Thursday, July 10, 2008

Welcome to Turks & Caicos

Turks & Caicos Island Chain

The main island of Providenciales, where we stayed. Our resort was in Grace Bay,
where the purple dot is.

I thought I'd take a break from wedding thank you notes to start filling you in on the honeymoon... We went to Turks & Caicos, an island chain in the Caribbean. We knew we wanted to go to the Caribbean, but didn't know where to begin. We also knew that we wanted some place that felt secluded, nothing that felt like Resort Row. Luckily we caught a special on the Travel Channel highlighting various islands and were introduced to Turks.

In addition to the flights costing half as much as those to the lower Caribbean (St. Lucia, St. Johns, etc.), it had the exact feel that we wanted. It was small, a little unknown, and had enough fun activities around the island to keep us entertained. Our resort, the Royal West Indies, had similar criteria - small, good reviews, affordable.

We learned after we got there that Provo (short for Providenciales) is one of the wealthier islands in the Caribbean, meaning that we could walk around when ever we wanted and it was totally safe. It was incredible to be able to leave the resort and really get a feel for the island. It made us feel like we were able to immerse ourselves and truly become a part of the island for a while.

One of the main things that you notice when driving or walking around the island is how much construction there is. EVERY square inch we drove past was under construction with new homes, new resorts, new golf courses, etc. I have NEVER seen an area under as much construction as Turks is currently under. Unfortunately the small and hidden atmosphere of the place is about to disappear in the next five years.

In talking to some of the locals, they told us that the current Premiere is selling off every piece of the island, including the nature preserves. It's really unfortunate. Additionally, thanks to the increasing popularity of the island, people are making money hand over fist in the real estate boom. Unlike the falling real estate market in the US, it hasn't hit a lot of the islands because they rely on the wealth of the world, rather than the wealth of just the US. In fact, many of the tourists we ran in to weren't from the US. One woman was showing us that the ocean front properties where she lives were selling for $60k ten years ago, $300k five years ago, and are now going for $1.3M. Even the resort we were staying in had a write up about how each acre of their oceanfront property went for $375k when they bought the property in 1996 and now is valued at $1.2M per acre. It's unbelievable.

On to our resort - the Royal West Indies. We found it because it was one of the places our travel agent was able to book us at. Initially they pitched themselves as a low key resort, a way for you to afford a vacation on Grace Bay without taking out a loan. So they mentioned that the rooms weren't ornate or marble or anything like that, just basic rooms with little kitchenettes in them. And we learned from our trip to Jamaica a few years ago that you're rarely in your room and don't need to dump money into it. Also, they didn't have an onsight spa like many of the resorts do, but again, it didn't matter.

But after we got there we found out that they had really undersold themselves. The resort and the rooms were both amazing. They gave us the top floor (3rd), the staff was wonderful, the grounds were pristine, and there were plenty of amenities.

To begin with, our room was COVERED in pink flowers - on the bed, in the towels, in a bath they had drawn for us, on the floor, everywhere. They also gave us a bottle of champagne that was chilling on ice when we got there.

And I really don't know what they were talking about by saying that the rooms were "moderate" because we thought they were beautiful. I just can't describe the feeling of walking into a room when you know you have 9 days ahead of you to do nothing but eat, drink, and relax. It's indescribable. B and I had never taken a vacation alone before, so this was a first. Now I understand why people go away every year.

And you know what the crazy thing was? It took us a full four or five days to 100% relax. We're all so trained to go, go, go in our normal working days that when you go someplace and have no responsibility other than to relax, it takes a while to sink in. And it wasn't that we weren't relaxed during those first four days, but we both had this little tiny nagging voice that showed up every now and then that said "OK, that was relaxing, what's next? Let's get going and move on to the next relaxing activity!" In talking to some other people, they've experienced a similar feeling on vacation.

In fact, partly because of that feeling, we decided that if we had to choose between a five day vacation every year and a ten day vacation every other year, we think we'd choose the ten day vacation. In addition to being able to unwind more, being in Turks for so long allowed it to sink into our bones and really feel like home. On the day we left we talked about how after spending so much time there, we felt like we really got to know the place - it will live in us forever the way other trips haven't.

Stay tuned for future honeymoon posts about the food, activities, etc.

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