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by Helen Rafferty
I love the idea of tropical island vacations but they scare me. As a pale, freckled Irish woman, I know that the tropics are full of things that are bad for me: Harsh sun, high prices and swim-up bars top the list. Make that swim-up bars that open at 10am. Very tempting since you can fall off your barstool without cracking a rib.
But my kids have been begging for a trip to one of those Caribbean mega-resort for years, so I finally gave in and booked 5 days at a place that features all of the above-mentioned hazards plus a mandatory meal plan, also known as a compulsory calorie-intake program. Armed with SPF 50 and a touching faith in my own will-power, I committed 95% of my family’s disposable income for the year to an adventure in the torrid zone.
The flight to Paradise was hell; we took off two hours late with more unhappy babies than should ever be allowed on one plane. The rattle-trap bus that picked us up at the airport knocked what little sense we had left out of our heads before we even got the to the resort. How else to explain our meek acceptance when the hotel took two hours to deliver our luggage – you know, those bags that hold everyone’s bathing suits? The sun was setting on or first official day in Paradise before we could get out of our travel clothes and gear up for some official vacation-type fun. We hurried down to the massive pool area, figuring we could squeeze in a few trips down the water slides before they shut down for the night. But by the time we had braved the towel line, the plastic wrist-tag line and the line for the inner tubes, the pool area was being hosed down and the 2,000 other vacationers around us were wisely getting in line for the dinner buffet. That made us diners 2,001- 2,006 for the evening. Longing for adventure? Try the curried mahi-mahi after it’s languished under the heat lamp for four hours. The kids went off to the desert buffet while I went off to the john, my guts having decided to acknowledge what the rest of me couldn’t yet face – Paradise was Hell.
The rest of the trip went okay, I guess. My teen-age daughters stayed out all night at the Teen Disco, my 11 year old braved the Giant Water Slide 317 times, and my husband holed up in our room, staying cool and watching the Tour de France on cable. As for me, I slathered myself in sunblock and skulked in the shade. The swim-up bar beckoned but I resisted, worried that the young lifeguards on duty might not notice a pale, middle-aged woman floating face-down with a pina colada glass still clutched in her cold, stiff fingers.
It was dark and raining when we got back home. I left my family to sniff the milk and forage for dinner. Locking the bathroom door behind me, I lit a candle, poured a glass of wine and sank into a hot bath.
Finally, I was in Paradise.