Saturday 1 May 2010 - Monday 10 May 2010 85 °F
Wedding Day - May 6, 2010 - Harbour Island, Bahamas
© Donna Whitfield DeCosta
Our goal while living in the Bahamas is to visit as many of the Family Islands or Out Islands as we can. We chose Harbour Island as our first vacation destination because it is one of the most historic and quaint settlements in the Bahamas. And oh yes, a popular destination for weddings and honeymoons.
We started off our much-needed vacation in Harbour Island by traveling from our home on Lee Stocking Island in the Exumas to the "mainland" of Great Exuma, leaving at 5am with our trusty pal and boat captain Hector "Che" Cruz-Lopez. Hector knows a lot about boats, emergency medicine, fish forensics, and SCUBA diving, but he also knows a lot about hammocks, rum, coconuts and salsa dancing. ☺
Hector in the hammock © Tori Redinger
From the mainland town of Barraterre, we drove with our taxi driver Autie McKenzie to Exuma International Airport. We picked up someone along the way who had to be to work at the Sandals Golf Shop at 6am. Sort of random, and she would have been late for work had we not stopped to pick her up.
We took a 25-minute Bahamas Air flight to get to Rock Sound Airport on Eleuthera, where we met up with Autie's nephew Philip, who introduced us to Raymond "Buffalo" Meadows, a local taxi driver from nearby Tarpum Bay. For a two-hour taxi ride at the mere price of $200, the "Buff" as he called himself would show us around Eleuthera and drive us to our final destination up north - Three Island Ferry Dock - about two hours away. Quite an expensive taxi but the official government chart on the wall confirmed the rate. The Bahamian government posted this chart in 2008, but hey, better to have an outdated chart that does not account for more recent economic factors such as the downturn in the stock market and elevated gas prices. We even stopped for breakfast along the way.
Here we are with the Buff at the apparently open Buccaneer Club, waiting for breakfast - and boy did we wait!
We also stopped on Cupid's Cay in Governor's Harbour, Eleuthera, to check out the Haynes Library, established in 1897. We also visited the even older St. Patrick's Anglican Church, dedicated in 1892, with its historic pipe organ, gothic architecture, and beautiful tabernacle, rumored to be the loveliest in the country.
Haynes Library in Governor's Harbour
At the entrance to St. Patrick's Church
Inside St. Patrick's Anglican Church
Eric looks at a ship in St. Patrick's Anglican Church
View from above in front of the pipe organ
We stopped at points along the northern part of Eleuthera to check out the cliffs and amazing views.
View of the cliffs in Northern Eleuthera
Jennifer in front of the cliffs
Buff waits patiently
We also looked for signs of the pineapple plantations that date back to the mid-1800's, when the industry was in full swing. At one point, the area produced about a million pineapples per year for export to the United States. Sadly, we didn't see any signs of pineapples other than decorations on houses. For more about the history of Harbour Island and Eleuthera including the historic pineapple trade, check out this quirky website: http://www.eleuthera.com/history.html
We finally arrived to the Three Island Ferry Dock at the northern tip of Eleuthera in the early afternoon. We said farewell to Raymond after taking his card and agreeing to call him for the return trip in a week's time. Only in the Bahamas would this man drive two hours out of his way just to take us back to the airport.
We saw an impressive view of Harbour Island as we headed from Eleuthera directly to the marina at our hotel that would be our home for the next 10 days, the lovely and quaint Romora Bay Resort and Marina.
Harbour Island arrival: approaching Romora Bay Resort and Marina
Romora Bay Marina
One of our favorite spots at the resort - the striped couch! What a view!
Shutters in our room
Once we checked into our room, a rather fancy suite with an amazing view overlooking the bay, we headed out on the town. Harbour Island, or "Briland" as the locals know it, is a very interesting historic community. In fact, it is quite reminiscent of a picturesque fishing village one might find in New England on the East coast of the United States, except with an added bit of Caribbean flair and color.
Harbour Island is a living and breathing amalgamation of wealth and poverty, tourists and locals, pets and farm animals, cars and golf carts, and oceanside and bayside communities with a lot of Caribbean color in between. We traveled up and down and all around on streets named Bay and Dunmore and Colebrook and Upalong, and of course, the ubiquitous Queen's Highway that apparently exists on every Bahamian island.
Sea foam green house
One of Harbour Island's prettiest churches
Jennifer's favorite garden on Harbour Island
View of Romora Bay Marina
A perfect example of the rustic nature of the island is the omnipresence of roosters, who seem to strut their stuff and crow everywhere! At night they perch themselves in the trees (to get away from snakes, Kenny our night watchman told us) and have no trouble crowing at any time of day or night! According to The Harbour Island Story, when filmmakers came to the island in the 1940's and 50's with their production crews, they would pay the locals to sit in the chicken houses to keep the roosters quiet. After a few days on the island, we could certainly understand why!
They even sell souvenir rooster t-shirts with roosters at Harbour Island's gift shops, although we certainly didn't want to buy one to take home with us (neither a rooster nor a t-shirt). As the owners of The Chanticleer Hill Guest House explain on their website www.chanticleerhill.com:
The symbol for Eleuthera is the 'pineapple', but you will quickly see that the symbol for Harbour Island should be the 'rooster'. They are wild and run free. Artists depict them on everything, and you can even buy a bumper sticker saying "Take a rooster to Eleuthera".
© Chanticleer Hill Guest House
Harbour Island was one of the earliest settlements in the Bahamas, with the first white settlers arriving from England in the 1600s, and later by way of Bermuda. Dunmore Town, the main settlement on Harbour Island, was once the capital of the Bahamas and is named after the Fourth Earl of Dunmore John Murray, also known as Lord Dunmore. Lord Dunmore, who served as governor of the Bahamas during 1786-1797, originally built a summer home on Harbour Island. During the years he spent in the Bahamas, he took a very strong interest in developing the community, when Harbour Island was second in population and activity only to New Providence.
Visit this Briland website and click on "An Island History" to read more about the history of Harbour Island. For absolutely stunning photos of Harbour Island, visit the online photo gallery by resident artist Perry Joseph.
We spent the entire week wandering around Harbour Island, walking, running, beachcombing and exploring the restaurants and local attractions by day and by night. We found beautiful houses, gardens and restaurants, and almost immediately, Daddy-O's, Harbour Island's finest ice cream shop!
Mmmm ice cream!
Coral Sands Hotel
Beautiful Pink Sands Beach
Eric in search of the perfect coconut
Yes, golf carts are the preferred mode of transportation on Harbour Island. We chose not to rent one for the week. Rather, we walked everywhere instead, having gotten used to walking everywhere on our own island back home (where there isn't really any transportation). On Harbour Island, there are lots of speed bumps that prevent drivers from making a fast get-away, particularly challenging for those with a Goombay smash, glass of wine or bottle of beer in hand (luckily the golf carts come equipped with drink holders). The speed bumps also force people to slow down enough so that you can say Hi! or Good Morning! or Good Afternoon! to the people passing by, as is customary in the Bahamas.
Golf carts on Bay Street
Golf carts everywhere!
There were also many interesting lawn displays. This garden collage was a particular favorite of ours, right down the street from where we were staying, so we were able to pass it every day. What a treat!
Our favorite lawn
No matter where we went, we could always find our way back to the hotel
On our first day in Harbour Island, we immediately headed to The Island Spa at Tingum Village to book some appointments. Island Spa is the best, and really the only, spa on Harbour Island. Owner Ms. Karen Catalyn and her lovely assistant, Ms. Diamond, were very good to us. First up was in-room service at our hotel for some very relaxing massages!
"Island Spa" relaxation
Tingum Village is also home of the restaurant where the world famous "Ma Ruby" has made her livelihood for many years. The proprietor Ms. Ruby Percentie, a mother of eight children including Ms. Karen of Island Spa, has been serving tourists and locals alike for at least 30 years. The restaurant claims to be home of Jimmy Buffett's original "Cheeseburger in Paradise," although other restaurants have made similar claims. Although Ma Ruby told us that Mr. Buffett has visited her many times, always asking for his beloved cheeseburger, according to his website and related sources, the original source of inspiration for the song "Cheeseburger in Paradise" was a cheeseburger served in Road Town, Tortola. In any case, we both had the burgers and they were pretty good! On homemade bread too.
Eric at Ma Ruby's
Bougainvillea in conch shell on the table at Ma Ruby's
Perhaps more interesting than Ma Ruby's connection to Jimmy Buffett is her connection to Prince Charles and the Queen of England. Ma Ruby showed us photos and told us the story of being the only Bahamian invited to Buckingham Palace to receive the Most Excellent Order of The British Empire award. Yes, Ma Ruby is an honorary Member of the British Order (MBE). Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, performed the ceremony himself, while Queen Elizabeth sent Ma Ruby her photograph. Very impressive indeed!
We quickly discovered Arthur's Bakery, where everything is homemade and absolutely delicious. Ahhh the smell of freshly-baked bread! Robert Arthur's "home-grown" website also features a very interesting virtual walking tour of Harbour Island.
We spent a lot of time on the Pink Sands Beach on the ocean side of Harbour Island, also known as North Beach by the locals. I had bought Eric an underwater camera as a wedding present… we quickly discovered that there is something about a water camera that makes people behave very strangely when photographed behind it.
Jennifer could not get enough of the powdery pink sand
During our vacation at Romora Bay, we had a very special friend join us, a cat that wandered the grounds but apparently had no name, or many names we were told. Eric originally called him "Black Eye," but I thought he looked more like an "Inky."
Black Eye aka Inky
Eric and Inky at Romora Bay
Here we are on our balcony catching a beautiful sunset over the aptly named "Sunsets" Bar and Grill at Romora Bay.
Two days before our wedding, we went SCUBA diving with Dive Master Shawne and Associate Dive Master Sydney of Valentines Resort's Dive Center. Not only did Shawne bring us back from our dive safely - alive! ("You'll be the ones doing the breathing," he assured us) - but once he found out we were getting married, he insisted on taking lots of photos of us during the dive. Here are some of our favorites, kind of goofy but fun at the same time.
Heading out from Harbour Island on our boat Sea Dweller
Eric "I'm on a boat!" Lamarre
Eric giving the OK sign
Oooh straight ahead - elkhorn coral!
Giant goldfish attack!
Eric practices carrying Jennifer over the threshold
And away we go!
SCUBA Photos © Shawne Springer, Valentine's Resort
After our dive at Sea Gardens, we went snorkeling at a popular site called Cistern Rock.
Eric doing his James Bond in Thunderball impression
Which way to the boat?
Sea Dweller with the "three Germans" and Flipper
Finally, the big day came. Our wedding day! With the help of General Manager Ms. Anne Ward, we had planned a very simple, late-afternoon ceremony in Romora Bay's garden gazebo. This wedding was a surprise elopement, so we were also very excited to share the news with family and friends back home.
Eric and I independently liked the idea of eloping. Both Eric's dad and sister eloped, although he says that isn't why he wanted to do the same. He simply says that he is a no fuss, no commotion kind of person. (Of course, one can't avoid all manner of celebration when getting married, can one?)
I, on the other hand, had read an article years ago by a woman who had eloped while vacationing in Jamaica. She and her fiancé had a small ceremony on the beach. She had bare feet, wore a simple sundress and carried a pineapple down the aisle, which they ate for breakfast the next morning. When I read that article, I knew it was the perfect idea for me as well.
We started off our morning with running around town and along the beach, followed by heading back to our favorite pampering spot Island Spa for manicures, and also a pedicure for me. (Eric wanted to know why he was paying $30 to have someone file his nails… for the wedding photos, obviously.)
At the Island Spa with Diamond picking out the perfect red color for the bride's toes - check out the pedicure "platform" set-up!
Eric at Island Spa
For lunch, we went to the Blue Bar at the Pink Sands Resort, a lovely, historic boutique hotel on the ocean side of Harbour Island. The place started out as the Pink Sands Lodge in the 1950s and featured the calypso band the Percentie Brothers as its house band for many years. You can learn more about this family's four generations of music by reading "The Percentie Brothers: The Real Deal In Calypso."
The Blue Bar!
Blue bar rooftop
Beautiful Pink Sands Beach
Wedding day lunch at the Pink Sands Hotel
A little Pellegrino bubbly to kick off the celebration
Pink Sands self-portrait
After lunch, we walked along the beach back to our hotel, which was very relaxing. We spent most of the afternoon peeking out of our hotel room, watching the hotel staff work their magic in decorating the Romora Bay's gazebo down by the pool. The staff did an amazing job - there were lovely, brightly-colored flowers and palm fronds everywhere!
Once again, Ms. Karen of Island Spa came to the rescue by assisting with hair and makeup. Our amazing photographer Ms. Donna Whitfield DeCosta arrived just in time to capture the final moments before the ceremony.
Getting ready © Donna Whitfield DeCosta
For the wedding, we had bought or brought many things along with us from home.
Something old… Eric's wedding band, a family ring, held by Snoopy for safekeeping
Something new, for the "modern bride" Karen and Donna said… earrings made by Scrabble tile jewelry designer Sarah Hair and her daughters Madison and Malia aboard S/V Avalon © sailingjewelry.com and Sarah Hair
Something borrowed, my Nana's ring © Donna Whitfield DeCosta
Something blue, of course © Donna Whitfield DeCosta
I bought my dress at J. Crew's new bridal boutique in Georgetown in Washington, DC. Theresa or "T" was an absolutely amazing wedding specialist.
Rich at the Tiny Jewel Box was also fabulous, and spent an inordinate amount of time with us selecting two very different rings that complimented each other nicely. He even shipped them to us in Florida after we needed to have them resized, which was a nerve-wracking experience to say the least. The engagement ring is a vintage solitaire from 1930, while the wedding band is a more modern piece from Lithuanian designer Alex Sepkus, who designs his jewelry pieces while viewing them under a microscope! The Tiny Jewel Box was the first client of this designer and has carried his jewelry line since 1993.
Our wedding flowers came from Nassau courtesy of Jim Whitehead of The Nassau Florist, the "official florists of Miss Universe 2009." How exciting!
The flowers were so beautiful, but I couldn't resist taking a picture of the high-tech packaging
Wedding flowers © Donna Whitfield DeCosta
Finally, it was time for the ceremony. Our guest cat Inky, who had disappeared for a couple of days, miraculously appeared just in time for the ceremony.
Inky and the bride
Eric the groom (and Inky, the show cat) await the bride © Donna Whitfield DeCosta
First look at the bride © Donna Whitfield DeCosta
Eric met me outside our room and we walked down the steps together © Donna Whitfield DeCosta
Harbour Island Administrator Ms. Stephanie Rahming performs the wedding ceremony, with Anne and Karen as witnesses © Donna Whitfield DeCosta
Time for a kiss © Donna Whitfield DeCosta
Finally married! © Donna Whitfield DeCosta
Making it official © Donna Whitfield DeCosta
Eric signing his life away © Donna Whitfield DeCosta
Romora Bay's Food and Beverage Director Chris Adderley congratulates the bride and groom © Donna Whitfield DeCosta
In the gazebo © Donna Whitfield DeCosta
Under the pink shutters at Sunsets © Donna Whitfield DeCosta
The happy bride and groom © Donna Whitfield DeCosta
Off to take a few more photos! © Donna Whitfield DeCosta
Donna carted us around in a rented golf cart, and I have to say that she is just as crazy behind the wheel as she is behind the camera!
Here we are at the "Haunted House," the perfect place for any newly married couple © Donna Whitfield DeCosta
The handsome groom
Here's the photo that appeared in our wedding announcement in The Washington Post. © Donna Whitfield DeCosta
After visiting the Haunted House, we ended up at Girls' Bank, also known as The Flats, for some final sunset pictures.
At the Lone Tree © Donna Whitfield DeCosta
Sunset at the Lone Tree
After a beautiful sunset, Donna carted us one last time to our final destination The Landing, where we parted ways, but not before she promised to send us a disc of the photos. And finally we were ready for a nice wedding dinner.
We chose The Landing because it reminded us of Restaurant Nora in Washington, DC. Restaurant Nora is where we had our first date, and where we would return every year to celebrate the anniversary of our first date. Since we had moved to the Bahamas, the pressure was on to find a nice restaurant that could rival our favorite establishment. The Landing did not disappoint.
Eric at The Landing, our favorite restaurant on Harbour Island
We had fabulous cocktails and appetizers, New Zealand rack of lamb and Angus tenderloin steak with sweet potatoes, spinach, roasted potatoes and other delicious vegetables and fabulous French wine. For dessert, we shared a warm Belgian chocolate pudding with vanilla bean ice cream, which one of the locals had recommended to us. Unfortunately, we did not save room for traditional wedding cake and champagne, but we knew we could have that another time.
After our amazing dinner, and having lost our chauffeur hours ago, we walked back to our hotel, only to find Inky once again waiting at our doorstep.
Bonne nuit Inky!
The next morning, and for the rest of our honeymoon in fact, we spent most of our time calling or emailing friends and family back home to share our good news. Inky was never far away.
Eric in the breakfast room at Romora Bay…
with Inky close by
We spent a lot of time making phone calls…
with Eric checking baseball scores whenever he could
The rest of the time, we hung out together on the beach.
A great ending to a great beginning!