• A winter escape to Turks and Caicos

    winter escape to turks and caicos

    It’s freezing in the Northeast and a lot of people are cranky. My area could get another foot of snow this week. There’s no denying that this winter is brutal. One of my favorite posts was about “vacation moments” — or good times that make you feel better when you remember them. Now I have to take my own advice and think about my warm vacation in the Turks and Caicos. If you’d like, grab a hot mug of coffee or a margarita (whatever sets the mood), and let me take you on a tour.

    turks and caicos collage

    We left for our trip on a day like today — amidst freezing and miserable weather — to spend five nights in Providenciales (or Provo). My husband and I booked the trip several months before with our cousins, who had been there previously. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. All I knew from them was that they loved the ocean. Most of the top attractions here are either Carribbean-facing beaches or small bays. That wasn’t a huge selling point for me, as well as the fact that food and drinks weren’t included at the resort.

    turks and caicos fridge
    Our vacation fridge stocked with important stuff.

    Before the trip, we rented a RAV 4 from “Scooter Bob’s“. Though we had some laughs because it didn’t seem like a “real” rental place, everything turned out well. It was convenient to have a car to get to the places we wanted to see, as you’ll read below. There was a supermarket nearby, where we went to grab some snacks and drinks on the first night. The prices there were at about Whole Foods/organic food prices for regular things. Regardless, the car served us well and we had enough cheese, crackers and fruit to last us through the week.

    The beach near Seven Stars. Photo courtesy of my cousin.
    The beach near Seven Stars. Photo courtesy of my cousin.

    We stayed at Seven Stars Resort, which is located at Grace Bay along with most of the large hotels in Provo (Point B on the map below). I know I had low expectations but our cousins definitely did not oversell the beaches. I was in love the first time my feet hit the sand! The water was extremely calm — practically still — for most of the week and so clear that I could see my bright pink pedicure. So now the important part…

    What to do for six days in Provo

    Our morning started with the free continental breakfast.  We got up fairly early to an empty beach and spent the next five hours floating, tanning and reading. The concierge helped us make reservations and many of the people working at Seven Stars gave us recommendations. We left the resort for lunch and dinner to visit the local establishments. Some were fancy places, others were… off-road experiences. (I’ll tell you why).

    The menu at almost every restaurant featured seafood. Some of the fancier dinner options had steak, but I can’t say I was impressed. The fish on the other hand was always fresh and seasoned very well. Mr. Grouper was probably the closest to our hotel and we had a great lunch there, thanks to a tip from a staff member.

    Discarded conch shells at Bugaloos
    Discarded conch shells at Bugaloos. Another photo via my cousin.

    One of my favorite places was Bugaloos (Point C, above). Here you can have lunch right on the beach and watch someone catch conch (the island’s specialty), which could end up on your plate. We walked around and picked up a giant conch shell to take home. They sell polished shells but if you’re fine with a rougher looking one, there are a ton on the beach. After our lunch there we got directions for our road trip to Taylor Bay — a private beach with extremely shallow water. First, the waitress gave us her version of where to go, and then from a group of tourists who were “just there.”

    Photo via this link.
    Photo via this link.

    Take a left onto the main road, they said, then another left and another left. Well, we ended up on a road that rivaled the moon in the amount of craters. Given that we were told the beach would be hard to find, we kept driving through these craters until we saw people. They weren’t any help, so we turned around and bounced through the craters again. We finally made it and spent some time amused by how far we could walk in the shallow bay. It was a great photo-op, but we didn’t stay for more than an hour.

    We also visited Yoshis Sushi Bar (Point H) for dinner twice. The sushi was as good as some of the expensive places in New York City and the menus were iPads. It was crowded on Friday night, but we never made reservations. We were told by a waiter that Friday’s are always busy in Provo, which is saying a lot. The stores and restaurants did not seem crowded at all during the week considering how many hotels were in our area.

    For our second to last night in Provo we made plans to celebrate my cousin’s birthday at Mango Reef (at Alexandra hotel). It was also on the beach and our dinner was candlelit. We had a great time although the next day my husband got food poisoning. I have no idea what caused it so visit this place at your own discretion.

    I won’t go into much more detail about the other locations, but everything’s there on my map.

    sevenstarsbeach

    Tips & tricks in TCI

    The first time we got lost in Providenciales trying to get from the airport to our car rental place, we drove the entire length of the island (Leeward Highway). That didn’t take all too long — the entire island is about 38 miles long. If you have international data on your phone, use the map! We started out using a paper map and missed several turns. Driving was generally fine, but keep in mind that you’ll be on the left side with the steering wheel on the right (unless you get an American car). If you’re from the U.S., it’s backwards. Also, I didn’t see anyone stopping at stop signs — not even a pause. Basically, be careful.

    Another tip is to ask people at the hotel (bother visitors and staff) for recommendations on activities and food. We spent a lot of time at our hotel’s beach, and I imagine everyone else did too. We found that they provided beach toys for kids and floating lounge chairs for adults. That’s me floating in the photo at the top. There was supposedly a library, but I never saw any books in the lobby. (Yes, I care). We were told the hotel also rented out DVDs, bicycles and provided non-motorized water sports. I didn’t take advantage of those during our stay but it was good to know what was available for free.

    tci-shells

    At sunset, we’d walk on the beach, explore other hotels and collect seashells. It was a beautiful vacation and a nice break from winter. I’ll probably be thinking about it a lot while I’m huddled under layers of sweaters and blankets.

    What’s your dream vacation to escape the winter? Let me know in the comments below or on Facebook.

  • happiness marcus the elder quote

    What are your vacation moments?

    atlantic city
    At Caesar’s Palace in Atlantic City, N.J.

    Whenever it starts getting cold and the holiday season approaches, I start thinking about what has been going on in my life. The New Year is on my mind.

    One of the big changes in my life for 2013 was that I started working with my husband. This means a lot of time in the same apartment, staring at different screens. We have been kind of busy so this weekend we decided to take a one-night trip to Atlantic City.

    The first thing that happens on a trip like this is that we get in the car and rejoice that there’s no TSA or airport to deal with. (I still hate packing! It’s a real problem.)

    Let’s call it a road trip because what should have been a two-hour drive actually took four. That was all right. One of us is driving and the other is DJing. It’s a trip to spend some time together after all. We wanted to get away for a day or two, before anyone really noticed we were gone.

    We go without our families, we put our obligations on hold. Despite the ridiculous, mid-day traffic in New Jersey, we have a good time getting to our destination. He lets me choose the music. We talk about politics, the economy, the future. I talk about that guy from Duck Dynasty who was in the news. We entertain ourselves and say sweet things instead of yelling at people slowing down on the highway.

    We stay at Harrah’s for the night. Our goal was to check in and go swimming. We relax in a hot tub with a bunch of strangers instead because… vacation. We check out of work mode for those hours — it’s all about us.

    happiness quote

    But vacation is not life. That doesn’t mean life is not good when we get home. It doesn’t mean we didn’t have good moments before getting in the car.

    A few days ago, a friend and I discussed how people are able to choose a partner* and then live with them for the rest of their lives. There’s the cliche five-year itch and the marital bickering from knowing too much or getting too comfortable. She asked me how couples deal with seeing the worst of each other over time.

    What do I think, you ask? Yes, it’s wise to continuously do things for each other. It’s good to give, even when you don’t feel like it. But what really help are the “vacation” moments. Not the physical act of leaving your home. Instead, it’s free and only takes as long as you want. That is, you have to remember that the good moments happened at all. It’s easier to remember the negatives. It’s easier to joke to your friends about the cliches because like any stereotype, the truth is there.

    I’ve been seeing these “memory jars” posted online, which really makes the idea literal. Basically, you put a note in a jar whenever something good happens, big or small, and then you read all of the notes at the end of the year. I think it’s a great idea to bring to a relationship or just to do for yourself.

    I might give it a try, and remember being on vacation all year ’round.