Tuesday, August 4

Our 10th Anniversay Trip to Antigua!

On June 26, Ryan and I left for a five day, four night trip to St. James Club in Antigua.  For our 10th wedding anniversary, we had originally wanted to go to Rome for a couple of weeks, but not only was that way expensive, it would have been too difficult to leave our kids for that long.  So we settled on Antigua! We left the house at 3:30 am on a Friday morning, our first leg was to Miami and then on to Antigua.


We had a not-so-great brunch in the Miami airport and boarded our next plane.  Ryan loves an airplane Bloody Mary, so when the flight attendant told us proudly that she normally worked in first class and couldn't figure out how to swipe the credit card, naturally I ordered a mimosa.

 We opted to find ground transportation once we arrived (instead of planning ahead), and easily found a taxi to our resort, which was about a 30 minute drive across the island.  It was definitely not as lush as I expected- in fact it was quite dry and barren, but still very hilly (mountainous?) and the water was breathtaking.


Arriving at our hotel- on the peninsula
We arrived pretty early in the afternoon, so we didn't feel rushed to seize the day.  We leisurely checked in, unpacked in our room, and walked around to get to know the place.  It's a very big resort, with two main beaches and several pools, though we only went to two of them.  Our room was on the Pacific side of the peninsula; we chose to stay in a room that allowed us to walk straight onto the beach, and we were not disappointed!

We grabbed burgers and drinks at the beach-side grill on the bay side of the peninsula.  It was all-inclusive but some of the bars were definitely limited in terms of what liquors they had stocked.  The beach-side grill didn't have many options for me- I usually chose a rum and coke while Ryan got a beer.




We weren't sure where to eat that night- at the buffet or at a beach restaurant.  We needed reservations to eat at one place, but they only take reservations the day before!  We chose the beach restaurant because it was near our room and we just happened to stumble upon it, and we had steaks with salad and potatoes.

I didn't even think about our gluten-free diet when we booked our trip.  I'm not sure if Ryan and I had committed to going 100% GF at that time anyways!  It turned out to be a pretty easy task for us to avoid gluten.  Neither of us are tempted anymore by bagels, waffles, cake, or French bread (mmm, maybe tempted a little by French bread....), so we just avoided ordering anything breaded or obviously gluten-filled.  This wasn't an issue for us since we are pretty familiar with food ingredients!

The only bummer was that since the hotel wasn't anywhere near maximum capacity, it seemed like they had some of the more fancy restaurants not open as frequently while we were there.  Which meant we had to eat at the buffet or the beach side grill restaurant every night- and both of those places had very limited GF options.  Finally on our third day, we asked someone about it and they told us that we could request GF options at any of the restaurants at least one day in advance, and they'd do their best to accommodate us.  I wish we would have know about that up front!  We were able to eat at one of the nicer restaurants that night, and they prepared our Thai dishes with gluten-free noodles- and even supplied gluten-free bread as an appetizer!  I was pleasantly surprised!  (For those reading this who may have celiac disease- a note to you: My husband and I eat gluten-free due to our sensitivities, so we weren't concerned about cross-contamination.)  I did voice my disappointment that the other restaurants weren't open any of the other nights we were there, and the hotel offered us two complimentary meals at their "fine dining" restaurant on our last night, which otherwise would have been a $40 per person charge.  We were very happy with that result, and had a very lovely GF dinner on our last night there!

My made-to-order omelet and potatoes.

 
 


Back to the trip... Our second day we chose to go on a circumnavigation catamaran tour around the entire island of Antigua.  We stopped at a little beach where we went snorkeling and had lunch.  It was beautiful (these photos aren't altered at all!) and I actually really enjoyed the super-choppy parts, where it felt like we were on a roller coaster! 








 

I don't even remember what we did that afternoon.  Late lunch, drinks, pool, walking around... Pretty much whatever we wanted! 

All over the hotel I kept noticing these sweet little birds.  They were very tiny and very tame, most of them had a bright yellow breast, but this little fellow didn't.  He kept us company while we were on the beach one afternoon, on the back of my chair- and Ryan even shared some beer with him. 


 As we walked in the shallow water back to the bar, I caught a little minnow.  Then a little sand crab.




Clear water up to my thighs
  Back to the pool and back to the bar... There were some dark clouds but I don't remember it raining at all.

 

The second day there was more lounging.  We didn't go anywhere that day, but there were many drinks, snacks, and much pool swimming.  Unfortunately the water on the Atlantic side was very full of seaweed.  I'm not complaining, I've been to the beach enough times to know that seaweed happens!  But I don't like things touching me underwater, so I stuck to swimming in the pool!





Before dinner on the third night

On the fourth day, we chose to go on a short fishing excursion that left from our hotel.  We went out on a tiny boat with one other couple and our guide, and we reef fished. Sounds exotic, but it really was rather dull!  We each caught a few fish (they were called Jacks!) and we all got pretty wet.  I was terrified of burning so I wore pants and a t-shirt instead of a swimsuit!






The short outing made Ryan realize he wanted to do more fishing, so he arranged for us to fish "off the record" later that night!

That afternoon we snuck into the pool reserved for premiere guests.  Haha.  It wasn't much of a pool, but no one else was there and it was sort of on a cliff, so it was kind of neat!



After that we went kayaking around the bay.  Then Ryan was determined he could paddle board from one side to the other... Oh my.  I have to tell you that what should have been a peaceful trip for him turned out to be a pretty hilarious event for me to watch!  He fell off twice and sort of struggled against the wind coming back!  He was in good spirits when he got back- thankfully- because I nearly died of laughter on the shore.

He's right in the middle!
 That night was our last night!  We went to Piccolo Mondo and enjoyed a fancy schmancy dinner during the sunset.  It was very nice.

 And then we went dock fishing.  At 9:00 pm.  In my fancy dress, because why not?




We didn't need to leave until noon on our last day, so we had breakfast, spent the morning on the beach and enjoying mimosas from our room. 


  

Little did we know that our flight out of Antigua to Miami would be three hours delayed!  We spent three hours at the (very small) Antiguan airport, praying that our arrival time would be early enough for us to get through customs, security, and onto our flight back to Houston.  We were supposed to have an hour, but we knew what we had to do!

As soon as the plane landed, we literally ran to customs.  We had to stop, wait in line, then we ran to the next line.  There we waited for 20 minutes... Then we ran to the next line, which seemed completely unnecessary.  This is when I lost it, because we had less than 15 minutes to get on our flight and I realized we had one more security line to go through.  I really wanted to get home! The man in front of us was kind enough to let us ahead of him, and that one tiny act of charity might have been what allowed us to make it to eventually make it to our flight!  We ran to the next line, which was where our baggage was screened again, and Ryan's bag was held for inspection.  SERIOUSLY.  One of the TSA agents saw that our plane was about to finish boarding and she told me to, "Leave him!  Run and tell them to hold the plane!" So she showed me where my gate was and it felt like a slow-motion movie scene as I was running, pulling my carry-on behind me, trying not to flash anybody (because I was wearing a dress), tear-stained cheeks, and literally made it to the gate as the last passenger walked on board.  Then he said something about there "not being room" and I nearly lost it again- was the flight overbooked?!  They were getting impatient about Ryan not coming, telling me they needed to close the gate, and it seemed like an eternity until he arrived a few minutes later.  But he made it!  We boarded, both sweating and out of breath, and just sat down and looked at each other.  But we were going home!

In the second of four lines.  We were still pretty optimistic at this point.
 We got home around midnight, just when we expected to.  We were starving and exhausted (we never got lunch or dinner!) but we were home!  Four nights and five days was the perfect amount of time for me to be gone.  I felt like we were both able to really truly relax and decompress, and it didn't seem too short.  At that point I was really starting to miss the kids, which was a good sign to me that I was ready to go home!  I'm just so glad we made it home on that night!

Everyone was so happy to see us in the morning, but they had so much fun with Ryan's parents, my mom and sister, and two of my brothers- I'm not even sure they missed us!  We are so very blessed to have family members who were willing and able to take care of our children! 

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