translation with another visitor, that this is some kind of crow. “They say ‘caw’ in America” he helpfully tells me.) The sun is peeking out behind a small knot of gray clouds, a spectacular sunset just at the roofline of the neighboring hotel building. We have 7:30 dinner reservations, and I will wear the one sweater that I brought (so glad I brought it). The restaurant serves vaguely Asian food – I think I will have pork dumplings, perhaps a lager. My throat hurts a bit, it’s hurt all trip, but it’s not getting any worse so for now we’re crossing our fingers and praying for cold/allergies and not strep, or something that requires antibiotics.

The clouds are scudding – I almost typed drifting that there is a definite scud to their movement, drifting but with purpose. There are about seven different layers of clouds, moving at all different speeds, and it is fairly spectacular to see. I’ll take a picture but it won’t do it justice, just as the picture I have taken of the red tile roof isn’t quite getting the red color right. Living in the moment, preserving the moment . . . always that tension. Off to dinner now.

Posted in Travel | Leave a comment

First Morning

We took a trip for our ten year anniversary. I took an internet vacation, more or less, but I brought my laptop with me and wrote descriptions of each day. I’ll publish them here, after the fact, perhaps with some editing and perhaps not (it’s been very busy, ya’ll, I billed 22 hours just this weekend). I’ll try to insert pictures. It was a special trip with my love – – – though it’s been a hard landing, coming home.

First Morning

Red clay tile roof. White trim, white railings, white building. Dark brown deck floor.

Blue sky, white clouds. Riot of foliage. A hedge, low scrub, yellow clusters of flowers. Palms to my right. Two wooden, straight backed chairs, with arms – stained a warm, orangey shade of brown. A small round table. Broad palm leaves, sawtooth palm? A battered wooden roll up shade, palm fronds peek around it.

A settee, full size, futon and several pillows.

A red roof inn, but not THE red roof inn

A red roof inn, but not THE red roof inn

Porch selfie

Porch selfie

Dawn over the roof of the building that is between us and the sea. I can only see a tiny speck of sea, between the leaves. We haven’t paid enough for a sea view, though we have paid dearly for this quiet.

Dawn

Dawn

The walkways are stone, small stacked stone walls, lined with grasses or hedges. Red flowers to my left, soft flat round leaves, very tropical. Not so different from tropical New Orleans, though some of the greenery is unique to here.

Fetching

Fetching

Tropical parasite? This flower rooted right onto the bark of the tree (it appears to be a separate organism from the tree!)

Tropical parasite? This flower rooted right onto the bark of the tree (it appears to be a separate organism from the tree!)

Dinner last night – Mediterranean night at the terrace restaurant, we are rained out of the al fresco plans. Probably good, as the bugs are relentless. As they rearrange dinner under the roof instead of on the rain-washed patio, we are served a complimentary round of drinks in the round bar upstairs. We take our wine and Jack Daniels to the second floor porch, looking out over the low slung buildings, the dark sea. Rich people, dressed to be seen, but I at last am somewhat comfortable being among them, am not ashamed that I’m not in the latest fashion (cut outs at the shoulders – this is the current thing), though it seems everyone else got the memo.

The food is wonderful. A buffet of tabouli, hummus, some sort of beet paste, two kinds of feta, olives, pickled onions, falafel, young cold white asparagus spears, roasted heads of broccoli – and stunning roasted meat, rare, flavored. Roasted Brussels sprouts and whole new potatoes, salted and buttered. Pots de crème, tiny slivers of cheesecake, chocolate mousse, mini crème broulees – I choose a mousse, a layered strawberry pastry, and a chocolate éclair.

The buildings here are one or two stories, the paths winding. No cars permitted, they brag about the silence, though I’ll note the golf carts that tootle around are none too quiet. The pathways are lit by small ankle-height lights, no overhead lighting. This first night, it’s too cloudy to see stars. We wander to the pool and beachfront just to see, and it’s pitch dark. Then to bed, in the four poster with mosquito netting. The staff have turned it down for us.

Four poster

Four poster

I made an attempt to eat that star fruit

I made an attempt to eat that star fruit

This morning I woke at 5am, to the Prof fumbling with a bottle of headache pills in the dark, and can’t go back to sleep. I take my book outside – already my second, on the plane I finished Woman on the Edge of Time (Madge Piercy) and started The Girl on the Train. I lay on the settee in the dark and finish it as the sun comes up. The Prof brings me espresso as I turn the last page – not a bad novel, though I figured out the twist less than halfway through.

Morning

Morning

 

I’ll try to wait a bit to start my next one. I may read two books a day while here – this is me on vacation with no kids. Reading relentlessly, exercising for hours, and swimming/snorkeling/kayaking every other waking second. The only thing that gets in the way is having to eat out – I’d prefer sandwiches packed (by someone else), quick hand food, so I don’t waste any time.

Today we will head over to the main hotel for complimentary breakfast on the porch. Then the beach. It’s not hot at all, might be a tad chilly to lay on the beach if wet. I don’t mind. The bugs are bad but they give us bug spray, which I will use liberally. I hope I don’t have to wash my hair once this whole trip.

Posted in Travel | Leave a comment