Planning for a wedding taxes any couple, but the months leading up to ours were particularly crazy. Cynthia, a manager for a major grocery chain, opened a brand new store last December. I was finishing up my degree at the University of South Florida. Upon graduation in May, I had to pack up everything I owned and make the 1000-mile trek north to Kentucky. Then there was the whole issue of getting unpacked and settled. By the time I got moved, it was a mere two months until wedding day.
When we started thinking about what we wanted to do for our honeymoon, rest and relaxation were at the top of the list. We didn't need fancy amenities, planned activities or a thriving nightlife. All we wanted were a few good books, nice comfy chairs and a sandy beach where we could relax. We are both beach people, so for us, a tropical location was a must.
Cynthia conducted a lot of Internet research, and we settled on a small hotel on Providenciales, Turks and Caicos called the Sibonne Beach Hotel. The Sibonne was the first hotel built on Grace Bay. Over the years, a number of resorts have grown up around it, including Beaches. The big resorts offered much more in the way of amenities. They had planned activities, fitness centers, boats and scheduled tours, but the Sibonne appeared to maintain the quaint laid back island feel we were seeking. We opted for the simple and we were not disappointed.
We decided to stay home on our wedding night and fly out the following morning, June 15, 2008. No sense in rushing from a reception to catch a flight. Cynthia was able to book a U.S. Airways flight right out of Lexington and we didn't even have to climb out of bed at the crack of dawn to make our 9:20 a.m. flight.
After a brief layover in Charlotte, we arrived in Provo about 3 p.m. The airport was small and chaotic. A band, which included a man playing a saw (yes, the thing you use to cut wood), greeted us with strains of island music. The sound of music and chattering passengers reverberated off the walls, but despite the sensory overload, the trip through customs was quick and uneventful.
When we got outside the airport, we were quickly reminded that we had arrived in a foreign country. The locals speak English, kind of...but we found ourselves somewhat confused about how the whole taxi thing worked. A traffic officer ushered us to the curb and eventually into a van. We were with another young couple who seemed equally confused and much more intimidated. We rode in silence, each wondering to ourselves exactly how much the little taxi jaunt was costing us. We pulled up in front of the Sibonne and found to our great relief that we were only out $23.
From the road, the Sibonne didn't look very impressive. The construction site next door didn't add much to the ambience. But when we got into our room, we knew we'd made the right choice. The room was clean and bright. A flowing mosquito net over the bed gave a sense of soft romantic elegance. The antique wooden furniture added to the quaintness. The living area was large. There were two main rooms, a sitting room in the front complete with a small library, and the bedroom overlooking a beautiful courtyard. Stepping onto the balcony, we took in the sight of towering palm trees, lush green foliage bursting with colorful flowers, a powder white stretch of sand and the bluest water we'd ever seen.
Words, and even photos, cannot do the color of the water justice. It was one of the most amazingly beautiful things I've ever seen (apart from my bride when she walked down the aisle the day before). You see photos of the Caribbean and think, "that can't be real." But it is real, and more so!
We spent the afternoon getting settled, and wandered out for our first walk on the beach. The sun was blazing hot, but the cool ocean breeze made it more than bearable. We could both feel the stress and weariness from months of planning and work melting away.
One of the highlights of our trip was the food. We ate like royalty, and probably gained five pounds each over the course of our five and a half-day stay.
The second day, we were sitting on the beach and noticed a boat pull up onto the sand. Two men got out toting a large cooler. It turns out they were bringing the catch of the day to the restaurant. To say the food was fresh would be something of an understatement.
We ate at a different restaurant each night. They were all within walking distance and we didn't have a bad meal the entire trip. We ate a lot of seafood and local island fare. We also ate at a fantastic Irish pub called Danny Buoy's. It seemed so out of place, we just had to try it, and we were certainly glad we did.
Breakfasts were another highlight. We ate each morning at the Bay Bistro, a little restaurant attached to the Sibonne. The covered patio was literally a step from the sand. I can't imagine a better way to start the day than with an egg bagel and a cup of tea while watching the clear blue waters lap onto the sand. The bulk of our trip consisted of a lot of sitting on lounge chairs under our little tiki-hut, just relaxing but we did take a couple of excursions.
The second day, we realized we were going to have to have some groceries. The trip to the local IGA turned out to be quite the cultural experience. Having mastered the taxi taking process, we had the hotel call us a cab. Our cabby's name was Hilton (like the hotel, he pointed out), and he was much chattier than our ride from the airport. He filled us in on local politics, changes in the islands over the last several years and the rapid development on the islands.
When Cynthia noted the number of churches on the island, Hilton succinctly summed up his view of island religion. "In church on Sunday, back to the devil on Monday," he said.
He also told us shopping was a short half-mile walk from our hotel. Later that afternoon, we walked down and checked out some of the shops. We also purchased masks and snorkels, figuring we should take advantage of the clear water. I grew up scuba diving and we decided that a boat trip with some snorkeling stops sounded like fun. We opted for a half-day excursion through JB Tours. It was well worth the $150 cost for the two of us.
The tour started out at a national park called Iguana Island. We took a short hike around a well-marked trail and saw several wild iguanas. After that, we made our way north past a number of sparsely inhabited islands. Our guides, Winnie and Wilfred, did a great job of pointing out interesting sights and gave us a crash course in island history. We made our way out to a reef about 500 yards offshore and had the opportunity to snorkel. The wind was really blowing and the water was pretty rough, making snorkeling a challenge. Cynthia opted to stay on board and bask in the sun while I took in the underwater sights.
Once we'd had our fill of snorkeling, we motored over to a beautiful secluded beach known for its abundance of shells and sand dollars. Cynthia used her mask to find about 6 beautiful specimens, while I enjoyed the feel of the sun on my skin and sand between my toes.
On our fifth and final night, June 20, we got a special treat. Each evening, we'd anticipated a romantic sunset, and each evening, clouds on the horizon had obscured the event. That last night, as we were having dinner on the patio at Hemingways, it became clear that conditions were right for a sunset. As we finished dinner, the sky began to take on a golden hue. We rushed back to our room and grabbed our camera and made it back onto the beach to witness one of the most breathtaking sunsets we'd ever seen. The sky turned from gold to a deep orange. There were just enough clouds to diffuse the light and create sparkling patterns in the water. We stood arm in arm as the sun dropped slowly toward the horizon and shared a kiss as the dark orange ball seemingly dipped into the sea. It was a beautiful ending to a beautiful trip.
We would recommend Provo to anyone who loves the beach and the Sibonne to those who are looking for a relaxing, no-frills, romantic getaway. The staff was fantastic and the prices were reasonable for the area. But keep in mind that the Islands are not inexpensive. The IGA trip could easily send your average shopper into sticker shock.
We spent about $3,500 on our honeymoon, including airfare, and about another $600 on shopping.
For those looking for more excitement, Turks and Caicos has its share of nightlife and entertainment. We walked down to Beaches Resort one day and there were activities galore. As we picked our way through the sea of beach chairs, sunbathers and skittering children, we were really thankful we'd chosen the Sibonne. Then again, some people like the chaos. There truly is something for everyone and we would highly recommend it to any couple planning their honeymoon.