Thursday, November 15, 2007

Honeymoon in Nevis

We hadn’t planned to take a honeymoon. Having spent the last year or so traveling, we decided we weren’t hurting for vacations and that we’d wait and plan a big trip once Andrew had been at his job a little longer. But it turned out that he was given two weeks off for the wedding—so we decided a honeymoon was in order.

Our plans started small—spending a few days in New Hampshire—but quickly grew larger. We went to a bookstore one night to peruse guidebooks for Panama, Costa Rica, Mexico, Puerto Rico. Fabulous as all of those destinations sounded, they didn’t say honeymoon. The Caribbean did.

We chose Nevis, a tiny island that’s part of the Dutch Antilles, with a population of around 10,000. Far from touristy, it’s a true tropical paradise; wild goats, sheep, and pigs wander about, and there are “monkey crossing” signs along the roads. Getting there required a long series of flights (Pittsburgh-Charlotte-St. Maarten-Nevis), with the final flight to Nevis on an old, tiny propeller plane so small we couldn’t stand upright, with no door blocking the cockpit from the passengers. We could hear the pilots shouting coordinates to each other as they descended—“Three hundred feet…Two hundred…”

We stayed in a cottage at the lovely Nisbet Plantation, where we had four days and five nights of blissful, sunny relaxation, with nothing to do but bask in newlywed happiness. We spent each day on the beach, reading and occasionally ordering a Ting and Sting (a local drink made with a grapefruit soda called Ting and rum) when a server wandered by. We each made it through a couple of books, though Andrew got stalled with his mammoth, hardcover, 800-page biography of Alexander Hamilton—in my view, neither a suitable beach read nor a practical book for traveling, but Andrew seemed to be enjoying it. (One of Nevis’s claims to fame is that Alexander Hamilton was born there—a historical fact that Andrew, not surprisingly, uncovered before we traveled there.)

One afternoon, we took a catamaran trip towards St. Kitts, where we planned to snorkel. This activity was a bit of a personal challenge for me—the last time I was on a boat or snorkeling was over seven years ago, and I not only got hideously seasick but actually panicked at being amidst some very large fish. The idea of snorkeling still appealed, however, prompting me to give it another try. And this time, it was wonderful—I didn’t get seasick at all (though I declined the rum punch served on the boat, just in case), and the snorkeling was amazing. We saw all kinds of colorful tropical fish and a few strange fishy creatures in the coral reef where the boat left us off; there was even a small, curious fish who followed me and Andrew for a very long time, actually bumping up against our arms and masks as though trying to get our attention. We celebrated a successful trip by going to the beach bar Sunshine’s for Killer Bees—a notoriously strong, secret-recipe island drink.

On another day, we rented a car to explore the island—not a very time-consuming activity, though driving on the left took a little attention—and visited Alexander Hamilton’s birthplace in Charlestown, Nevis’s main city. Away from the our breezy beach chairs, however, the temperature was stifling, and after a quick stop at the Caribbean’s oldest church, we returned to the Nisbet for a few more hours of reading and swimming.

Each night at the plantation, we dressed for dinner at the Great House, where we had wonderful three-course meals—usually seafood or an island-inspired dish like curried lamb or conch stew. Thursday night was the plantation’s weekly seafood barbeque, where a huge buffet was set up poolside, with an abundance of fish grilled fresh—mahi mahi, red snapper, shark, wahoo, shrimp—as well as steak, spare ribs, and salads.

It all ended much too soon, and on Saturday we found ourselves once again hovering in the air in an alarmingly small plane, journeying home. We spent the night in Pittsburgh; met my parents for lunch on Sunday; then continued on to Sacramento. (We took a total of ten flights in two weeks—definitely a record.) It was a perfect honeymoon, an ideal way to celebrate (and recover from) the wedding. Sad as we were to leave the island, it wasn’t meant to last forever—and our return to our new “real” life doesn’t seem so bad at all.

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