So much life in the city, you won’t believe
Been awake for some days now, no time to sleep
If your heart is a pillow, this love’s the bed
Tell me what is the music, inside my head
– Chris Brown
You know when you take a vacation, and then need to take another just to recover? I think that’s kinda what happened here. The week of Thanksgiving was such a blur, I hardly feel like I had seven hours off, much less seven days.
I complain, but honestly, that is how I like it. I love staying busy. I love making house visits, having dinner dates, getting mani’s and pedi’s, and doing drinks with the girls. I love when everyone comes into town. I like knowing I am not wasting a single minute away from work.
Anyhow, Thanksgiving itself went by rather quickly. Nana and Papa made it up to our house this year for the holiday festivities. Having Nana and Papa here for Thanksgiving made things extra special. I guess I had lost track of time, but prior to a few weeks ago, those two had not been to Hickory in two years. Wow, were we excited to see them!
A couple of other very important people made the pilgrimage to HKY for Thanksgiving also – Tay and Kristen! Nothing gets me all jazzed up like a BFF reunion does. Again, prior to a few weeks ago, the BP (Tay, Kristen, Kayla, and I) had not been in the same room in two and a half years. (Okay, so what’s up with the two years bit? No, seriously, what the hell?) So on Thanksgiving Eve, we met at the very last place we all left off at – Pancho Villa.
After dinner with Kristen’s family, we moved onto drinks with Kayla’s Dad at Buffalo Wild Wings and finally the traditional shit-show at the Tavern. We spent the evening laughing, and talking, and giggling, and hugging, and taking pictures, and eating, and drinking, and dancing. It was exactly how I wanted it to be. It was nice, and normal – but most importantly – exactly how I remembered it being.
On Thanksgiving Day there was parade watching, cooking, eating, visiting, laughing… and traveling.
Mr. Big and I had been looking forward to Thanksgiving all year long. Thanksgiving is Big’s favorite holiday. He loves football and food just as much as the next guy, however, this year he was anxious for a completely unrelated reason. This year was the year of the cruise!
Back in January, we booked a cruise with Mr. Big’s parents – Momma and Daddy B. We were so excited to get away for a few days we couldn’t stand it. The ship left out of Charleston, South Carolina (a.k.a. my birth city/favoritest place on earth), on Black Friday and sailed for six days through the Bahamas. Woohoo!
So, I bet you’re wondering what we did, right? Well the itinerary went as follows:
After Thanksgiving dinner, or lunch rather, Big and I drove down to Charleston. Before meeting up with his parents at our hotel downtown, we made a pit stop by Mimmie’s for some leftover turkey and dressing. We finally made it to our hotel room around 10:30 p.m.
None of us could sleep past 7:00 a.m. Whether it was vacation excitement or those sorry ass hotel pillows, I am not sure, but I slept like crap that night. The four of us drove around the city for a bit and finally settled on Toast for breakfast. Throughout our meal, I was on the phone making a last minute dolphin swim reservation and Mr. Big was trying to figure out how we could trick his parents into going to the liquor store before we boarded the ship. (Yes, yes my friends, we were those guys. Those guys who smuggled booze on the cruise ship. [Mind you – booze we never drank.])
It was a beautiful day in Charleston. We walked the market and stopped for some pralines before making it to the port. Boarding the ship went seamlessly; soon we were on our way.
We waved goodbye to the Cooper River bridge, the USS Yorktown, the United States Custom House, Fort Sumter, and the city coastline. It was windy and chilly but the sun was shining brightly on the water. I looked back at my city and smiled.
Our first day at sea was windy – sunny, but very windy. Big and I stayed wrapped up in a towel on a lounge chair for the better part of the day napping and looking out at the ocean as it passed under us.
It was nice not having anything to do. It was nice napping on and off throughout the day without feeling like I was missing something. However, it was getting to be a little too chilly and I was starting to get restless… and then someone mentioned the casino.
I have never gambled. Granted, I have only been of legal gambling age for the past three years. Anyhow, most would be surprised to know that I haven’t yet experienced the rush of the roulette wheel or the siren song of the slot machines. Mr. Big, on the other hand, is convinced he is God’s gift to the Texas Hold’em tables. So after a quick wardrobe change and a dip in our wallets, we met his parents in the casino.
Ironically, every so often Big has a way of making me feel like he is more mature than I am, more worldly, and knowledgeable about things far removed from our everyday life. I say this is ironic because typically he’s the one leaning over and whispering to me, “Babe, what’s the difference between flat and sparkling water… I just want tea.” However, when we walked into the casino I had no idea what I was looking at.
I thought you just put a penny in the slot machine and pulled the lever. I didn’t realize there were minimum bets, real dollar bills, and reading involved. I had imagined old ladies sporting clear visors, wind suits, and fanny packs. I thought the woman behind the money counter was going to hand me a plastic bucket and some plastic chips. I didn’t realize it was so… legit.
My excitement quickly began to frustrate Mr. Big. I was asking too many questions and he wasn’t answering fast enough or detailed enough. He kept rambling on about math and counting cards. I wasn’t trying to hear that crap. Finally, I threw up my hand and said, “This shit ain’t rocket science, babe. You fools can think what you want but it has nothing to do with counting, science, what time of day it is, or how the sun is positioned – it is pure luck. Pure and simple luck. And hey, if you don’t bet big – you don’t lose big. I’ll see you dudes later.”
Momma B and I headed off to the slot machines. I put my first dollar in and pulled the lever. Nothing. Yeah, okay, so the little wheely things moved but it didn’t flash, “You WIN!” or “You lose.” across the screen. How was I supposed to know what happened? Actually, come to think about it, I can’t even remember if it was even a dollar machine. Was it a penny machine and I walked away from $.99? Who knows. What I do know is, Momma B and I moved on… real quick.
After watching Momma B lose a dollar or so at a blackjack machine, we got fed up and went hunting for the men. We found them chin-in-hands studying a real blackjack game across the room. I was intrigued. Not with blackjack but with the game right next to it – roulette. It was simple. A five dollar minimum and all I had to do was feel what I thought was right.
Big had already lost $20.00 to the wheel but he had a lot of advice for an amateur like myself. For the first couple of rounds I let him guide my hand. And for the first couple of rounds the dealer kept swiping up my chips. “Look, you clearly don’t know what you are doing here. It’s a freakin’ wheel. It’s luck. You’ve just gotta feel it, man. Now get up outta my ear. I’ve got this.” And I did. Twenty dollars worth. I cashed out and went to the blackjack machine I had just watched Momma B lose money on… bam, $43.25. I cashed out. For good.
Overall, in 15 minutes, I won back all of the money I had put in plus 50 bucks. Fabulous. Mr. Big, however, lost like $60.00 that day. He was pissed. Pissed that I had felt my way all the way to the bank…
By Sunday we were in Nassau. I had our entire day planned. First things first though – dolphin swimmin’.
The only thing I wanted to do the entire time we were away on this cruise was swim with a godforsaken dolphin. And you know how I am, once I get something in my head, it’s all over.
We busted our balls to get off the ship as soon as we could, grabbed a cab, caught a ferry, and made our way over to Blue Lagoon Island. The ferry ride was perfect. The weather – awesome. It was only 8:30 in the morning and I was eating it all up.
Soon the ferry boat navigated its way into a cove and we all shuffled onto the dock. As we walked across the dock and toward the tiki huts in the distance dolphins splashed to the surface right beside of us. They were literally swimming and playing just feet away from us. Wow! This was gonna be perfect!
The four of us sat through my dolphin orientation, and before I knew, it the presenter asked those of us who were participating in the 8:30 swim to stand and follow her. Oh crap. That’s it? I mean, I still had a bra on. Luckily, I had enough time to get changed and into a wetsuit.
Mr. Big and his parents watched from the dock as I bobbed in the water with a random family of four and a real-life dolphin. Each one of us danced with our dolphin, and kissed her, and rubbed her, and hugged her, and touched her tongue, and fed her a fish. We all received a special gift from the bottom of the ocean from our dolphin and oohed and aahed over how intelligent this beautiful animal was.
Our group of five had been in the water with the dolphin for close to 45 minutes before the trainers instructed us to swim back to the dock. They told us to wave goodbye to the dolphin we had just gotten to know as they ushered in three new girls for the “swim” portion of our event. Before I knew it, I was doggy paddling out to the middle of the cove. I positioned my body exactly the way the trainer had demonstrated and in a matter of seconds two wet dolphin noses nuzzled their way perfectly into the nook of my toes and lifted me out of the water.
For 12-ish seconds I glided across the ocean, held up only by two of the smartest creatures on the planet. It was so cool! And don’t worry, Big got the whole thing on videotape : ).
After that, I was done. We could have chartered that ferry all the way back to North Carolina and I wouldn’t have cared. I came, I saw, I swam with dolphins. Mission accomplished. However, it was only 10:30 a.m. We had the whole day ahead of us and an entire private island to ourselves… it was time to explore.
Big and I walked the entire island and waded our way out into the surf. When we grew bored of that, we played on the oversized inflatable toys anchored out in the middle of the cove. (Trust me, those are the videos you want to see.) We conquered all of the toys, had a picnic on the beach, and rested off our lunch in hammocks under the prettiest palm trees you have ever seen. Yeah, if it sounds absolutely fabulous – well it was, so be jealous.
Shortly after lunch, we hopped back on the ferry and sailed back over to the main island. Big and his parents had never been to Atlantis before so we walked from the ferry terminal to the resort. It was just as extravagant as I remember it being. However, just as expensive as well. So we hailed another cab and went back towards the shops near our ship.
At this point, Big and I parted ways with his parents. I scoured the local t-shirt shops looking for souvenirs while Mr. Big looked for the best buy he could find on Cuban cigars. By 3:00 p.m. everything started to close down… everything but a cigar and coffee shop airing the Miami Dolphins game. I should have known. I should have guessed that my boyfriend, despite being miles and miles away from our home land, could manage to sniff out his precious Dolphins in country he had never stepped foot in.
We watched the last four minutes of the game and got back on the ship. It had been a long day. A long but lovely day.
I was a little concerned about our day at Freeport. My aunt, uncle, and little cousins had literally just gotten off of our cruise ship the morning we got on and told us there was absolutely nothing to do in Freeport. Auntie Crystal explained that instead of doing anything extravagant, they got off of the ship, rented a car, drove all over the entire island, and did just whatever the hell they wanted to do. So, that’s what we did… and it turned out to be one of the best vacation days I have ever had.
Dad is the type of person who plans every moment out of our entire family vacation. I can still remember him getting us all up at 6:00 a.m. every morning we were at Disney World, “Time to get up! We’re on vacation! Time to get up!” Ugh, we hated it. But I get it now. He wanted us to not miss a single thing. He wanted us to have the opportunity to see every piece of Disney that it had to offer. And we did… trust me.
As an adult, I am the same way. When Big and I or the BP goes on vacation, I plan. After the four of us girls graduated college we went on a road trip to Miami – the morning we were supposed to leave I got them up at 4:00 a.m. so we could be gone by five and in Orlando by two. The year Big and I spent New Year’s Eve in Disney World, we completed four parks in two days and saw everything. I’m a planner, what can I say?
Anyhow, our lack of plans for the Freeport day was stressing me out. But I trusted my aunt, after all, she did just get off the boat – literally. So we rented a Yaris and started driving.
Boy was Auntie Crystal right. Most of the city was boarded up and run down. It looked as if it’s people had just packed their shit up and sailed away. Nothing about the town was appealing or interesting – it was sad and desolate. We drove through tired streets, past weather-battered forests, and by many vacant buildings. It was sad. I remember thinking, “Why would they bring us here? Why would a cruise ship dock here? Nothing is left.”
When I talked with Auntie Crystal about their day at Freeport she told me about a national park we absolutely had to see. Lucayan National Park is a 30 minutes drive from the city of Freeport. The 40-acre park includes: beaches, swampland, a crystal clear creek, and is home to one of the world’s longest underwater cave systems.
We walked through the caves and revelled at their natural beauty. Fresh water had settled perfectly on top of murky salt water to create the most beautiful blue glassy light at the bottom of these underground caves. The water was so clear you could see every dirt particle that moved. Even in the dark shadows of the cave itself the water glistened. It was beautiful.
The caves were neat but I was anxious to see the beach. Auntie Crystal had mentioned the beaches of Gold Rock Beach were the same beaches Captain Jack Sparrow had sprinted across during one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. We wandered through a long winding path that led us over a translucent creek, through a forrest, and under a canopy of palm trees. I thought we would never get there. Suddenly, the dirty path in front of us dipped up. Big and I walked up the incline and stopped dead in our tracks. My mouth dropped, “Holy shit.”
It was one of those moments where the earth’s beauty stops you. One of those movie moments I have talked so frequently about. For some amount of time we were frozen. I was too stunned to even fumble with my camera, if that tells you anything. It was the most breathtaking view I have ever seen. The water was this indescribable shade of blue, the sand was a creamy soft white, and the sun was shining brighter than I had ever noticed before. It was truly a paradise.
Huge salt and sand blasted pieces of driftwood litered the beach. Palm trees dotted the coastline. The water was so shallow it looked as if we could walk through the surf for miles. There were no waves crashing, or kids running, or umbrellas tumbling, or whistles blowing. Actually, the only people on the beach were the four of us. I will never forget that feeling. I will never forget looking over that dirt hill and seeing that beach. Then I thought, “This is why they brought us here. It’s gorgeous.”
We climbed down to the sand and walked in the water. I have never heard a quiet like that before. It was perfect.
As much as I wanted to stay on that beach forever, our stomachs were beginning to growl. It was lunchtime. We all piled back into the Yaris and Big began driving on the wrong side of the road again (don’t worry, the wrong side is the right side in the Bahamas). The guy we had rented the car from had mentioned a local restaurant called Banana Bay. Mr. Big was dying for some local cuisine so we figured we would give it a shot.
The first time we saw the Banana Bay restaurant, we drove right past it, convinced it wasn’t open. The second time we saw Banana Bay, we were voting on who would go inside and rate its disgustingness. Big and I lost out. As we walked around, what ended up being the wrong side of the restaurant, I held on tightly to Big’s hand. I was convinced we were going to die here. There was absolutely zero cars in the parking lot and we were walking up to what looked like a storage room rather than a restaurant. And then Big and I turned the corner. My mouth dropped, “We have to eat here, babe. I don’t care if all they have is Captain’s Wafers, we’re eating here.”
Do you remember the beach that just took my breath away? Yeah, well, Banana Bay sits directly on that very beach just a few miles down. It was freakin’ gorgeous, and as it turns out, the restaurant wasn’t even that bad (again, we didn’t even walk up on the right side). We went outside and grabbed Momma and Daddy B, parked the car, and claimed the picnic table closest to the water (after all, we were the only ones in the joint).
We sipped on piña coladas, local beer, and tea with lime. We ate mahi-mahi, Pigeon peas and rice, and conch soup. We talked, and took pictures, and laughed, and took in the view. I cannot imagine a better, more beautiful, lunchin’ spot.
The rest of the afternoon was rather uneventful. We stopped by another beach near a resort that was no where near as pretty as our beaches at Lucayan. Before turning the car in, Momma B and I bought a few more souvenirs at a straw market. And then, to pass time, Big and I got drunk at Señor Frog’s, made it back on the boat just in time, and slept through dinner.
Our last day at sea. Again, the weather was perfect. Hardly any wind and mostly sunshine as far as the eye could see. The four of us found lounge chairs at the back of the ship and set up shop. Honestly though, aside from the water slide races Big and I had, and the storm that moved in on us as we were in the hot tub, the most exciting part of Day 6 had to have been what happened just before bed.
I left Mr. Big in the casino at the Texas Hold’em table. Some crazy bitch had threw me off my game and caused me to lose five dollars at the roulette table so I decided to call it a night. I went back to the room, packed all of my suitcases, laid everything out neatly for in the morning, washed my face, and gotten into bed.
Shortly after I turned the lights off the door opened. I wasn’t asleep but I wasn’t completely awake either… until the lights flickered on. The next thing I know Big jumped on the bed. “Babe, are you awake? Babe, guess what?!!” And then he started to sing, “You gotta know when to hold’em, know when to fold’em,” all the while makin’ it rain with his Texas Hold’em winnings. “Get the hell off of me, fool!”
That night he ended up wining like $300.00 (over the course of our trip he won back everything he had lost plus 350-ish dollars). At that point, I didn’t care. He could have won 300 thousand dollars and I wouldn’t have cared, I was tired. Then he had the balls to proceed to pack his suitcase – on top of me. What the hell, man? I kept having to say, “Shut up!” because he just kept singing that same part of The Gambler over, and over again (mainly because it’s the only part he knows). Then, as quickly as he came in, he disappeared again.
Come to find out, he had to make one last trip upstairs for a victory hamburger and hotdog – at midnight. Perks of life on the water, I guess.
We were exhausted. Six days of hardly any sleep, plus, Big’s little victory dance from the night before didn’t exactly make matters better as far as my mood was concerned. Getting off the ship was a pain. The weather wasn’t as lovely as it had been and I was ready to get back home. I was ready to see my little dog – ready to eat a freakin’ biscuit for God’s sake. But I couldn’t leave Charleston without taking Momma and Daddy B on a carriage ride and Big wasn’t leaving without oysters.
So horses and oysters it was.
The week passed by so quickly I can hardly believe it has already came and went. Big and Daddy B made fun of me the whole time for taking so many pictures but, honestly, I have looked at those pictures probably 12 times just since we’ve been home. The four of us had such a great time we couldn’t get off the ship good before we were planning our next vacation!
I hope you all had a fabulous Thanksgiving with your family and friends! Did you go out on Black Friday and fight the crazies for a deal or two? Did you eat yourself silly? Let me know how you spent your holiday weekend!