Part 3: A Trip Down Memory Lane into a Whole New World
6:15 a.m. Bing! I’m awake.
Everyone else is still nestled deep in their dreams. I resist the urge to wake them, and decide instead to strike out on my own.
My explorations this morning take me far down to the eastern end of Sandy Ground, past even Elvis’. It’s not the prettiest beach on this end, I concede. Definitely more working class (although Lauren did pronounce it “the most beautiful beach ever” the previous day), and truly, that string of restaurants looks much better all lit up at night. Still, it has a certain charm of its own, even with the restaurants boarded up from the previous night.
I walk the beach all the way back toward the other end where the shipwreck lies. The ambience on this side of the pier is much better, for sure. In fact, it’s really quite beautiful. A young couple are enjoying the beach on the far end. I wonder if they are staying at a hotel on the hill above, maybe came down on a path I saw leading up into the trees. I make a note to check it out at a later time.
Back at the villa I take survey. The structure sits on about an acre of land. Two units, one upstairs, one down. We are in the larger upstairs one.
It has a large back yard and an even larger front, a tennis court that’s seen better days, and a kidney-shaped pool whose contents I don’t trust but certainly is pretty to look at.
A large tree in front with a swing, lots of palm trees on both sides, and best of all a flamboyant tree just beyond the upstairs railing that seems to be the gathering pool for hummingbirds.
It’s not a luxury villa, but it’s really not bad. With some minor repairs and a few updates, it could really be something. Which would drive up the price, of course. I’m not even going to tell you how much we ended up paying for it. You wouldn’t believe me anyway.
At nine o’clock the jeep we rented from Island Car Rentals is delivered by a young woman whose name I don’t remember now but was absolutely lovely. It takes only a few minutes to fill out the necessary paperwork, but we enjoy chatting with her about the island and about the property behind the “No Trespassing” sign. She informs us that it used to be a beachfront resort named Mariners, but was decimated in a hurricane in 2009 and has sat abandoned ever since. Intriguing.
We have wheels now! We’re off to explore.
Well, not quite so quick. First it’s off to the grocery store for provisions, as all we have at present is a jar of peanut butter and some “biscuits.”
The Best Buy on Long Path Road is a vast improvement over the grocery store we visited in 1994, its aisles well stocked with many of things we use at home.
We need just a few things, mainly munchies, drinks, and some breakfast items. However, when I see the price tag of $16 dollars on a box of cereal, peanut butter and biscuits don’t sound half bad. Until I realize that’s Eastern Caribbean dollars. A bargain, in that case. Bait and switch.
Amusingly, gin is less expensive than milk. But not nearly as good on cereal.
We return to the villa with our loot, pack a cooler, and we’re off to explore.
We almost miss Le Bon Pain, set as it is so modestly off the road. The choices are rather limited, as we have arrived late in the morning. Still, we make off with chocolate croissants, almond croissants, cafe au laits and bottles of juice. As tempting as it is to tear into it all right there, we decide instead to have a picnic at Savannah Bay.
And let me tell you, that is some serious restraint, because it takes just about three days to get to Savannah Bay on that “road.” We congratulate ourselves for renting a jeep.
Ahh, Savannah Bay, how I love you. Just the right amount of wild. And your palm trees are so charming, persevering in spite of the obvious abuse they take from all that wind. The perfect spot for a picnic breakfast.
Well, except for all that wind. But we persevere right along with the trees.
The rest of the morning is filled with snorkeling down the beach and body surfing at its far end, where the waves become much larger. I watch from the beach, again. Hey, I am Fun Mom in all ways except when it comes to water. That’s my husband’s territory. Remember the near-drowning incident I mentioned?
Fun Mom kicks back into gear once we (minus Mark, who has popped a beer back on the beach) head back toward Junks Hole. This is my territory. Which I quickly discover would be better traversed in shoes sturdier than the flip flops we are wearing. Note to self for next time. Still, we keep going, curious to see what lies around the next corner, then the next.
Back at the beach, I see that Nat is just opening up shop, and it’s so tempting to stay. But, alas! we are off to Shoal Bay East. So many beaches, so little time.
My heart flutters a bit as we start down that road to SBE. This was the beach that sealed the deal for me so many years ago. I can’t wait for my children to see it. Talk about the “most beautiful beach ever.”
Cars line the sides of the road. Definitely more crowded than I remember. A man directs us to park, and assures us there’s no need to pay. So far so good. But as soon as we step out of the car another man tells us he’ll set us up with chairs and an umbrella. Though I’m not keen on the hustling, the guy seems harmless enough, and for $10 a place to recline and some shade does sound nice.
But what is this? The man leads us into a thick forest of chairs and umbrellas. My first view of Shoal Bay East had been of a pristine paradise; my kids’ is more like Jersey Shore.
The man starts to set us up in the second row of chairs, but I’m having none of that. I make him move us down to the end of the row, where we can have an unobstructed view of the ocean, and we set up for the day.
This is not how I remember SBE.
The kids play around in the crystal water. I almost suggest they swim out to where Mark and I found the amazing snorkeling on our honeymoon, but then I recall my near-death experience and think better of it.
For lunch we head Uncle Ernie’s, for old time’s sake. It is not how I remember it either. The Heinekens are now twice the price and half the size, and the people working the counter seem uninterested in serving us. Even worse, the burgers we order are dry and my fish sandwich fishy.
Not good, Uncle Earnie’s. Not good.
One good thing that did come from this lunch? Our introduction to Ting, that nectar of the gods. Not familiar with Ting? It’s a grapefruit soda, but made with real grapefruit. There’s grapefruit pulp actually floating around the bottom of the bottle. We are instant fans.
Emboldened by the Tings, we decide to abandon our umbrella and chairs and head to a less populated area of the beach. I don’t think we even came down this far on our last trip, as there was no need to, but it is stunning. I find myself falling in love again.
The beach is sparsely populated down here. Much to the delight of my 15-year old son, one of those people is a beautiful young woman sunbathing topless, apparently oblivious to the rules governing the matter. It’s possible my husband is enjoying the show too; personally I’m just in awe that anyone’s breasts could be so… buoyant.
We walk around the point, but don’t get very far. The beach completely disappears under water. Too bad, because I suspect that Gwen’s lies just on the other side.
As we walk back down the beach I notice what is probably a good snorkeling spot just out from the point, and am just about to point it out when Zoe points out a slew of little bubbles on her neck and on the skin between her fingers.
Poor thing. While Lauren and Aaron benefit from their father’s Greek blood, Zoe inherited my lighter complexion. Sure enough, sun poisoning. Who knew all the places you have to protect in such unrelenting sun?
Time to head back.
After returning to the villa and showering off the day’s sand and salt, we grab a couple of chairs and a bottle of wine and tote them back down to the beach. And make a fabulous discovery: we have what might be one of the best vantage points for viewing the sunset on the island, just steps from our back door.
And that evening we are treated to a magnificent sunset, one that just goes on and on.
Dinner that night is another trip down memory lane, this time at Roy’s, although it’s in its new location just steps from our villa. However, I’m almost too tired to eat. The kids and I just order some light fare, Caesar salads and French onion soup. Mark orders the fish and chips, and it is delightful. Lightly battered and full of flavor. I decide we need to come back Friday for happy hour.
For now, though, we are all exhausted. It’s not yet even nine o’clock, but everybody is done for the day. We head back down the short stretch of beach to the villa.
(“that’s a mighty big rope”).
We crawl into bed a very tired troupe of travelers. Tomorrow it’s Meads Bay for the day; tonight we sleep.