… to Turks & Caicos

Alright, busted. This post is coming nearly 3 months after-the-fact but better late than never, right?

At the end of March, Steven (one of my very dear friends from high school and college who now lives in NYC) and I took our first trip together to the island of Turks and Caicos. It was right after my birthday and just before his so it was somewhat of a “let’s go somewhere tropical” and “let’s celebrate our birthdays” trip! We deserved it.

March 22, 2018 – Day 1

The trip started off with an insanely early wake-up call. Steven was lucky enough to catch a direct flight from NYC to T&C but I had to go through Miami first. We timed it so we would both land in T&C within about an hour of each other which just meant I had to get an earlier start with a 6am flight out of Houston. My dad did not want to drive me to the airport at that ungodly hour (can you blame him?) so I caught an Uber. However, my dad’s neighborhood is gated and the Uber could not get in so my dad still had to wake up and drive me to the firehouse across the street to meet the Uber. Oops. Thanks, dad!

The Uber driver was an interesting, chatty lady who almost made me feel bad for needing an Uber at 4:30am. The hell? I made the mistake of thinking my flight was ‘international’ so we went to the wrong terminal at first but we had plenty of time to correct ourselves. Of course the flight to Miami would not be international; I blame lack of sleep for that error.

I was not checking a bag and security lines were short at that hour so it was a smooth check-in. I stopped at Starbucks for a Bacon Gouda sandwich (a tasty breakfast my boyfriend, Bobby, introduced me too a few weeks prior that had become a little addiction). No coffee for this gal… I slept the entire plane ride.

The Miami airport was something else. I had to walk/ride to what felt like the other side of Florida to get to my next terminal. It was a ridiculous amount of long halls, several escalators, and 2 trams. Luckily, I had enough time but it was cutting it close! I slept about half the plane ride this time and enjoyed the extra leg room I paid for. Worth it. I could have done without all of the babies crying but such is life.

If you recall, Steven and I were supposed to land around the same time. I was nervous we would not be able to find each other. He had broken his phone the night before after a nasty slip on ice outside his apartment (good ol’ NYC blizzards) so he had no way to contact me or I him. Well, that turned out to be a non-issue. The T&C airport was SMALL. So. Very. Small. I was not allowed to wait inside so I went outside and waited for him. I saw Rico, our driver to our Airbnb, holding a sign for Steven so I paired up with him and we waited. About an hour later, Steven came hobbling out (he also sprained his ankle pretty badly during the slip). I had picked him up a sturdy ankle brace before I left so he strapped in and we kept our fingers crossed it was not broken.

Rico was so nice and pleasant as he took us to the Airbnb, Kokomo Botanical Resort. It was a beautiful villa, about 5-10 minutes away from the resort area/ocean. We were greeted by Gabriella (the owner) and a handful of butlers who gave us warm towels to wipe our faces, a welcome drink, and a quick tour of the area. It was such a lovely space with 2 rooms and just perfect for what we needed! We received our villa keys, laughed at the option to buy a $30 bath pack when the place did not have a bathtub, and decided our first stop would be the grocery store.

We could not pick up our Vespa (our chosen method of transportation for the trip) until the next morning so we walked to the nearby grocery store, Graceway, to stock up for the week. I felt so bad for Steven because I knew his ankle was killing him through the crazy paths but he was a trooper and pressed on.

I had not eaten since Starbucks minus the free snacks on the plane and by this point it was 5pm, so I was starving. I made some guacamole and the two of us devoured it. Being stranded at the villa for the evening, we relaxed pool-side, enjoyed the hot tub, and drank (they have a local Rum, Bambarra, that became our mixer of choice). A lot. As the sun disappeared, we shifted to one of the many the cabanas and kept drinking and listening to music. Eventually, we made tacos, then returned to the cabana for our own Taylor Swift karaoke. The weather was so amazing and we had such a fun, drunken time staring at the stars. Because of our long day of travel, we were out by 10:30pm.

March 23, 2018 – Day 2

I was up by 7:30am and just hung out in bed and talked to Bobby for a bit. I missed him so much already. He was in Florida for a wedding at the time and it was our first time since we had started dating that we had been apart. *cue the awes*

Eventually, I got up and got ready for the day. Rico took us to pick up our vespa and tried to talk us out of renting it the entire time. He said it was going to rain and we’d be miserable (thank you for the Rico Weather Report, but it never rained that day). We pressed on. We picked up our single vespa and had decided I would be our driver for the trip. Everyone was required to go through a mini training on how to drive the thing so I attempted that and to say I was bad at it would be the biggest understatement of all time. I was NOT a natural. Needless to say, Steven drove the whole trip while I hung on for my dear life and navigated us around.

Our first stop was Coral Gardens. It is said to have great corals for snorkeling. It was our first glimpse of the amazingly blue water and gorgeous beaches T&C has to offer so it was pretty exciting. We lounged on the beach and soaked up the sun for a little bit. The water looked so nice but was kind of cold! We did not book an official snorkeling tour but instead, brought our own gear and were going to attempt it ourselves. I had never snorkeled before so I was nervous but eventually just went for it. Steven attempted it but his ankle was bothering him too much so he did not make it long. So, there I was in the cold water, not knowing how to snorkel and getting water everywhere. Eventually I learned that the trick was to be CALM. Breathe normally. Do not panic. That is general life advice, right? Anyway, I eventually got the hang of it. I brought an underwater camera but the battery was dead (of course) so I did not get to take pictures but I did enjoy getting up close and personal with the fish. I expected to see beautiful, colorful reefs but that was not the case. The views were just… okay. I had never seen anything like it before so it was better than nothing but definitely not what I expected. I did like having a cute little blue and yellow fish be about a foot from my face. That was cool.

We relaxed at the beach for a little longer then decided to head home, drop off our gear, download the offline maps for T&C so we could navigate around, and get a drink. My hair was SO tangled and gross from the water, vespa helmet, and wind. It was a nightmare.

Steven found a great place a little farther South called Bugaloo’s. This became our place! We LOVED this place. It was quite a vespa ride to get there (about 20 minutes, I guessed, and very bumpy at the end when we had to off-road a little bit), but it was so worth it. We also experienced our first (and last) vespa ‘crash’ as we fell over when we tried to slow down/turn/park. We both managed to hop off before it fell but Steven hopped off on his bad ankle, only aggravating it more. The restaurant and the beach it was on were beyond beautiful, the best beach we had seen so far. The environment there was great. Steven was a little quiet; I could tell he was hurting and frustrated that his ankle was holding him back from having the trip he wanted to have. He perked up though and we had a fun time. The place had a fun entertainer guy who played music, sang, and interacted with the crowd. “Conch” was the popular item on the menu and apparently popular for T&C so we decided to try it. It was just okay; nothing to get excited about. A little chewy. Bugaloo’s was also where I realized I was starting to develop a nice sunburn. I applied sunscreen at the beach but it never crossed my mind that sitting on the back of a vespa still meant I was in the sun… so the tops of my arms, legs, and of course my shoulders were starting to get a nice pink. I applied more sunscreen!

After a nice lunch and a few drinks, we decided to go explore some areas on the map the vespa rental place had provided us. She had pointed out some good places to go and one seemed nearby so we headed that direction. (Side note: this was the same lady who told us that “everyone has vespas” in T&C and I swear, I did not see one other person on a vespa the entire trip.) We followed my GPS to Taylor Bay Beach, one we heard was really nice. Unfortunately for us, my GPS did not care if the suggested roads were paved or not… so we did QUITE A BIT of off-roading. At one point, right before the roads got really bad, a guy in a truck that was parked nearby honked at us, probably trying to tell us to not go that way. Us being us, we went anyway. I did tell Steven we should turn around (the “roads” were so bumpy) but it made more sense to keep going and hope it get better. The area it took us through was a tad shady and that is putting it nicely. I actually felt slightly uncomfortable and tried not to entertain the voice in my head telling me that was how we were going to get kidnapped and die. I did not want to be on the news.

Eventually, we made it back to paved roads and ended up in a surprisingly nice area. Everywhere we tried to turn to get to the beaches, including Taylor Bay Beach, was blocked off and marked as “private.” What we could see was beautiful, though. Even so, the I learned that island itself was complete garbage. We passed a lot of half-built houses, abandoned lots, trash everywhere, etc. Whenever a house WAS finished, it was incredibly nice! Wherever there was water, gorgeous. Everywhere in between? Yikes. (We later learned that the island was recovering from some serious damage from Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.)

Our map had Chalk Sound View as a good place to visit so we kept driving to find it. There were so many times I said we should turn around or that we had gone too far (we were going AWAY from the villa into more and more remote areas) but Steven had a feeling we were close. He was right and we found the place. It was worth it, of course. Basically, it was a long narrow road to the edge of a cliff. Nothing indicated it was a “place to visit.” The view faced inland so the water we saw was more of a bay than the ocean but it was huge and amazing. We saw a truck coming down the small path to the ledge and got a little apprehensive (were we in trouble?? were we about to get murdered?) but they just said they saw us heading down there and wanted to come offer to take our picture. That was nice!

We were not there long because despite how beautiful it was, it was just a cliff ledge with nothing to do and no where to go. As we were leaving, a couple we had seen at Bugaloo’s earlier (and who turned around at the area of the road where the truck honked at us to turn around), pulled up. I guess they were looking for the same place as us! They were in a car but they did not brave the bumpy roads and shady area like us. Probably smart. I offered to take their picture for them and then we headed back, this time on the main roads the entire time.

I felt like we had been on that vespa… forever. I could tell my skin was frying, my legs were hurting from holding on, and my back was hurting (no back support). I am sure Steven was feeling it too! It was so windy and of course being on the vespa just made it windier. My sunglasses were lifesavers; I do not know how Steven drove without a pair. I thought we should head back home but Steven wanted to go North this time up the main highway so we went that way. He was getting more confident with his driving skills but I was still scared to be on the dang thing (I mentally renamed it a ‘death-spa’). As we went more and more North, I started to get anxiety about not knowing where we were or flying off the back of the vespa. It was getting darker and the areas were a little scary. I had not come to T&C to get kidnapped or disappear on the island, no thank you. I desperately wanted to turn around but I also did not want to be a wet blanket and who knew if we would actually find something cool? So, I mostly kept quiet! Eventually, I pointed out to Steven that the map did not have any ‘landmarks’ or ‘activities’ or anything to do up North so we were headed no where. He agreed and we turned around.

We had passed a bar called da Conch Shack and it was on our itinerary to visit the next day so we decided to go there next before going back to the villa (which was far at this point). A stray dog welcomed us and fell in love with Steven. Stray dogs always make me sad. It was cold in the shade, nice in the sun, and windy as all hell so we only stayed for a quick drink before heading home. Plus, most of the restaurant was on sand and it was very difficult for Steven to walk on sand with his hurt ankle. We decided to maybe come back another night for dinner and their live music.

We made a quick stop at the grocery store for some essentials (sunscreen, aloe, cookies, and wine) and were home by 5pm. I was burnt. Everything hurt. I could feel the heat radiating off of me. I fell asleep on the couch for about an hour while Steven was at the pool. Then I fell asleep again. And again. Steven made guacamole and I tried to have a drink but the only thing that sounded good was water. I was definitely not drinking enough water.

The rest of the evening was spent just lounging and snacking. We went through all the pictures we had taken (I tossed the cover up I had worn all day, that thing was so unflattering in pictures), listened to music, and rested. We were both in bed and out by 10pm. The sun really took it out of us! There was a roach on my blinds before bed (yuck) and I missed Bobby. We texted a lot but during the day we were both out and about and distracted but at night, I always missed him just a bit more!

March 24, 2018 – Day 3

We both slept in. We needed it. We made a big breakfast at the villa before heading out for the day. Since we had gone West the day before, we decided to go East and explore what that side of the island had to offer. Apparently, it had a lot! We found the very nice side of town and the tourist area. The resorts were beautiful but some of those houses there… wow. They were all different styles and very, very fancy. It was so weird to see those houses compared to other areas of the island we had visited. Talk about an income gap.

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A lot of the beaches were still private but we did eventually find one, it just did not have a great place to lounge.

We kept going and ended up at Sunset Beach for a couple of hours. It was so nice to rest and do nothing for a bit except soak up the sun and watch the water. I loved that beach!

After awhile, we got hungry and after a quick stop to pick up some souvenirs, we went back to the villa to get some snacks. We had all those groceries, we might as well eat them instead of going out! It was nice to be out of the sun for a bit, too. We thought about visiting the private beach the villa had access to (about 5 minutes away) but decided against it and went to the store for more wine instead. Our villa had a cute patio so we enjoyed wine on the patio before getting dressed up for our “formal dinner” night.

Steven had a very detailed itinerary planned for us with a restaurant already picked out but since we had not done most of the things on it (because of his ankle) we decided to go back to our beloved Bugaloo’s for birthday dinner. Steven picked out this dress for me and insisted I get it – I loved it so much! I felt very beautiful in it.

We loved Bugaloo’s the first time but at night it was even more amazing. There was a completely different vibe going on but not necessarily a party vibe either. The place was lit up with string lights and the entertainment guy was a little more chill. The tide had receded a bit, too, which gave us great access to the boat we could not reach earlier. We intentionally arrived there just as the sun went down so we could have nice sunset pictures. Everyone watched us take about 1,000 photos and one guy (who took one of us together) even said he and his wife thought we were on our honeymoon. We laughed!

Steven had ordered a bottle of wine for us and when we ran out, I ordered another while Steven was in the bathroom. He came back and then informed me the bottle was $60! We also ate a LOT: Conch salad (yes, we attempted the conch again, it needed chips though), corn fritters (yum), and drilled shrimp. We drank and ate and had a fun time. I danced alone on the dance floor; I blame the alcohol. $300 later, we called it a night. (PS – we did not realize until the last day that in T&C, tip is already on the check so we had tipped generously, too!). After the sun went down, it had gotten rather cold and windy so it was definitely time to go.

At the villa, I tried to have a drink and be social but I was beyond tired. The hot tub was hurting my sunburn so I did not last long and went to sleep. It had been a slow, relaxing day but I was exhausted. I think Steven stayed up for awhile longer.

March 25, 2018 – Day 4

I slept in, hard. I normally cannot sleep in like that but vacation me was completely capable. Eventually I got up and cleaned the villa up for a little bit. Our “butler” at the villa would clean up for us once a day but we tended to make it messy again quickly. We got a slow start which was nice.

Our first adventure for the day was a massage. I knew we had massages booked but did not know where they would be so I called Jason (one of the butlers) on the villa phone (they had given us a cell phone with only the butlers’ and Rico’s numbers) to find out because I was getting nervous we would be late. Steven was still sleeping and I did not want to miss the massages! Luckily, they were local at the villa pool, just a 30 second walk from our front door. It was a grrrrrreat, hour-long massage and totally needed. My sunburn hurt a little bit but it was so nice and relaxing. Plus, the weather in T&C was always great so it being outside was a nice touch.

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Our villa was being cleaned when our massages were finished so we sat in the cabana for a little bit, completely spaced out in a massage coma. When we were allowed back in our room, Steven made fish tacos, we snacked on plantain chips (we were addicted to those the whole time), and then we went to the villa’s private beach nearby.

The beach had chairs and umbrellas for us so we got cozy and hung out there for about 3 hours. We both slept on and off the whole time. The sun was blocked by clouds which kept it cooler out so every now and then, I would use a towel as a blanket. Seesh. I looked around and was not alone though; several people were doing the same thing. It was nice to be in the shade after all the sun we had gotten but I do not like being cold! We had our music playing and brought our own rum drinks so it was just a nice, chill afternoon.

We went back to the room and cleaned up for dinner. We decided to have dinner at Shark Bite, a little place on the water. I loved it there! There was a beautiful sunset over Turtle Cove that we were lucky enough to see. I had a delicious hamburger (I was so done with conch). We reminisced over our trip and just enjoyed our last evening on the island. Steven and I had never taken a trip together and I think we were both excited but nervous about it; you never know how 2 people will get along on a trip like this. We both agreed it was very successful and would do it again! I liked the vibe of the place a lot so we hung out there for awhile.

We took one last stop at the grocery store on the way home and then relaxed on our patio. Bobby and I had obviously talked the entire trip but only in text but now that he was home from his own trip, we were finally able to video chat. It was great to actually see his face again and hear his voice! Did I mention that I had missed him?

March 26, 2018 – Day 5

We had to drop the vespa off early so we got up, packed, cleaned up a bit, and returned the vespa. Rico had to pick us up and take us home; we did not know it was the last time we would see him! We had a last big breakfast, with delicious rice, to fill us up before our long day of travel (or for me, at least until Miami). Steven went to go swim for a bit until our taxi was ready to take us to the airport but I did not want to get sweaty again so I finished packing and relaxed inside until it was time to leave.

Rico was supposed to get us but I guess had another trip so he sent an insane man to pick us up. This guy was a nut job. He was kind of rude, on the phone a lot, and an aggressive driver. He picked up 2 other guys from another area who were also going to the airport and together we survived the drive.

It was the same small, shady airport but this time I got to see the departures area. What a mess. Steven had to check his luggage so I went ahead through security. It took no time at all to get through everything, even with the ridiculous people who behave as if they have never been through an airport before. When the security guy is telling you to take your laptop out, he means take your laptop out! The guy literally asked, “do I have to take both laptops out?” Oh my gosh, yes. People.

For some reason I had lost the ability to send text messages that day. Messages were not leaving my phone at all and it was stressing me out. I wanted to be able to tell Bobby and my family I was on my way. To kill time, I started outlining my blog. At one point, an American Airlines representative came over to talk to me and checked my boarding pass. It was odd.

I waited for Steven to come through security but never saw him. We did not get an official goodbye but that was probably better anyhow as neither of like awkward, sentimental goodbyes. I did see him as I was in line to board my plane but at that point, it did not make sense. He was probably just as fine with that as I was, which is one of the reasons we get along so well!

It was a short flight to Miami and I played Sudoku on my phone the whole time.

I was supposed to have a 4 hour layover but my flight landed SO early and I flew through customs so I tried to catch an earlier flight so I could get home to see Bobby earlier. My original flight was expected to land in Houston around 9pm and I did not want to wait that long. I literally ran to the gate (remember all those halls and escalators?). I made it to the gate in time but there were already people on the standby list so I was SOL. Thus began my 4 hour wait. I slowly made my way back to my original gate area to grab a bite to eat. I bought headphones only to learn after I ripped the box open that my phone did not have a headphone port anymore. Of course! I found an outlet, ate my pizza, and charged my phone while I played more Sudoku.

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My gate changed approximately 400 times without me even knowing. I was not getting any notifications and they were not making announcements, probably because it was still so early before the actual flight time. Luckily, my text messaging was working and Bobby was sending me updates on where to go. I had to go back to the ANOTHER side of the airport. That side was so much nicer and had better food options; I should have waited to eat! The layover went by very fast and before I knew it, I was on the plane home.

The last flight was great. I had an in-seat screen and was suddenly thankful for the headphones I had purchased and deemed useless earlier. Bobby had sent me a code for WiFi on the plane so we had messaged back and forth a little bit about my arrival time, trying to coordinate him picking me up. I finally watched the movie Coco (and cried like a baby during it).

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When I landed, Bobby was there in my car, with Elliott, to pick me up! It was a great trip but I was so happy to be home.

Steven and I spent a lot of time putting together our “lewks” for the trip (outfits) and planning a schedule. We had the most detailed itinerary I had ever seen in my life. We did not wear half of our outfits and did not do almost anything on the itinerary but it was such a fun trip! I am lucky to have a friend like him and to have stayed in touch so well after college while living in different cities! I hope we can take another adventure together in the future!

Until next time,

Jillian

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