Friday, December 4, 2015

Jack and Cora

Cora and Jack and their friend Lover-Mae
who runs the Chicken's Nest
Last night, Jen made some new friends in the lobby bar. Jack and Cora have been coming to Freeport for 25 years, been married for 58, and today, took us on a 3 and half hour tour of the island. They owned property here for a while and have stayed for months at a time. They're just here for a week this time although they have recently bought a timeshare in Freeport and will be back for a month at the end of January. They had rented a car for this trip and when Jen was chatting with them last night, they offered to show us around the island today.

best conch fritters we've had - and we've had a lot of conch fritters
Jack and Cora could not have been more delightful, generous folks. Everyone on the island seems to know them and they took us some of their favorite places on the far side of the island - all the way to the West End, which we never would have gotten to on our own. We drove around, stopped for drinks and conch fritters at The Chicken's Nest, one of their favorite bars, were given beautiful shells by one of the local divers who saves them for Cora, who collects them (she insisted on giving them to us), and had a beautiful day with our new friends from North Carolina.
Paradise Cove
Heading home tomorrow, back to cold days and colder  nights, but after this vacation of beach, books, bikes, conch, rum punch, a great travel-buddy, and really, the nicest, friendliest, kindest local people I've ever encountered anywhere in all my travels, I think this trip will stay with me for a long time.

Scent of an Island

the Perfume Factory
Yesterday we got up and headed to the spa at the resort. Two hours later, after I had been scrubbed, wrapped, soaked, and moisturized, and Jen had been thoroughly massaged, we headed to the bus stop near the hotel and rode to the Perfume Factory. The Perfume Factory is... a perfume factory. It was started in 1969 by a New Yorker and is now a popular tourist destination. There must not have been any cruise ships docked that day because we were the only two people shopping and sniffing for most of the hour we spent there. We got a little tour of the facility which was mostly a retail space but which also had a small 'lab' where the perfumes are mixed and packaged. You could also mix your own fragrance using essential oils, but Jen and I sniffed every single one of the pre-made perfumes and found plenty of lovely scents in that selection to bring home.
the 'mix your own' lab
After that, we caught a bus back to the hotel, went back to the beach, opened our books, and spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing outside.

For dinner, we walked down the beach back to Billy Joe's for burgers and chicken wings and the view; got back to our room early and watched a movie, and called it a [perfect] day.
super-tasty, marinated and fried chicken wings

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Wednesday Night Fish Fry

This is how we spent the day:
breakfast: the most important drink meal of the day
lounge chair and a Kindle, what more does one need?
and this is how we spent the evening:
Smith Point Fish Fry - a Wednesday night tradition in Freeport
live conch, waiting to become salad
Terry at one of the huts chopping conch at incredible speed
frying fish at the fish fry

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Easy Rider

Meadow and Joe from New Hampshire, with Jen and me,
getting ready to ride
Today we took a tour of the island on motorized bikes. We met our guides, Alfredo and Genie in the morning, got acquainted with the throttle and brakes on our gas-powered cruisers, and zoomed off down the road. Riding the bikes was incredibly fun (I highly recommend bikes which don't require peddling), and we got to see parts of the island we'd never have seen on our own. Genie gave us a lesson on conch (first point: it's pronounced "conk" not "consh"), Alfredo gave us a lesson on the history of the Bahamas (Columbus, the British, pirates, etc.), we saw some incredible beach-front houses (owned by the proverbial "other half"), stopped for a lunch on a gorgeous beach, and got a free dolphin show at the UNEXSO sanctuary since we happened to be cruising by at feeding time. Really great day on the island.

first stop, dolphin sanctuary
second stop, drinks at Taino Beach
my new favorite drink on the island
a less appetizing-sounding local brew
Genie discussing the life cycle of a conch
this is the disgusting-looking critter that lives in a conch shell
did some beach-combing for shells before leaving

Monday, November 30, 2015

Rough Day

lunch - this place is a short walk down the beach from the hotel

a 'bahama mama' - I'm not usually a fan of rum drinks, but these are delicious!
fried conch, lobster, shrimp, and grouper

Saturday, November 28, 2015

From Turkey to Tropics

Thanksgiving feast
I find that most days it's pretty easy to be thankful, after all, I live a fairly charmed life, but some days the idea of gratitude is so... obvious. On Thursday/Thanksgiving, I was riding the ferry on a gorgeous but cold day in Seattle, admiring the mountain peaks, on my way to a feast with a room full of friends; Friday night I was on a plane, and by Saturday morning, I was here:

Grand Lucayan, Freeport, Bahamas
It was a crisp 34 degrees when I left Seattle, Freeport is holding steady at 79. The lovely staff at this resort let me check in even though I arrived in the morning, and I immediately unpacked, stripped off jeans and fleece, put on a dress and hat, and walked across the street to the Lucaya Marketplace, as it had struck me at 30,000 feet that I hadn't packed my sunglasses.

Deirdre with me and my new shades
People here are so nice. A man in front of the first group of vendor stalls asked me what I was shopping for, and when I told him, he led me straight to a souvenir stand that had some cheap, plastic, $15-glasses. Not what I was looking for, so I asked the lady running the stall where I might find some, ahem, "good sunglasses," she took no offence and told me to walk down to the end of the market to Shades, "ask for Deirdre, and tell her 'big momma' sent you over."  I did what I was told and after much searching and trying on, Deirdre hooked me up with some totally rad RayBans.

After that, there was nothing to do but walk on the beach (the sand felt like powder), check out the fitness room (for tomorrow; it's huge, lots of machines and weights) and spa (our room comes with a $250 resort credit), take a spin through the pool area (not too crowded, plenty of lounge chairs), and think about whether I might have fried conch for dinner - it seems to be the local favorite. Right now I need a snack and possibly a nap (overnight flight - no sleep) and have no other plans except to rest up and relax; tomorrow my pal Jen arrives from Lexington, KY, and our mutual agenda of sun, beach, books, and very little else, begins.
view from our room

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Equine Encounter

Sadly, because it had rained so much during the weekend, the horseback ride Wendy and I had scheduled for Sunday morning was cancelled, but it did finally stopped raining on Sunday so we were able to do some other activities. The first one was roping, 'cause, you know, you never know when you might need to lasso a cow. I was not a natural at this, and most of my throws came nowhere near my target, but I did manage to finally get the rope around the fake cow before my hand succumbed to the impending rope burn.

After roping, we went for a little walk around the grounds in search of the dead tarantula that was rumored to be near the rock labyrinth, because those are the sorts of things one does in Texas.
more pencil maze than "labyrinth"

The main event for Sunday before leaving was the Equine Encounter. Since we didn't get to do the horseback ride, Wendy and I decided to join the group doing this activity, which didn't involve actually getting on a horse, but instead, communing with a horse. It was an interesting and lovely experience. We started by sitting in a circle with the horse wranglers, Keith and Si, and they gave us an introduction to horse psychology, behavior, and instinct. They told us that horses are incredibly sensitive creatures which read and react to human body language, and that horses will assess the emotional state of
the humans around them and react accordingly - they will mirror our feelings. If we are skittish and afraid, they will act skittish and afraid, if we are confident and strong, they will not defy us. Keith and Si spoke for a good long while giving us this interesting overview, and then the 7 of us in the group talked a little bit about ourselves, who we were, how we were, and what we were feeling about getting into the arena with a horse. It was a really lovely and surprising "group encounter session" before actually getting anywhere near the animals. In the arena, we were given a long whip and taught to control the horse's gait and direction using the tiniest movements, attitude, and strides behind the horse (the whip was never used on or near the animal). I was the second one in the arena and I was supposed to stay in the center while my horse, Ramp, circled the perimeter. I was suppose to stride around the ring, cutting him off and making him change direction, and I was to do this by just taking a few steps, holding out the whip, and holding a posture that told him I meant business. I'll be honest, it wasn't easy. I wasn't always sure at which angle to head toward him and I was a little confused, and I definitely felt that Ramp knew this and he was confused too. But by the end of it, I was getting him to switch when I wanted him to switch, I felt more in control and I felt strongly that I was controlling him. The last step is to drop the whip, turn your back to the horse, and if he trusts you, he'll come right over and stand behind you; he came right over and stood behind me.


It was a terrific way to end a stay in Texas.