From Maggi: Realtime Installments from Vieques

Old Aug 8th, 2007, 10:22 PM
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From Maggi: Realtime Installments from Vieques

Hi all! It's been a roller coaster ride these last two days on our journey here from Michigan to Vieques. All's well that ends well and so it certainly has, thank God.

It started with those five little dreaded words, "The flight has been cancelled." For the second time for me in as many weeks Northwest abandoned an entire planeload of people and has us rushing to another gate for "rebooking". My friend and I were busy on our cellphones while our husbands dutifully waited in line with the other cattle. Somehow, miraculously, she was able to get a Northwest agent on the phone and get us on another flight leaving an hour later. As we rushed to the gate we wondered how long it would take the other 200 odd passengers to get out of Detroit.

We made our connection in Newark for San Juan and arrived at 1:30am. Since we had a 6:30am flight with VAL we had decided not to book a hotel room for just a few hours, so we spent the time at the airport. By the way, some of our time was spent trying to find one piece of our friends' luggage, which we ultimately discovered had not arrived with us in San Juan.

At 5:30 we needed to get to Isla Grande airport. There was a taxi driver patiently waiting outside and we agreed to let him take us. He barely managed to cram all of our bags in the trunk and we were on our way. Right away, we noticed an alarming noise coming from the cab. It sounded as if the car was rubbing on the tires with the weight of all four of us, the driver and the luggage. It was too late to turn back now, but we prayed our way all the way to the Isla Grande airport.

Whew! We were finally on our last leg, exhausted but happy that we would soon we ensconsed in our beautiful, oceanfront rental villa. We got our rental car and met our rental agent. Our first clue that something was wrong was when we pulled into the driveway of the villa to overgrown vegetation that scraped our car as we tried to get through. The second clue was when she could barely open the front door which was swollen shut. The third was the filthy pool, which we had looked forward to jumping in immediately upon arrival. She apologized, citing rainfall as the reason, saying she would have someone out immediately to clean it.

We were in a state of shock at the disrepair we found in the house, but we didn't know what to do and none of us knew what the other was thinking. After she left, we had a meeting and agreed that it was impossible for us to stay there. We had paid in advance and didn't know what our recourse should or could be. We also didn't know where to begin finding someplace else to stay. All my research on rental villas were at home. The first step was calling our rental agent. To her credit, after some firm conversation, she did agree to refund our money

Nearly comatose, but determined, I got on my cellphone and started calling some local numbers I had brought with me. An hour and a half later with the help of some wonderful local people we found availability at a place that had originally been on my list of desirable places. They told us they could the house ready for us in three hours. We dropped our luggage off at the house and passed the time in Esperanza at Duffy's. A marguerita or two later and we were starting to feel better. At this point we had been underway for 24 hours and awake for 32.

At 3:00 we were back at our new villa. We couldn't believe our good fortune. Everything was immaculate and gorgeous. I will describe it all in more detail in future installments. We can't say enough good things about this place and best of all it is $750 cheaper than the other!

Tired as we were, we had a dip in our wonderful, clean pool and felt energized enough to actually go out to dinner. The Blue Macaw had been recommended to us by our homeowner and he was right - it was wonderful. Back "home" for another swim and finally, a blissful night's sleep. More tomorrow!
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Old Aug 9th, 2007, 03:59 AM
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What a day of flying you had, only to have the villa thing happen!! But in the end it must have been worth it to have the villa you originally wanted!
The Blue McCaw is the new "in" place. It opened after we left the island. I do have 2 friends that work there, maybe they waited on you!! That restaurant used to be located at Inn on the Blue Horizon, but burned a few years ago.
Looking forward to your updates...
I am going to email you
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Old Aug 9th, 2007, 05:04 AM
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I can't wait to read about the rest of your adventure! At least you were able to take things in stride and carry on with your vacation. I can't even imagine how tired you were by the end of that day.
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Old Aug 9th, 2007, 07:31 AM
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Wow! Glad to hear that you still had the energy left to get out of that villa. Please let us know the details (name of villas; good and bad!).
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Old Aug 9th, 2007, 08:52 AM
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I will provide details at the end of our trip on names of villas, etc.

Our first complete day on the island, we decided to drive out to Green Beach. What fun we had watching all the tiny crabs scurrying away from our car as we crept along. We saw tons of huge crabs as well that popped into their holes when we passed. There are lots of different access points to Green Beach and we tried most of them until we found our "perfect" spot, under a gigantic palm whose fronds reached almost to the ground. We beachcombed and swam (forgot our snorkles - boo) and my husband actually saw a raw jump right out of the water. The water was the perfect temperature.

Later we stopped for groceries and grilled burgers back at the villa. They were frozen patties, but with mushroom and swiss mixed in. Not what I would normally buy but supplies here are limited. To my shock they were delicious - I'd buy them again.

Later, music, drinks and candles poolside with the stars twinkling. Dreamy!

We're just starting our day today. I'll be back tomorrow.
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Old Aug 9th, 2007, 09:40 AM
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oh, Maggi, what an inauspicious start to your trip! I fervently hope that now you're ensconced in the new villa that your trip will be "nothin' but blue skies from now on."

Looking forward to your future installments!
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Old Aug 9th, 2007, 07:50 PM
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Jeena, I did try to email you a few weeks ago - did you get it? Looking forward to hearing from you.

Talk to y'all tomorrow.
Cheers, Maggi
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Old Aug 10th, 2007, 03:50 AM
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Maggie
I did get your email about the horseback riding...the reason I wanted to email you is because I wanted to know who you were involved with for villa reps and villas, but you said you would mention it on here. It is a small island and the people who provide great service should be recognized!!
I absolutely love that you are taking the time to notice the little things...the crabs and such!
There is some good shelling at the little beach to the left of Mosquito Pier. Also tons of big starfish in knee deep water. You can snorkel out along the pier, there is a decent variety of fish to see.
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Old Aug 10th, 2007, 05:58 AM
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Have fun Maggi! I am anxious for the trip report!

christie
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Old Aug 10th, 2007, 09:55 PM
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After our morning walk, we had breakfast out this morning, at Tradewinds in Esperanza. Bloody Marys, scrambled eggs in tortilla with beans and cheese and hubby had homemade corned beef hash. The two guys next to us had been in business here for 30 years and we had a nice long visit with them. We loved our waitress, Dotti. We talked and talked with her and later in the day she even brought over a Scrabble board and book for us to use! How amazing is that. (She had nine dogs in the car!)

After breakfast we did some shopping in Esperanza. I bought a beautiful glass necklace at Kiln Creations. They are not on the main drag, on one of the side streets (Magnolia?) Got to talking with the owners. What an interesting couple and what fantastic work they do.

We went back to the villa to chill, swim and read and later made garlic shrimp linguini for lunch/dinner. Then it was time for the biobay excursion. We met at Island Excursions and were bussed along with 30 others to the lagoon. Mark, our guide was very informative and entertaining. At one point, the bus stopped and he ran out and caught a huge crab in the middle of the road, barehanded. He brought it back in the bus to scare all the girls.

He is very ecology minded and did his best to educate us. Then we got on the boat/barge and were underway. It was magical just gliding along in the dark on a balmy, star-filled night. Mark was using a laser pointer to show us planets and constellations.

Everyone was given a safety belt and most of us went in the water. The water sparkled like stars when you lifted your arms or legs out of the water. We were out for awhile, perhaps 15 minutes, when all of sudden everyone was going back on the boat. Back on board I found out that at least 5 people had been "stung" by jellyfish, including my best friend. The crew applied a steroid cream to the affected areas. My friend said it felt like an intense itch/stinging that lasted about 20 minutes (you are instructed NOT to scratch). I did notice before we left that the crew were refilling a spray bottle with vinegar. She is completely back to normal now.

On the way home, we were hungry again and stopped at Williams Pizza for carry-out. We got one large with everything for about $24. Ended the day eating pizza and playing Scrabble.

Tomorrow we have plans to visit quite a few beaches and hopefully see some sea stars Wish me luck!
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Old Aug 11th, 2007, 05:57 AM
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Maggi, I am loving your realtime report!
What a great attitude you have, I am glad you didn't "settle" for that horrible villa. Just goes to show you, even with all the research, you are taking your chances. But look how great things turned out after all! We are all dying to know which villa/rep to stay away from, as well as the name of the outfit that kicked in and had you accommodated in three hours. That's gotta be a record!

So sorry about those jellyfish, your luck can only improve, dontcha think? You and DH are so friendly and unassuming, I imagine that is why you've already made so many island friends.

Keep it coming!
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Old Aug 11th, 2007, 08:03 AM
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Maggi: I'm enjoying your realtime trip report. Yikes regarding your first villa. I'm glad you were able to get your money back and move. Good for you! Sounds like you're now having a great time. Looking forward to the rest of you report.
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Old Aug 11th, 2007, 08:17 PM
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Hey Joan, & Caribtraveler, how are ya? We did indeed spend the whole day on beaches today. We started out on Playa Prieta, or the so-called Secret Beach (which incidentally, was very well marked, as all of the were.) We had read there was no shade, but we were able to find a shady nook and there were more than one. We floated there for awhile and proceeded on to Red Beach where we settled for the rest of the day. There was an open shelter and we could spread out our gear and swim to our heart's content.

While it was not as secluded as some of the other beaches, the water was perfect. A perfect shade of turquoise, perfect temperature and not too wavy. My friend and I left the hubbies and did some side exploration. We decided we liked Blue Beach the best and determined to come back here next time.

It was lunch time and we headed into town for a carry out lunch. We brought back cubanos and snapper sandwiches from Bananas to the shelter. We looked for the flan lady and found her house - a yellow house on the opposite side of the street from Bananas, going out of town. (No sign or anything). The flans were not very big and she was charging $9 apiece! But, oh well, we went ahead and got two, vanilla and coconut. I can't tell you how they tasted cause they are still in the fridge.

Later, after a nap and a dip in the pool we got gussied up and went over to Boston Beach Hotel, thinking we would have a drink at the bar with the other glitterati and then decide where to have dinner. We get there and there are just a few early twenty types in shorts and tshirts. OK, we decide to go to the restaurant for drinks and an appetiser. It seems great effort was put in to make this a cool vibe, but it just left us cold. We had our one drink, which took a long time to get, despite the fact that only three tables were occupied, and decided not to order any food at all.

We drove into town intended to try Media Luna - but it was closed. Apparently, it is under new ownership, same chef, but will open in a few weeks. Now it was between Uva or Blue Macaw again. We opted for Blue Macaw. We really outdid ourselves this time. Hubby had crab salad, New Zealand lamb chops and Swedish creme with blackberries for dessert. I ordered French Onion Soup, flank steak and bread pudding. We both had a drink as well. Our came to only $89, not counting tip. Very reasonable, and everything was perfectly prepared and presented. I think I was extra hungry cause my vacation reading material is "Heat" by Bill Buford. He worked for Mario Batali and gives an insider's view what he and his kitchen is like.

We rolled on home and are hoping to wake in time to make the 10:00 church in town tomorrow morning. Thanks for reading and have a good night.

Regards, Maggi
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Old Aug 12th, 2007, 06:06 AM
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Maggi, you wrote in your 8/9 installment: "We beachcombed and swam (forgot our snorkles - boo) and my husband actually saw a raw jump right out of the water."

What? What did he see????

Also, questions: how is the language issue - does everyone speak English, or is Spanish required, or how does it all work? Security? Lock your villa doors at night? Car doors etc?
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Old Aug 12th, 2007, 07:56 AM
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joan
I think Maggie meant to say a "ray".

We spend our winters on the island. We do lock our doors to our house and shed. We do not lock car doors. Petty theives will think you have something worth stealing if you lock your doors.
A great number of Viequenses folks speak enough English for communication, and a lot are fluent.
I am going to take Spanish lessons this fall, the old timers especially appreciate when you can speak to them in Spanish.
Maggie, I am so enjoying your trip report! Sounds like you are enjoying the island. You travel the way we do, meeting people along the way and learing a little about the island!
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Old Aug 12th, 2007, 04:00 PM
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Maggi, still loving your report!

Is the Boston Beach Hotel the same as the Bravo Beach Hotel? Because the names are similar enough and the descriptions sound very much like the same place...Has it been renamed?
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Old Aug 12th, 2007, 05:50 PM
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Bravos Beach Hotel is located in Bravos de Boston, that was most likely the mix up. The place has just been sold, so I am wondering what they may do to change the place.
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Old Aug 12th, 2007, 05:50 PM
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That's a crack-up, ej. Sorry about the typos. I'm typing fast so I can get back to partying! Maybe I typed "Boston" Beach Hotel, cause we're in Bravos de Boston, or because I just got back from Boston a few weeks ago. Don't know if there are any Freudian slips in the "raw" vs "ray" mistake... I need to hire a proofreader!

Today was the best day of vacation so far. It has been perfect from start to finish. We started out the day at the Iglesias Methodista in Esperanza. We thought we were getting an English-speaking service, but it was all in Spanish. It didn't matter one bit. What an awesome congregation. The love was tangible among the people and was reflected in their affection toward us. I was literally in tears most of the time. The music was infectuous. The pastor's wife welcomed us from the pulpit. Even the youth were sincere in their faith. It was extremely touching and I shall always remember it.

Afterward, on the way back home, we stopped at a roadside stand for lunch and had more interaction with some wonderful local folks. A family with their two young daughters were selling the food. The two little girls were so cute and were practicing their English on us. "You give us money and we give you food." I couldn't stop taking photos of them, as well as of the cutest, friendliest baby ever named Narjelli. (I will post all my photos when we get home.)

Back at the villa we cooled off in the pool and then my friend and I started a Scrabble game poolside. All of sudden we hear a loud rustling, then an enormous splash. We look up to see Oscar, the resident doggie who had chased a huge, bright green iguana into the pool. The 1-1/2 foot long reptile was swimming underwater and the dog was watching from the pool ledge. We watched as the iguana tried to make it up the side of the pool several times, until he was successful and made a mad dash up the fence and into the adjoining yard, leaving the dog poking his nose through mournfully. It was so hilarious. As an afterthought, I am so glad I wasn't in the pool at the time.

We spent the rest of the afternoon at the beach at Mosquito Pier. Awesome snorkeling. Saw lots of red and yellow sea stars, a spiney lobster, crabs, rays (not raws), tons of great coral and great shelling. Found a beautiful red live conch, which we threw back, of course.

Now we're sitting at the table ready to eat and will wait for the Persius meteor shower at midnight. Tata for now. Love, Maggi

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Old Aug 12th, 2007, 08:30 PM
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Yet another correction...Perseid!
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Old Aug 13th, 2007, 04:13 AM
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Maggie, you are spoiling us! I get up each morning, looking forward to your overnight report!!! Great way to start the day!
Sounds like you are having the best time!
Jeena
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