I needed a hit. Bracing winter winds had worn my spirit down to a snarky scowl. So go after the hit and name it: beach break in an island where everyone smiles and the colours pop.
Stepping off the plane onto the open tarmac, our tension slides down and out, defeated by the grinning troubadour crooning away as we pass the Welcome to Antigua sign. I was groovin’ already. I loved the Antiguans with their expansive smiles and courteous service. At this hotel, service was superlative.
|Carlisle Bay Hotel|
I’m strict about first impressions and hotel arrivals: get me at Go, or else I’ll sour to your attempted seductions. Travel is full of frustration and exhausting mileage unless you’re on a train with ample leg room or a road trip with witty passengers who share music playlists and bring snacks for the ride.
A decent welcome is everything.
Here, the manager greeted us warmly and directed our tired troop over a bougainvillea fringed pond to a couch with a cool drink and enquiries about what we wanted most from this vacation. Sleep, sun, salt water, we managed to squeak. Another smiley staff member escorted us to our room and explained the fresh fruit tray would change daily. Can I live here forever? Every day on the sand, just when I felt the heat begin to melt my brain, a cool, scented hand towel was offered to all beach bums, followed by a fruit kabob basket and, an hour or two later, a tropical juice. Lime crush for all, please and thanks.
A week in the tropics is not for everyone. Life is slooooow and hotttttttt and there are unusual creatures that cross your path-how about a mongoose?
(In Antigua, these were introduced on sugar plantations in the late 1800s to help eradicate cane rats.)
It helps to love the ocean. As sexy as a curved pool may be, I am a saltwater fanatic, and my winter self is best carried away on a Caribbean breeze that skips us out of the bay into the rolling swell.
It helps to be a reader. To sigh into your chair under an umbrella that shields the sun but never the seascape and thrill to a story without interruption is worth getting sunburned toes.
Here are two that I loved:
It helps to get out on the water. I am an imperfect vacationer, slow to the necessary unwind. My moment usually arrives mid-week as I look back at the shore from a small catamaran manned by my two favourite sailors. I can feel my shoulders suddenly drop an inch. The sludge slowly clears as we lean back for the head dunk as the wind picks up.
Slowly colour seeps back into our winter-weary gaze. Five months is a long time to live with slush, season lover aside.
I could do it alone. Packing little but notebooks and sunscreen and solitude could be mine…..Hmmm.
Who am I kidding? I’m lost without my travel mates who listen patiently to me repeatedly squeal over the decadent blooms and starry night sky. Even when they wear screaming colours on the beach…
or little at all. Even when they fill the shared bathroom with lotions and potions and dripping bikinis.
Family holidays are the freeze frame on the Story of Us.
We remember who we are outside of the bills, homework and work pressures. Laugh louder and longer. Shrink the distance between grievances and woes. Slather on affection with the sun cream and let each other be.
Soul reboot complete, with or without spring.