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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Bahamian Rhapsody

As you know, Drew planned our honeymoon as a surprise for me. I had no idea where we were going until we reached our gate in Atlanta. Drew was relishing the surprise- giving me useless hints and false tips.  We finally reached our gate and, much to my embarrassment, I had no clue to which country the city of Nassau belongs.

However, the surprises just kept coming from the moment we landed until the moment we left.

The first two nights we stayed at The Graycliff Hotel, the oldest INN in Nassau. The mansion was originally built by a famous pirate of the Caribbean- John Graysmith. The mansion has been many things over the years, during the Revolutionary War the grounds served as naval headquarters for the US Navy. Following the war the home was turned into a private inn; the home was then purchased by British royalty and served as a home away from home for British Royalty until the ownership turned over again in 1977 and the mansion was turned into an inn once again. The hotel is also home to the first pool built in the Bahamas, a humidor, a wine cellar and a chocolate factory.

To be honest, stepping into the Graycliff feels like stepping into the pages of The Great Gatsby-it belongs to another era in almost every respect, from d├ęcor to service. Our first evening at the hotel, we enjoyed a bottle of champagne by the pool and some chocolates made in-house.  The pool has a beautiful mural painted on the floor, which hopefully you are able to discern from the picture. As we headed up the grand staircase to our room, we passed the owner sitting next to a man whose sole job is to sit and roll cigars from tobacco leaves all day. The owner gave Drew a hand rolled cigar and said “now, go to the patio and there’s your evening” with a thick Jersey accent and a directness you normally associate with movies.

The next morning, Drew told me to wear a swimsuit and a sundress. I willingly complied and blindly followed him to the harbor. “Swimming with dolphins” has always been on our bucket list (yes, we have a typed bucket list)- but no more~! We went to Blue Lagoon Island and partook in a dolphin experience. I have heard of many dolphin experiences and I truly think this must be one of the best. The dolphins seemed to have plenty of room to swim and play in the ocean, not in tanks,  and many of them are rescue dolphins of some sort. We were able to feed, kiss, rub, and dance with the dolphins. The highlight was the “push” at the very end; the dolphins push you with their nose as you outstretch your arms and “fly” across the water. It was wonderful!

Nets separate the dolphins during the day. We had two male dolphins with our group; however, just across the nets were two female dolphins with another group of tourists. The dolphins were so cute, they often risked a “time-out” from their trainer to swim over to the net and stare at the ladies for a while.

After the dolphin swim we were able to play among the cliffs and rocks on the island, lay out on the white sandy beach and sip on some rum drinks.

Jake and Stormy looking at the ladies.

Lost my swimsuit in the bahamas... )-:

That evening, we went to the five star restaurant at the Graycliff- the only five star restaurant on the island. We opened up our wine menu and obviously, we ordered a $200,000 bottle of wine from 1727. We didn’t find the wine to our liking so we had the sommelier take it away. (-;

This was probably my favorite evening of the trip. We hung out in the lounge while a woman sang and played piano. Three French ladies were also enjoying the music while simultaneously living up to every single French stereotype. They were beautiful, snide yet sweet, a bit bossy, and as charming as can be. They requested French song after French song, and when she did not know any of their requests they began to sing their favorite and told her she really must learn it.

The next day the biggest surprise of the trip awaited. Drew kept mentioning that he “didn’t know what to expect” and that we needed to bring our own alcohol. We went to a private dock where sailboat excursions pick up and drop off their clients; naturally, I assumed we were taking a sailboat excursion. There were signs for a yoga retreat pick-up and drop-off, but as Drew has only gone to yoga with me a handful of times, I wrote that off immediately.

I really didn’t believe it until we actually got on the boat to go to the yoga retreat.

Drew had my mom buy me a few new yoga outfits and he packed them in his bag. He also packed both of our yoga mats in his tiny suitcase, a feat I’m still quite impressed with. Upon our arrival, we were greeted by this sign:

You can imagine my initial concerns. The daily schedule looked like this:
6 am- 8 am: mandatory meditation and satsang (chanting in the temple)
8 am- 10 am: mandatory asanas (yoga on the platforms)
10 am: brunch
Noon: optional workshop
4 pm -6 pm: mandatory asanas
6 pm: dinner
8 pm- 10 pm: mandatory meditation and satsang

So we arrived during the “free-time” window in the afternoon and enjoyed the beach. The beach at the Ashram is everything you’d imagine a beach in the Bahamas would look like. At 4 we dutifully went to yoga at the platform on the bay. It was really fun despite the mosquitos. Thank Heavens for OFF!

That evening we went to meditation and the satsang in the temple. You have to cover your shoulders and knees to enter the temple, but Drew and I both accidentally wore shorts. It was a great experience. The next morning we went to the meditation, which was a silent walk down the beach and then satsang (chanting) during the sunrise. As Drew called it- “extreme hippie yoga”. Drew did sincerely enjoy playing the cymbal during the chanting/singing/praying- in fact, he might have enjoyed it a bit too much. (-;

Promptly following morning meditation we attended our second yoga session. Immediately after our delicious vegetarian brunch we went snorkeling with one of the members of the Ashram staff. It was wonderful because he took us off the beaten path and he threw in bread when we jumped in so we were surrounded by fish. He even let us feed the fish some bread and one of the little fishies bit my finger! The coral reef was stunning!

Up until this point we had pretty much followed the rules of the Ashram... with the only exception being a little sip of wine after the evening meditation the night before.

However, this sort of marks our departure from the rules of the Ashram. That afternoon we walked down the beach to Atlantis. Atlantis is a humongous, expensive resort. It is a little bit too mainstream for Drew and I, but boy were we glad we had the option to walk there to get a mojito  and some supreme nachos (meat, dairy and alcohol). When we walked back, I was sleepy from the mojitos and slept in a hammock- right through the mandatory asanas (Drew dutifully went). That night we went back to Atlantis, after the curfew.

The next morning we attended yoga and breakfast. Then we decided to walk down the beach (away from Atlantis) toward the lighthouse. There are only three private homes between the Ashram and the light house, one of them the former home of Nicholas Cage. The house is now in foreclosure because Mr. Cage got into a bit of trouble with the IRS. It looked like a short walk, with a short little swim around some rocks. What appeared to be a little outcropping of rocks was actually about a half a mile of rocky shoreline. The water near the rocks was quite deep so we had to swim the whole way. Those of you who know me well, know I have a serious phobia of fish and another phobia of being unable to breathe, so swimming in deep water with lots and lots of fish is a very panic-stricken scenario for me. I swam on my back most of the way so I didn’t have to look down and see what was- or wasn’t- swimming near me. It was a long, tiring swim, but when we finally reached the desolate beach on the far side of the rocks we were rewarded with our own private beach complete with a lighthouse and conch shells galore.

The swim back was really tiring because we were going against the waves and there was a storm coming in. When we finally made it, I took a two hour nap in the hammock. When I awoke, Drew took a two hour nap in the hammock. (-:

We made it through yoga and afterward we went out to Atlantis with our fellow yoga retreat buddies. One of our new friends- Fillippo- was at the retreat on karma yoga with his mom. This means that he has to work a minimum of five hours a day at the retreat.  A secondary reason he was on karma yoga was simply to learn English. I tried to teach him the word “cheapskate” but he thought we were saying cheesecake. So cheesecake became my new nickname haha.

The next morning we took off after the morning yoga session. We went to our third and final destination- the British Colonial Hilton.

The pictures pretty much say it all. We relaxed, enjoyed some drinks, soaked up the sun and swam.

Before our departure there was only one thing left to do... visit the Pirate Museum. As Drew said, he does have a weird Where’s Waldo-dressed-as-a-pirate tattoo.. we couldn’t leave without visiting “his people”.

We flew into Atlanta at 7 pm on Saturday evening. Drew thought he booked us a 7:35 pm flight to MSP, but he actually booked a 7:35 am flight to MSP. (-; So- lucky us- we spent an evening in Atlanta. We were able to check out the Olympic Centennial Park before we hit the hay.

So- now it’s back to reality. We received some really great items off our REI registry that should keep our lives interesting... We are pumped about our new hiking, camping and climbing gear!

I’ve also taken on my new project – the walk-in closet. Much to Drew’s horror, I’ve ripped everything out of the closet in an attempt to redecorate and reorganize the closet. I won’t rest until it looks like something straight off pinterest!

Om Shanti,

Closetzilla... hey, it’s always something, right?

P.S. My husband is the best. I love him so much and I'm so lucky he planned this amazing trip for us! See... I've turned into that annoying person that posts things like "I love my husband" on facebook. GROSS! hehe

Pics from the trip :

Rain at Senor Frogs on the last night... it was beautiful.


the beach at Blue Lagoon - where we swam with dolphins

Sunset at the Ashram

Drew at the Pirate museum... he's mature

The Beach Platform at the Ashram

Balcony at the Hilton

The Ashram


Hilton Beach

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