We finally took a vacation

I hate to be dramatic, but it has been an eternity since we’ve taken a proper vacation. Almost every weekend is spent upstate, yes and short trips to visit family in another state, sure, and a hop to Disney last summer, okay. But otherwise, it’s been a slog (3 years?) of renovations and working and weddings, etc. And I don’t know what happened but sometime around last November we finally broke down and decided it was time to take advantage of Winter Break.

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I found it hard to believe that Exuma would look as insanely stunning as the pictures I’d collected online, but before we even touched down, it was pretty clear that it would, indeed, live up to expectations. Look.at.that.water.

I found it hard to believe that Exuma would look as insanely stunning as the pictures I’d collected online, but before we even touched down, it was pretty clear that it would, indeed, live up to expectations. Look.at.that.water.

The view from our hotel pool was picture perfect, despite the color of sea water being almost garish, frankly. ;p

The view from our hotel pool was picture perfect, despite the color of sea water being almost garish, frankly. ;p

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The hotel beach was perfect, too.

The hotel beach was perfect, too.

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Luck of the draw we got upgraded to a Penthouse, which I think just means we got the top floor and a slightly larger apartment. Somehow as soon as we walked in the room, Alice insisted that the kids get the Master Suite because the parents always get the Master and it’s their turn. She was laughing so hard and finding it so funny, I thought she deserved to win the fight. Plus, the rooms were practically identical, both had King beds, the only difference was a balcony and a larger bathroom in the Master.

Our first morning, on our first full day, we took an excursion all the way to the opposite end of the island… a whopping 35 miles away. It gave us en excuse to get the lay of the land and see the entire island on our way to what has been called The Most Beautiful Beach in the World, and is located at 23 26N 75 35W, right on the meridian line that defines the northern extent of the tropics.

Our first morning, on our first full day, we took an excursion all the way to the opposite end of the island… a whopping 35 miles away. It gave us en excuse to get the lay of the land and see the entire island on our way to what has been called The Most Beautiful Beach in the World, and is located at 23 26N 75 35W, right on the meridian line that defines the northern extent of the tropics.

Never had such well behaved kids in the car, maybe it’s because it’s so hilarious to see Daddy driving on the wrong side of the car  and  the wrong side of the road?

Never had such well behaved kids in the car, maybe it’s because it’s so hilarious to see Daddy driving on the wrong side of the car and the wrong side of the road?

We made it to the Tropic of Cancer!

We made it to the Tropic of Cancer!

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Look.at.that.water.

Look.at.that.water.

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Does this look like a movie set or what? It all looks  fake . I mean look.at.that.water.

Does this look like a movie set or what? It all looks fake. I mean look.at.that.water.

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A piece of dead coral or a Megaladon tooth? We decided it was the latter, obviously, and packed it in our suitcase to keep it forever.

A piece of dead coral or a Megaladon tooth? We decided it was the latter, obviously, and packed it in our suitcase to keep it forever.

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This house is proving what I’ve always knows to be true: you don’t have to be rich to be pretty.

This house is proving what I’ve always knows to be true: you don’t have to be rich to be pretty.

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Lemon sharks! See them? Easy to spot irl, hard to capture on camera, fun to watch regardless. A whole family of them came all the way up to the shore as they swam past.

Lemon sharks! See them? Easy to spot irl, hard to capture on camera, fun to watch regardless. A whole family of them came all the way up to the shore as they swam past.

 
We took the water taxi to Chat N Chill for their famous Sunday afternoon Pig Roast party.

We took the water taxi to Chat N Chill for their famous Sunday afternoon Pig Roast party.

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It’s pretty amazing that sting rays just swim right up to you! Although Everett was too shy to feed them, he let them swim by his extended hand, closing the gap an inch every time, and finally he got enough courage to actually touch one. He says they feel like a sponge.

It’s pretty amazing that sting rays just swim right up to you! Although Everett was too shy to feed them, he let them swim by his extended hand, closing the gap an inch every time, and finally he got enough courage to actually touch one. He says they feel like a sponge.

I think they feel like thick suede hides.

I think they feel like thick suede hides.

Alice pet the cats instead.

Alice pet the cats instead.

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When we hopped back to the dock on the main island, some locals just happened to be feeding the Black Tip Reef Sharks swimming below.

 

Our second day was also the second afternoon that Everett felt really tired and weak, with zero appetite and no desire to be out in the pool or on the beach. Could he really be that worn out from the morning excursion? Is it a ruse to stay inside so he can just play his Nintendo? Is he sick? We weren’t totally sure until it was impossible to miss – he was sick. Like, real sick. A very high fever and so super grumpy, coughing all night, complete with the kind of moaning and groaning that only comes from someone who’s trying to be strong and brave and not a burden but just can’t help it because they feel like such crap. And it also seemed like Alice was starting to feel ill, too, runny nose, pale and exhausted.

In the afternoons we just accepted it and spent them in our (thankfully very spacious, very clean, very comfortable, and very amenity-filled) apartment, lounging on the sofa and taking jacuzzi baths and swimming in our king beds. We cooked dinner that nobody ate any of. Nights were harder and included a lot of wet rags, cold baths, and at one point I was literally balancing ice packs directly on Everett’s skin without him flinching an ounce. I was thankful the kids were in in the Master bedroom as Alice had requested/demanded, because it was easy for me to take him into the bath when I had to or just leave heaps of towels all over the floor with room to spare.

On Monday morning we knew we needed professional medical care and got in front of a doctor, hit the pharmacy, and after just one dose of antibiotics and some ancient, magical island cough syrup concoction, he was on our way to feeling better. Scheduled to leave this hotel for another, more remote one, the very next day (Tuesday), we took advantage of another full 24 hours for Everett to just lay around like a couch potato to relax and rest.

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But that afternoon we did sneak away with Alice to give her a special excursion to Cocoplum Beach.

But that afternoon we did sneak away with Alice to give her a special excursion to Cocoplum Beach.

If Alice could invent a beach from her imagination, I think this is what she’d come up with. Water so clear and so colorful you can’t believe it’s real. A swing in the water. And the best beach-combing she’s ever seen, with teeny, tiny white shells as pure and pristine as the water and sand dollars hiding under your toes.

If Alice could invent a beach from her imagination, I think this is what she’d come up with. Water so clear and so colorful you can’t believe it’s real. A swing in the water. And the best beach-combing she’s ever seen, with teeny, tiny white shells as pure and pristine as the water and sand dollars hiding under your toes.

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We walked along a sandbar inside the sea and Daddy found her a sand dollar.

We walked along a sandbar inside the sea and Daddy found her a sand dollar.

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That evening Everett seemed to finally be feeling really well, so we decided to take the golf cart for a spin around the hotel and explore a bit on our way to dinner. The pictures don’t capture it, but the moon that evening was really full, really bright, a silvery glowing orb in the watercolor sky. We climbed to the edge of the island to get a closer peek and soak in our last evening in this magical place.

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A quick dip in the pool after breakfast before trekking down the island and across Elizabeth Harbour to the next hotel.

A quick dip in the pool after breakfast before trekking down the island and across Elizabeth Harbour to the next hotel.

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(This is what you get when a 6 year old is handling the DSLR. Not too shabby, considering.)

(This is what you get when a 6 year old is handling the DSLR. Not too shabby, considering.)

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Getting the gossip on the fancy yachts in the harbor and the handful of private homes on Stocking Island (pop. 10).

Getting the gossip on the fancy yachts in the harbor and the handful of private homes on Stocking Island (pop. 10).

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Situated around the back of such a tiny cay, an island not even 3 miles long, it felt like we were on our own private island. The hotel, with only 12 rooms, ran the width of the island, and it was only a few minute walk (probably only about 1,000’) down a beautifully landscaped path to reach the other end. So remote that there's no overnight staff, communications with concierge really need to happen 24 hours in advance, and if you want coffee you need to make it yourself. We realized that breakfast begins later than you’d expect in the morning because the staff needs time to make the commute from Great Exuma Island. We never got to enjoy the bar and game room because every night we were here there weren’t enough guests to warrant having it open. Three members of the concierge staff welcomed us on the dock with a silver tray of fancy drinks for all four of us and cool towels that smelled like eucalyptus. But then they also gave us a walkie-talkie to get in touch with them in case we needed anything overnight or even during the day and couldn’t find anyone. And even though all that sounds like a little bit of a hassle, it was exactly what we wanted.

Situated around the back of such a tiny cay, an island not even 3 miles long, it felt like we were on our own private island. The hotel, with only 12 rooms, ran the width of the island, and it was only a few minute walk (probably only about 1,000’) down a beautifully landscaped path to reach the other end. So remote that there's no overnight staff, communications with concierge really need to happen 24 hours in advance, and if you want coffee you need to make it yourself. We realized that breakfast begins later than you’d expect in the morning because the staff needs time to make the commute from Great Exuma Island. We never got to enjoy the bar and game room because every night we were here there weren’t enough guests to warrant having it open. Three members of the concierge staff welcomed us on the dock with a silver tray of fancy drinks for all four of us and cool towels that smelled like eucalyptus. But then they also gave us a walkie-talkie to get in touch with them in case we needed anything overnight or even during the day and couldn’t find anyone. And even though all that sounds like a little bit of a hassle, it was exactly what we wanted.

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Such a remote hotel means our own private beach (on what feels like our own private island).

Such a remote hotel means our own private beach (on what feels like our own private island).

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Scott found the sand dollars (again). He learned how to spot them and dig them up. Between the sharks and sting rays and conch and sand dollars, it was so amazing to interact with all this sea life in their natural habitat. (And we didn’t even get to the many nearby sea turtles and dolphins!)

Scott found the sand dollars (again). He learned how to spot them and dig them up. Between the sharks and sting rays and conch and sand dollars, it was so amazing to interact with all this sea life in their natural habitat. (And we didn’t even get to the many nearby sea turtles and dolphins!)

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Officially in the back half of our vacation, we were all finally well enough for the main event. A boat trip to see several of the nearby cays and feed iguanas and swim with pigs! I’d had to reschedule it, and of course we had to travel all the way back to our previous hotel, even further, in fact, bright and early, but it only made us that much more excited.

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Look.at.that.water.

Look.at.that.water.

And look: pigs! They’re just as whimsical and surreal as you’d expect. Not too graceful, even int he water, but some do have a fierce doggie paddle. If they get too aggressive coming at you for a carrot, just splash them in the face and they’ll back away.

And look: pigs! They’re just as whimsical and surreal as you’d expect. Not too graceful, even int he water, but some do have a fierce doggie paddle. If they get too aggressive coming at you for a carrot, just splash them in the face and they’ll back away.

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Back on the boat to our next stop. (Look.at.that.water.)

Back on the boat to our next stop. (Look.at.that.water.)

So many cays out here, the water seemingly never exceeding a few feet deep. Look.at.that.water!!

So many cays out here, the water seemingly never exceeding a few feet deep. Look.at.that.water!!

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The iguanas eat red grapes. Hide your painted toenails, lest they get confused. I made sure my feet were covered in sand and kept them curled under as much as I could, just in case. Those little dinosaurs were everywhere.

The iguanas eat red grapes. Hide your painted toenails, lest they get confused. I made sure my feet were covered in sand and kept them curled under as much as I could, just in case. Those little dinosaurs were everywhere.

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Look.at.that.water.

Look.at.that.water.

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Back at the hotel on our private beach on our private island.

Back at the hotel on our private beach on our private island.

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The light here is something else. It’s like liquid gold pouring out of the sky and into everything on earth.

The light here is something else. It’s like liquid gold pouring out of the sky and into everything on earth.

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Scott kayaked around the island from our room to the beach. Meanwhile, I also exercised…. my  patience  waiting for him with a cold beer.

Scott kayaked around the island from our room to the beach. Meanwhile, I also exercised…. my patience waiting for him with a cold beer.

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First time snorkeling for Everett and I was both so proud and so impressed with how quickly he took to it and how well he did.

First time snorkeling for Everett and I was both so proud and so impressed with how quickly he took to it and how well he did.

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This cutie.

This cutie.

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A seven day trip, it only felt like three. Maybe because we spent half of it with a really sick kid, but maybe because it just whizzes by so fast wen you’re in paradise. Our last night was the first night we all slept well. No coughing from Everett, Alice not chastising Everett for hogging the bed and crawling into our bed for the rest of the night, only to spend 2am – 6am kicking us and somehow (perplexingly) managing to steal the blankets from both of us despite her position in the middle. We all woke up, with the sunrise, smiling, well-rested, the kids literally giggling to each other. All I could think was “oh how I wish we had one more day,” I thought we were so clever, flying back home on a Friday to have the entire weekend to prepare for “real life,” but why did we rob ourselves on another full Friday (or even another whole Saturday) in paradise?!

With a 12:51pm flight, it meant we had to leave the hotel at 10am, so we had only a couple hours in the morning to have a bite to eat and then run out to the beach and sink our toes in the sand, see what the tide brought in, put our faces in the salt water, and blow a kiss goodbye to the sand dollars. Alice found a tiny coconut to add to her beach treasures coming home with us and Everett got another session of Fortnite dances in waste deep water. Scott and I spent the time plotting our return.

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