Thursday, February 21, 2008
Escape to Paradise
WARNING: Reading the following may cause you to feel jealous of or happy for me, or a combination of the two, depending on your natural disposition. Last weekend I had a rendez-vous with my sisters, the beach, and my inner child in an alternate reality located in Clearwater Beach, Florida. We got to escape the cold weather and responsibilities of normal life for a few days. It took a miracle to make it happen, working with budgets and schedules of three very busy families, but miracles are more common than you might think. This was one I won't soon forget. And yes, I actually took this picture with my own camera from a 5th floor window of the hotel.
Friday, February 15
We were all scheduled to meet in the Tampa airport within a few hours of each other, around midday. I secretly relished in being dropped off at LaGuardia by Ed and the girls and waving bye-bye as they drove off. Before boarding I even bought an actual newspaper and even actually read it on the plane. When I arrived in Tampa I had a message from Maren that her flights were all screwed up and she wouldn't come in until later that night. Major bummer. But I met Tona and we loaded into our little "economy" rental car and drove over two awesome causeways to get to the Sandpearl Resort, our home for the next 3 days.
As if the sunshine, warm green-smelling air and palm trees weren't enough, things just got more surreal as our car was whisked off by a pith-helmet-donning valet, and we were brought goblets of non-alcoholic champagne with pomegranate seeds while we waited to check in. An exploration of the hotel and grounds confirmed we were no longer on planet earth.
We had 3:30 spa appointments so we made our way to that wing after wandering the beach, pool, and numerous outdoor corridors. After changing to chenille robes and sipping cucumber water we had massages. What a way to start the trip. I could write a whole post on that massage. Next we had manicures and retired to our room to savor the moments. We had a quick dinner at a beach cafe best known for their grouper sandwich, then headed back to Tampa to pick up Maren, who had waited 4 hours in Burlington and 7 hours in Cleveland to reach us, 17 hours after she had woken up that morning.
Saturday, February 16
I slept like the dead. No dreams, no stirring. I don't even think I moved for 10 hours. Maren and Tona rose early but I slept in until 9am - it was heaven. Maren had rescheduled her spa appointments for Saturday so while she got pampered Tona and I swam in the pool and then went to a local Italian festival at a park, where we got lunch and watched Italian folk dancers. I also got my main souvenir of the trip, a Venetian glass necklace. After meeting back up we went to the beach. I've never been on sand like that - it felt like powdered sugar and was almost as white - so white that it didn't get hot even in the afternoon sun.
We each had a few must-do's on the trip, and one of mine was going to a movie, preferably a chick flick. Saturday afternoon we saw Definitely, Maybe, a perfect 3-star romantic comedy for the occasion. Then we had dinner at the hotel's beachside grill cafe, each of us opting for one of their delectable salads. Saturday night was a facial extravaganza back in our room, where we pooled our skin care products and performed full facial regimes, complete with cucumber slices on the eyes. We also looked through Maren's blog book created on Blurb.com, which was amazing and reinspired me to make one of my own. That night I again slept like the dead.
Sunday, February 17
We got up early and went shell hunting on the beach. Maren found some amazing shells Saturday morning - see her blog post for details -, so I went with her the next day to gather some for myself. I could really get used to a morning walk on the beach as part of my daily routine - talk about a serene start.
We attended church at a local ward. It was their ward conference and we heard awesome and inspiring talks from the Bishop and Stake President. The Stake President had blessed his new baby boy earlier in the meeting so he based his talk on names - choosing his own children's names and also us as a people taking the name of Christ upon us. We all glanced at each other - kind of spooky since we had spent part of the trip trying to name Maren's baby (due in May.)
Not complete gluttons for luxury, we did improve our minds and cultural competence on the trip as well. After church we visited Weedon Island Preserve, where we toured an awesome visitor center and walked around the grounds and up an observation tower. Sunday night we ate at a popular panasian/seafood place called the Island Way Grill, where we sat on the deck overlooking the water and sunset. I could have died. But I still had to eat my seared scallops over sesame lime noodles followed by ginger creme brulee, so I snapped out of it. After dinner we took a final dip in the hotel pool, which by the way is treated with ozone instead of chlorine and geothermally heated.
Monday, February 18
Poor Tona had a cruelly early flight so we said our goodbyes at night. When the sun rose Maren and I ventured out for a final shell comb on the beach, then returned to pack up and head out. The rest of the day is not much to mention, though flying alone was a luxury in itself. Ed was quite late picking me up, which only attests to some of the important lessons he learned over the weekend, among them being how nearly impossible it is to get out the door with the kids, especially on a deadline. Another was how much he loves and appreciates me, which was nice to hear. Another was that doing Hazel's hair is harder than it looks. But everyone was alive and well so it was a success all around.
Telling what we did is the easy part. But it was what I saw and felt, and the conversations we shared, that made it such a meaningful trip for me. And that's what is hard to put into words. All I can do is use my notes and pictures to bring it back. The most important determination of the weekend was that we are not waiting another ten years before the next sisters' getaway.
I'm already doing research.