Julie Anne and Tatjana Rhodes in Mustique
Last week’s episode of Housewives of New York vacationing in the Caribbean disturbed me. I know it is reality TV, and the more the drama queens bitch, the better for ratings- but really? The Caribbean and cat fights are just not synonymous for me!
A few years ago, I was pining for the Caribbean. I missed my yearly trips to Mustique and Barbados. Only days later, and after ten years of losing touch , my friend Lee Lindsey called me out of the blue! The conversation went like this “Hey Julie Anne, what are you doing in October?” Caught off guard my reply was ” I don’t have any plans yet… it’s only January now, why?” To which Lee said “I’m having a major birthday, and want to take ten girlfriends to Barbados to celebrate” I’d love for you to join us?”
Our version of the Island Housewives doing it right!
Now that was awesome! First, out of all the people one meets in a lifetime, to be one of her top ten choices to spend a momentous birthday with, really touched me to the core; and secondly, it was almost like I’d willed the trip into existence by longing for it so strongly. Of course I jumped at the opportunity.
Julie Anne, Tatjana, Jimmy, and Jerry: Tatjana’s first kiss in Mustique
Lee and I had been through so much together… we met in 1987 during a party at Jerry Hall and Mick Jagger’s house in Mustique. Our children just five months old at the time, were born within five days of each other. We arranged play dates for the kids once we were both back in London, and became close friends, as did our children. We were there for each other through the challenges of married life, being young mothers, through each others divorces, and certainly did our fair share of partying together.
Lee helping me with Tatjana’s 3rd birthday (her son, Sam, to the left of her)
By then almost ten years sober, I suddenly started to get cold feet at the last minute. I didn’t know any of the other women. What if we had nothing in common? What if we didn’t like each other? What if everyone wants to get smashed every night? What if, what if, what if… but the call of a long lost friendship (and of the islands) was stronger than my fears, so I threw caution to the wind, and went.
Every time I step foot off the plane in Barbados I draw in a long, strong whiff of air, hold it for a second, then release. It has a distinctive damp smell all it’s own, that for some reason makes every muscle in my body unwind at once. My constantly racing inner engine instinctively slows. I’m in my element, feeling a synchronization with the environment I’ve never felt anywhere else in the world. I’m on Caribbean time, and I am home… a place filled with happy memories.
Everything about it is soothing and enjoyable. I actually do stop to smell the roses with every sense enthusiastically drinking in the island’s local color. The Bajan accent as pleasing as music to my ear, feeling the spray of the sea on my face, and wet sand squishing between my toes. My taste buds dancing happily with every mouth full of food, and the decaying decadence of the homes we stay in built of sandstone with Venetian chandeliers swaying in the wind, and faded persian rugs beneath our feet.
Tatjana enthralled by the puppies in Mustique
Anyone would be hard pushed to say or do something to upset me in the islands. I’m just too happy there to let petty things get to me. I found it absurd when the Housewives, surrounded by incredible natural beauty, in the lap of luxury, STILL had to dig at each other constantly. We were eleven women in total, living under one roof, from different social and economic backgrounds, countries, and professions yet we never had even one bitch fest. In fact the motto of the trip was “just when you think life can’t possibly get any better… it does!”
From the sisterhood that developed between us all, to lazing on the beach, swimming with sea turtles, cocktails at sunset with Lee serenading us on guitar before dinner, to dancing the nights away, and watching a sea turtle lay her eggs right next to us on the beach, as we ate dinner on the veranda the last evening- something the staff assured us NEVER happens. It must have been all that positive female energy.
The laughter, camaraderie, and intrigue with nature’s majesty was the polar opposite experience of that on the show. I felt sorry for the Housewives inability to appreciate their surroundings and each other. Ours was one of the best holidays of my life! Thank you a thousand times, Lee! Oh, and the food…
Lee’s birthday dinner
Bajan food is divine. Spicy, sweet, tangy, and fresh all in one. The cuisine retains much of the British Colonial traditions of it’s past, heavily influenced by African dishes that came along with the slave trade, plus a dash of East Indian spices and dishes such as Roti, delicious spicy meat of your choice wrapped in a chaptis. The fishermen bring in flying fish, tuna, barracuda, turtle, mahi mahi, and dolphin fish (a mild white fish not related to Flipper) that are normally cooked with local exotic fruits and vegetables such as pawpaw (papaya), cherries, breadfruit, coconut, and taro, yams, and squash. Chiles and thyme are commonly added in for an extra kick and balance all the other flavors to perfection. The Bajans are also known for their wonderful hot sauce with a yellow mustard base and blend of very hot chilis including habanero. I bring home as much as I can possibly carry every time I go, usually along with a few extra pounds from eating so well. I love Barbados. Where is your favorite destination?
P.S. Don’t forget to tell your family and friends to follow Jewels from The Roving Stove, so they can vote for their favorite Ladies that Lunch Menu. The poll is located on the right hand side of the blog towards the top.