This is being written by a guy in leather shoes and a suit sitting in an office. Near as I can tell, he's only a shadow of the guy who tapped out the previous reports on a tablet sitting at the beach.
When last I left off, I noted the large amount of nothing we had left to not accomplish and only Friday & part of Saturday to not get it done. We gave it our best shot but I feel there's a significant amount of idle nothing still to do!
Friday the wind was down and there were just enough clouds to keep it "cool for 90" at the beach. So we grabbed 3 loungers under 2 umbrellas and hunkered down. The rest of the day is a blur of sun, naps, reading and snorkeling, fueled by Dark-n-Stormys, Rum Punch and re-heated Pattys from the Patty Place earlier in the week. Finally it all seemed such a whirlwind of inactivity that my wife & I had to stand in the water sipping Turks Head Amber while we re-capped this vacation and thought about the next one...
We really were at the beach from 9 to 5 and we worked it like it was our JOB (if only!).
We decided to stay local so we showered and popped over to Chinson's Grill Shack on Leeward. Sitting up on a hill, we caught a sweet evening breeze and looked out over Five Cays Bay while a DJ spun mostly mellow reggae. The crowd seemed to be all Belongers and residents who all knew each other and were out for a Friday night. We had a Goat Curry, an Oxtail Dinner and Jerked Pork. We fought long and hard over which was best. The Goat was tender and spiced just enough to warm, the Oxtail was rich and tender, the Jerk was incredibly flavorful with layers of island spices emerging with each bite. We stared blankly when our server asked if we wanted "festival", so she brought some for all of us - it's a lightly sweetened, deep fried hushpuppy stick and was delicious. While the ambiance is essentially picnic tables in a parking lot on a hill, we sat for over an hour enjoying dinner, drinks and even rum cake desert, just to avoid leaving.
Saturday dawned overcast and still. It seemed the most humid of the days we were there. Our flight was at 3:55p and check out was supposed to be 11a. But our caretaker suggested we just move out by noon and keep the rental car until her husband drove us to the airport at around 2p. So, after packing we decided to take one more rum punch down to the beach before lunch. We dipped our toes in the surf and tried to absorb the tranquility through our skin. We drove over to Sailing Paradise for our "last meal" and were the only customers. Our waitress/bartender (manager?) was very friendly and her rum punch might have been the best I had. My wife & I had oxtail while my wife's mom needed one more cracked conch before she left. Though there was a steady drizzle, we stayed on the deck under a rickety roof. The food, befitting our last on the island was excellent. The Conch was lightly battered, tender and succulent. The Oxtail was huge, tender and covered in a rich fatty gravy (if you can call it that?).
After finishing this delicious lunch, we headed all the way over to Grace Bay and back to Patty Place for ice cream and the biggest crushing disappointment of my trip...they were out of Jamaican 50th (Pineapple, Pistachio & chocolate chips). The Devon Stout was an acceptable substitute (hey, it's beer flavored ice cream!).
Back to the villa where we caught our ride to the airport. The line for the airline was long. The line for security covered the whole outside front of the building...twice. As we neared the point where the line would actually enter the building, a staffer asked if anyone was on our flight (which was still an hour from take-off), apparently she only noticed the 1st person in front of her, because she seemed shocked when pretty much the rest of the line followed her to the newly opened security gate. But we all got through in plenty of time to swelter in the waiting room that always seems to hearken back to the fall of Saigon or what a bus terminal in Somalia must feel like (no offense to those who travel Somalia by bus, I'm sure it's lovely).
Got home in time to watch the Hawks drop game 2 in overtime (tonight will be better) while we sort of unpacked. Maybe tonight we'll deal with putting everything away...
Maybe until we put everything away, the vacation isn't really over.
Here's what we think we learned about going to TCI:
Getting there doesn't take too long, the language is english, the money is dollars and getting around is dead simple with a rental car. You can eat whatever you want and drink the water without concern (Husby-Amp recently pointed out that some private residences on cisterns might cause some concern, but nearly all of the water is safe to drink).
In the months leading up to our trip the forum followed some uptick in crime. Coming from a big city, all we did was keep our wits about us - we didn't wander into the dark, pick up strangers or leave our villa unlocked, we never once felt uneasy (pulling into the dark lot at Flamingo reminded me that i COULD feel uneasy if i wanted to, but we pushed on and had a great dinner!).
It's expensive, but manageable. At the IGA we bought what we needed and nothing more. And yes, I "needed" an $18 pound of locally roasted coffee! We tried to buy Turks Head beer at the brewery but it was closed, so we bought our case for nearly $10 more at the IGA. The only liquor we bought was Bambarra Rum, at $15 or $16 per bottle, it was not far off from prices at home, unlike the prices for stuff like Grey Goose or Jack Daniels or "domestic beer that ran up towards $75 a case!. We hit lots of local spots as opposed to resort/gourmet, like Hole in the Wall and Chinson and that helped keep cost down. At Coco Bistro and Bay BIstro, we expected to pay Chicago fine dining prices and weren't disappointed (actually, really fine dining in Chicago is way pricier than Coco Bistro - where 3 cocktails, apps, dinner, a mid-price bottle of wine, 1 desert, 2 coffees and a sipping rum was a little over $300 - that's not so bad). Oh, filling the tank on our rental was tough - $50 for less than half a tank.
Driving was not hard at all. Our rental was driver on the right and from there driving on the left made sense. The roundabouts get easier with each pass and there are plenty to practice on. We had a WWH map and an iPhone app that calculated routes and showed our location but was not turn-by-turn - we were never lost, though we were misplaced at least once.
The food is delicious. Period. Part of why we travel is to "eat what they're cookin'". We don't cook on vacation - nothing wrong with cooking, My wife's family always cooks on vacation, we just prefer to go out and taste stuff. There are some places (Smokey's, Hole in the Wall, Flamingo, 3 Queens) that make you think twice about going in - that would be a mistake. Because going in reveals friendly people eating amazing food. and by the way, I am sad to announce that Seaside Cafe at Ocean Club West does not exist. Sorry. I drove up to the front desk at OCW and asked. I was adamant that it was there - the guy at the desk was more adamant that only the Cabana Bar was behind his heavily guarded gate. He won that argument, but thankfully, that lead us to Coco Bistro!
If you're packing - you're bringing too much stuff. Bathing suits & tshirts during the day, nice shorts and a nice shirt (golf, button down) for even the nicest dinner are more than enough.
And here's the big one: the regulars on this forum REALLY KNOW WHAT THEY'RE TALKING ABOUT!! To all of you - thank you. I spent the last 4 months lurking (occasionally posting a question or answer) and soaking up the local knowledge. This was my second trip to TCI and it felt like my tenth because I know not just where a good lunch spot is, but how the chef used to be at this other place and left when it got sold to somebody else. Following this forum is like asking every single TCI cabbie and waitress "so, where's your favorite place to eat?"
To the regulars, thanks for guiding me. To anybody who's read this far, thanks for listening. TCI is a remarkable beach where you can feel remote and secluded 15 minutes before pulling up at a fine restaurant. There are lots of places in this world still on my to-do list, one is certainly "back to TCI".
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go to a meeting where I'll try to hear the surf behind all the important stuff we're going to cover.