I woke up early, 10 minutes before the alarm clock was to go off, and when I say early I mean it. I was up at 3:50 am. At 4:00 am the kids were up. I figured I might have to drag them out of bed but they were excited and were all ready within fifteen minutes. Our plane to Miami left about 20 minutes late at just after 6:30. This early flight was not our favorite but with the schedule of flights to Eleuthera, it was the only available one that didn't force us to stay overnight in Miami.
The flight to Miami was uneventful until the landing. I've never flown into Miami before. It was very beautiful. The pristine blue ocean flanked by a long stretch of beach and a large protected bay. We flew inland past the airport and over a large tract of swamp. The colors and patterns of the swamp looked like they were painted by some insane but inspired artist. There were dabs of shiny water, wide strokes of black surrounded by rust red. A perfect canvas for a twisted mind.
The plane looped back and started descending. Just before we touched the ground the engines revved back up again. We climbed back into the sky, back past the beach looping around again over the mad swamp for another landing. We were all looking at one another wondering what had happened. It turns out that the plane that landed right before us hadn't cleared the runway yet.
We had about half an hour between flights. The guys were going ahead with the kids. I couldn't walk fast since I had my appendix out just a week ago. So C-- and I hobbled over to the gate. When we got there, our husbands and kids weren't there. Where did they go? They should have easily gotten there in half the time it took us. After about 5 minutes they finally showed up. They were going to the bathroom and Joel and Scott had also stopped to get the trip credited to their frequent flyer accounts.
Getting to the next plane was a pain. They had to bus us out to the next terminal, make us wait a while then bus us out to the plane. Because of the thunderstorms in Miami the plane took off 40 minutes late. We watched out the window on occasion seeing various islands pass below. They all looked lovely. And we couldn't wait to land. We had a little turbulence as we landed but no mishaps like Miami. The customs building was very small. We had filled out our immigration forms on the plane so we whizzed right through. However we were missing one of our bags. It contained most of Joel's clothing and all of Ben's clothing. Luckily I made everyone pack their toothbrush and their swimsuits on their carryons, so they could still swim.
We rented cars from Stanton Cooper. He seemed very friendly. He reminded us to drive on the left and gave us our car key and the house key and off we went. The cars were old and in some need of repair. They ran fine, but we had no rearview mirror. Later in the trip we found the rearview mirror hidden under the armrest on the front seat. The Meeks were given a minivan and the gearshift was a little off. On the way to the house our hubcap fell off. The Meeks stopped to pick up the hubcap which we replaced. Only later did we notice that this hubcap did not match the others. At least they seemed to drive all right.
Balara Manor was lovely. The grounds were a little beat up from the hurricane. Some palms had been up rooted and the grass by the ocean had been killed. Despite the damage to the flora it was still very picturesque.
Inside was also nice and the house is large. It has five bedrooms, a dining room, a living room, a tiny kitchen, a great room, four bathrooms and a laundry room. It was so large it could easily fit another family besides our two families. The layout is a bit strange however. As far as we can tell it used to be two small houses and the part in the middle didn't exist at all.
Joel immediately picked out the bedroom with the queen-sized bed. It had white filmy drapes that flowed in the breeze, a couch, two closets and a beautiful bed. From the windows you look out over the ocean. Very beautiful. [Ed: this was only partially greedy. I left the king-sized bed for the Meeks who were used to a king-sized bed.]
When we got to the house everyone was hungry since we hadn't eaten lunch. C-- pulled out some angelhair pasta she brought and cooked it up. No sauce and just a little margarine with garlic in it, but it filled us up.
After unpacking we all went out to the gazebo and got our snorkeling gear on. All except me that is (sob!). We were hoping that Joel's bag would show up on the next flight so I stayed out. It turned out the next flight was canceled but the bag came in the following day and USAir dropped it off at the house.
The water was a bit rough and the kids and C-- didn't get far. The guys went a little bit farther out and dived down to some coral. There is not much coral off the house but just a little. Mostly we had a lot of sand. It was close to low tide and you could walk out quite far and not get over your knees.
After the kids had enough of the water they went just past the seawall to play in the sand and the shells.
C-- and Joel went to the store for food. Food is very expensive on the island. Here are some examples: Tropicana OJ, 2 quarts for $6.37; Cheerios, 15 oz for $4.55; milk, 2 quarts for $3.15.
As soon as C-- and Joel got back I mixed up a batch of rum punch which we all drank out at the gazebo. The kids went swimming again.
Well the early day and the alcohol (and the fact that I'm not all healed yet) wiped me out. I figured we had better eat now or I'd fall asleep before dinner. C-- opted out of dinner, but the rest of us went to the New Sunset Inn.
Joel and I decided to split a seafood platter (crayfish, fried grouper, cracked conch) and some appetizers (conch fritters and conch chowder). Scott split one with Ben. Beth got steak and Amos chicken. The fritters were nothing to write home about, not very good. I wouldn't order them again. The conch chowder was fabulous, best that we had on the island. We asked the waitress if we could get take out of it someday and she said yes.
We also ordered some drinks, fruit punch and iced tea. They make it all from scratch. I watched as they mixed all sorts of things for the punch. The tea took a lot longer. They brewed it fresh then added ice. It was quite good. The fruit punch had too much pineapple for my tastes. It was just OK.
Dinner and the appetizers took forever. I've been told this is typical on Eleuthera. We will see how fast food comes in the future. It is hard to wait for long when you have hungry kids with you.
The dinner was well worth the wait . . . well maybe not Beth's beef, but who orders beef on a tropical island? On our seafood platters the best was the grouper. It was fried and tasted a little of lime. Very good. The fried conch was also good. If you love lobster (as my daughter and I do) you will like the crawfish (Caribbean lobster), but it really can't hold a candle to our New England lobsters. We've decided that if we come back we have to order the conch chowder and the grouper again.
I was hoping to finish dinner with a key lime pie, but their last piece was long gone at lunchtime. The Keebler soft batch cookies Joel got at the store were a poor substitute. Not long after eating a couple of cookies, we all crashed. It had been a very long day.
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