April 1, 2000
( a little late, editor's fault, sorry Peggie et al!)
So, you are thinking about a Vieques Vacation, and wondering what there is to do here? If you have done your homework, you know this island is only 21 miles long and 5 miles wide. We don't have high-rises, movie theaters, McDonalds, or a traffic light, for that matter. So, what is there to do on Vieques? I have a few suggestions.
Buy a bottle of champagne and some sweet strawberries. While the bubbly is chilling, indulge in a late afternoon siesta. Around 5:30 PM, spread a blanket on your favorite beach, and prime yourselves for a breath-taking, memorable sunset. After the sun dips below the horizon, slip into the warm Caribbean water for a romantic dance under the clear, star-studded, moonlit sky.
Take a thermos of rich, world famous Puerto Rican coffee, a loaf of our heavenly local bread (pan de aqua), some fruit or cheese, enjoy a spectacular sunrise from a secluded hilltop you've discovered, and watch our sleepy island wake up.
Spend a few luxurious afternoon hours on one of our pristine beaches swimming, sunning, walking hand-in-hand, shell-seeking, reading, relaxing, day-dreaming, and contemplating the meaning of life as pelicans bob on the gentle swells of the Caribbean, and a Paso Fino mare and her colt gather under a shady palm tree.
Have a sumptuous dinner at one of our splendid restaurants. Then, enjoy an after-dinner frozen concoction in an open-air Caribbean bar. Shoot some pool, throw some darts, or dance the night away to a steel drum band. Meet new people, laugh out loud, get a little crazy!
Pamper yourself. Get a manicure AND a pedicure. Relax with a massage. Take a yoga class. Get a new short and sassy haircut. Spend a few hours in our beautiful art galleries.
("But what about the children?!" you exclaim. Call Paradise Pals, 741-0749-the best babysitting service on the island!)
On Monday nights, the place to be is Chez Shack! Duffy presents his famous "Grill Night", featuring such favorites as lobster, fish, steak, chicken, shrimp, and The Rasta Burger! The food is so-o-o good and the atmosphere is fun and friendly. The steel drum band that performs throughout "Grill Night" is the ultimate touch for a festive Caribbean evening. Call for reservations- 741-2175.
Plan to be at Trapper John's on Tuesday nights. John and Barbara put out a spread of free appetizers for "Happy Hour" (from 5 to 7). Tuesday night at Trapper John's is a gathering spot for many of us who moved here from the states, or who have vacationed here for years. Want to "hob-nob" with those of us who really know The Good Life? Then, come to Trapper John's onTuesday night for "Happy Hour". Dinner is served after 7:00, (they have live Maine lobster and Caribbean lobster), and reservations are suggested-741-0011.
When you go on vacation, you usually want to purchase a gift or two for someone back home - a family member, the "pet and plant sitter", the co-worker who is jealous you are here and they are not! We have a wide variety of locally owned shops offering everything from traditional souvenirs to the unique and unusual. In Esperanza, be sure to visit Trade Winds, The Crab Walk, Bali Llama, 18 Degrees North, Kim's Cabin, and The Historic Trust Museum. In Isabelle Segunda, stop in at Carolyn's, Reflections, Bali Llama, and Luna Loca. Our local artists have three galleries/studios: Helen Davis (741-4451) is near the Fort, Siddhia Hutchinson (741-8780) is near the lighthouse, and Eve and Alex's Casa Vieja (741-3581) is near The Inn on The Blue Horizon. These should not be passed over when looking for that really special gift, or for a lasting memory for your home. As Eve and Alex say, "Life is short; art is long". And, of course, Puerto Rican rum, coffee, spices and sauces are inexpensive, tasty treats easy to pack and full of tropical flavor.
One restaurant you absotively, posilutley cannot miss while you are on Vieques is La Campesina. (Oh Dios Mio, their escargot is to die for!) They have a large selection of appetizers, entrees, and HOMEMADE desserts-all expertly prepared, reasonably priced, and you will be waited on by a well-trained, friendly staff. I just love the natural setting and the symphony of tree frogs in the background. Barry and Diane (Chef, Hostess, and owners) are true jewels in this paradise. Call for reservations-741-1239.
In order to freely come and go to our beaches, shops, restaurants and bars, you really should rent a car during your stay. We have several locally owned car rental businesses offering a variety of vehicles. However, when driving on our island, there are a few things you should know. We have speed bumps and recessed water gutters ("sleeping policemen"), pot holes, free-range cattle, horses, mongoose, dogs, cats, goats, chickens, children, and vacationers! The locals here often stop in the middle of the road to chat with each other ("drive-by shoutings"). Be patient and drive slowly. As we say here, "If you are in a hurry, you are on the wrong island." Driving onto our beaches will not only cost you the expense of a tow truck (and hours of lost time waiting for one), but also a $500 fine. AND, police strictly enforce traffic, seatbelt, and parking regulations. Tickets are issued and they will be collected. Just remember to drive safely and expect the unexpected!
Next month, I'll tell you all about the exciting and educational water activities there are here for your enjoyment, as well as information on horseback riding, bike rentals, restaurants you just have to try, and more!
You work hard all year long, and you deserve a magical, soul-nurturing vacation. Vieques is a gentle, unique excursion into another climate and culture. So, come on. Kick off your shoes and stay a while.
Hasta La Luego!
Oops! I have to make a correction from last month's column. I misspelled Ernesto Pena's name. Ernesto is a for-real Caribbean character, and an extremely gifted artist (and, I have to say-and I know from experience- a great meringue dancer). I apologize for the gaffe.