Jared and I just celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary, and we took our first big trip together since our honeymoon. Jared planned the whole thing, including asking his mom to stay with our kids for a week and using his frequent flier miles (from so many stupid work trips) to get our tickets for free.
We went to the island of St. Lucia, which is now an independent nation after being owned 7 times by the British and 7 times by the French. They speak English and Creole (a variant of French), and they drive on the left side of the street.
We stayed at Sandals Halcyon, one of 3 Sandals resorts on St. Lucia. We had free access to the other two resorts, and we went to Sandals La Toc twice. Once we ate dinner at their uber fancy French restaurant, and the other time we at lunch and had massages at their spa. Our resort's spa was outside, and I wasn't about to get a massage out in the open where anyone can walk by and see some stranger manipulating my cellulite.
To get to our getaway destination, we flew from Peoria (Illinois) to Chicago (Illinois) to Dallas (Texas) to Miami (Florida). We spent the night in Miami, without our luggage (although it was eventually delivered to us at 1:30 am). The next morning we flew from Miami to St. Lucia. Then we waited in the Sandals lounge for a shuttle that drove us nearly 2 hours to our resort.
|On the shuttle ride, we saw a cruise ship docked at St. Lucia.|
|First sights of St. Lucia|
We had a great room on a quiet part of the resort. Here's the view from our balcony:
One of the many walkways through the resort:
There were swings, hammocks, and places to lounge everywhere. We spent most of our days either by the pool or beach. We'd lay side-by-side and read until we got too hot. Then we'd dip into the water to cool off. Relax, rinse, repeat.
|Studying my Sunday school lesson--this is how I want to study every week!|
|Napping on the beach--this is the good life!|
|I read 2.5 books on my Kindle.|
|This was our favorite pool. It twirled and trailed around so every couple could find a quiet spot.|
|This little fella enjoyed an afternoon by the pool with me.|
We ate lunch everyday at a beachside snack bar. While we ate, we watched people waterskiing, kayaking, and nearly falling off some standing paddle boards. Some couples rented bright yellow kayaks to go check out the nearby uninhabited island. We were planning to do that, but we got massages instead. :)
Each day while we were out at the beach and pool, our room was cleaned and restocked. One afternoon when we returned to our room, we found a little anniversary cake on our bed:
We went on a snorkeling excursion with a few other couples from our resort. We took a shuttle to the docks and then rode a boat out to a good snorkeling spot. It was my first time snorkeling, and I had a little trouble training my body to put my face in the water and then continue breathing. I eventually stopped panicking and got the hang of it. We saw tons of coral, sea urchins, fish, and eels.
|On the boat ride out to snorkel|
|This is where we went snorkeling. It was super cool to swim through that archway in the rocks.|
|Post-snorkeling boat ride|
On our very first night there, I apparently got bit in the eyelid by a mosquito. The next day I had trouble seeing out of that eye. You can see the remnants of that little incident in this poor-quality selfie:
Here's Sandals La Toc as seen from our snorkeling boat:
We ate lunch at one of their casual restaurants before our massages. This was our view during that lunch:
There were 1-2 weddings on the beach every day at our resort. I personally wouldn't want to be in the middle of my beach wedding and look over and see couples sunning themselves on the beach, but that's just me. We enjoyed watching the couples and their families.
Dinners were one of my favorite parts of the getaway. Somewhere around 5:00 each day, people went back to their rooms to shower and get made up. Everyone dressed up for dinner, and it was super fun to go on fancy dates with my husband every single evening!
Since Sandals is an all-inclusive resort, we didn't have to pay for meals individually. We made a few reservations for the restaurants that required them, and the other days we simply chose the restaurant that sounded good. Food was always served in courses (soup, salad, appetizer, main dish, dessert), and we always finished with coffee. Oh, their coffee was A-MAZING! (They serve Blue Mountain coffee imported from Jamaica, if you're interested.) Jared's favorite part was just getting up and leaving when we were finished. No waiting for a check or figuring a tip.
Just in case you're curious, even on a tropical island where unlimited alcohol is already included in the price we've paid, we still don't drink alcohol. It's our personal choice, whether we are in our hometown where we might run into familiar faces or we are in the middle of the ocean surrounded by people we'll never see again. It was a little hard knowing we had basically paid for something we wouldn't use (there was a fully stocked bar in our room and bars throughout the resort). We just told ourselves that the price was worth it for all that we did get out of our getaway.
When our few days in paradise were over, we flew from St. Lucia to Miami, flew from Miami to Chicago, rented a car just after midnight in Chicago, and drove home, arriving home just after 3:00 am.
Traveling with Jared was like being in Men in Black. He just knows where to go and has special access and priority to bypass certain lines or at least wait in shorter lines. For the most part I just held on to my carry-on and tried to keep up with his six-foot-four-inch stride.
He was most serious when we arrived in Miami on our trip home because we had to be cleared through Customs (or Passport Control? There were so many different types of security that I got confused!). On the plane he faced me squarely and gave me a pep talk. "When we get off this plane, your goal is to outwalk all of these people. We will do what we need to do to get past them. We will be looking for kiosks for U.S. citizens. You will click 'No to all' and then scan your passport and then stand still as it scans your face and takes a pictures." Can you imagine how much I started sweating as he kept talking? He failed to mention that we weren't just "outwalking" these folks a short distance to some Customs line. No. We had to walk through several terminals, jocky for position on an airport tram, walk up a moving escalator, jog on a moving walkway, run down stairs passing the down escalators, and power walk to the Customs kiosks. Maybe this would also be a good time to tell you that I messed something up at the kiosk (despite Jared's pre-instructions), which printed a big "x" on my kiosk printout, and I had to receive a little lecture from a cranky man (who, by the way, doesn't believe anyone gets married just once). I was a little shaken after that.
I told Jared that I felt like a jerk for overtly running past our planemates and trying to get ahead of them (we weren't the only ones). Jared replied, "Oh, getting through an international airport is like The Hunger Games." I laughed so hard I nearly fell over. He made a gong sound for effect.
Here are some of our travel pictures:
|On the runway at the St. Lucia airport|
|Leaving St. Lucia :(|
|I love how the airplane windows get little frost crystals at a high altitude.|
|I loved looking at all of the different gorgeous clouds.|
There is no question that God took care of us and and our kids down to every detail of our getaway week. I am so grateful for all of the people who prayed for us (and who gave me pep talks beforehand!). Not only did everything go just about as smoothly as possible (besides our luggage getting lost twice), but we also had whispers from God planted all throughout our trip. When we went through Passport Control (Customs?) as we arrived in St. Lucia, the employee behind the glass at our station was a 30-something woman with a hard face who scrutinized our passports. I was exhausted and overwhelmed and frankly kinda scared. As my eyes darted around wondering when we would finally just be at our resort, I noticed her nametag around her neck had flipped over. Written on the back of her badge was "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." Jared looked at me and we both said, "Philippians 4:13!" That evening as we sat down at our first dinner at this new place, the song "At Last" by Etta James started playing. That was the song that we played at our wedding as we walked up the aisle as husband and wife. Moments like that happened all week long, proving that God was taking care of us. I needed His permission to unwind, not think about our kids for a little bit, and take full advantage of the gift He gave us by allowing us to have this getaway.
This getaway was indescribably amazing. I can't believe I resisted it and thought we wouldn't be able to pull it off. I have to give a huge shout out to my mother-in-law Cathy for taking such great care of our kids while we were gone. That was incredibly generous of her to give so much time and energy to our family for the sake of the kids as well as Jared and me.
At ten years into our marriage, I still love Jared--and even like him--as much as when we were dating. Our relationship has obviously changed over time as our focus has shifted to parenting, but we've never lost sight of each other. This getaway, however, gave us the chance to really indulge in giving each other our full attention. Turns out: we still really enjoy each other.
To be honest, a little part of me wondered if it would be weird or even hard for us to spend so much time together, just the two of us. It actually wasn't weird or hard at all. It was awesome.
When we were engaged, we made a goal that we want to still like each other when our kids leave the house and it's just the two of us. This was kinda our check-in to see if we're on track to meet that goal, and we really are. We have about 50 new inside jokes from this trip, which is awesome since we use humor in all situations. This was an experience that we only shared with each other. Having regular dates where we go out to dinner and have a couple of hours without our kids is necessary for survival and helps us stay roughly on track. The getaway gave us a much deeper level of connection. Regular dates give us a chance to align our schedules, exchange stories from our week, and get on the same page about current family issues. The getaway allowed us to talk about anything we wanted. We got beyond the survival conversations and got to talk as two people rather than co-parents. And we are two people who genuinely love each other and enjoy each other's company.
Discovering that was the best anniversary present ever!