Dave and Kate's 20th Anniversary

Turks and Caicos, October 16th-23rd, 2010

This will make the fifth time we've done a Caribbean vacation, and our first visit to the Turks and Caicos Islands.  We stayed in the Royal West Indies Resort on Grace Bay.  Grace Bay has to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, a wide expanse of white talcum powder fine sand and crystal clear turquoise waters as far as the eye can see.  The Royal West Indies Resort was nice, although it was more of a condo complex than a true resort.  It did have a restaurant and some beach service (towels, a couple of kayaks, a small sailboat, loungers and umbrellas, that sort of thing), but it was lower key, a set of eight, three-storied buildings that stretched inland from the beachfront through a set of tropical gardens. That lead to unpleasant surprise number one:

Kate:  Excuse me, but we asked for a ocean view room.
Manager:  This is an ocean view room.
Kate:  I would have thought a ocean view room would have a view of the ocean.
Manager:  Look just off your balcony... see the first quiet pool?  And beyond that, the second quiet pool?  And after that, the hot tub?  Then the botanical garden walkway?  Then the family pool?  And the Mango reef restaurant after that?  And the stone garden walkway?  And the palm trees after that?
Kate:  Yes.
Manager:  Watch the palm trees... wait for it... wait for it... (A breeze causes the fronds of the palm tree to briefly sway, letting through bright turquoise glints.).
Manager:  There.  Ocean view.

Unpleasant surprise number two:  Equatorial sun causes sunburns. 

Other than that, it was a pretty perfect vacation.

OK, here we go, in a completely random order that's subject based instead of time sequenced.  First stop, the weather, which is displayed below in terms of Weather.com's predictions vs. what we actual saw:
Part the second... Botanical gardens. The Royal West Indies Resort features a truly wild variety of plants, the names of which are a mystery... but they are fun to look at:
And now, the critters...  Clockwise from upper left; an Egret looking for lizard snacks, a cool bug, a hermit crab, an Iguana, a caterpillar, and one of the thousands of lizards ranging from eight or nine inches to less than one; this one decided to hike a ride on my sandal.
And... the beautiful, clear, turquoise waters of Grace Bay:
Oh, but let's not forget the sunsets....
The Royal West Indies Resort rooms included a small kitchenette with microwave, toaster, and refrigerator, and the local grocery store was everything you'd find at home at twice the price you normally pay.  But that was all good, based on our experiences on Grand Bahamas where a typical food bill looked something like:
Ham Sandwich $8.00
Wheat bread instead of wonder bread $.50
Wheat bread on the other side $.50
Swiss instead of cheese whiz $1.00
Special mustard (Gulden's) $1.00
Glass of water $2.00
Ice cubes ($.50 x 8) $4.00
  Ice cube refrigeration storage charge ($.25 x8) $4.00
   You didn't notice the math error $1.00
Sales Tax (10%) $2.20
Stamp Tax (10%) $2.22
Rich people surcharge $3.00
Resort area surcharge $2.00
You aren't paying attention any more surcharge $5.00
Gratuity (party of 1 or more, 30%) $12.00
Total $123.67
We did eat dinner out more often than not, which made for a difficult decision, given the 60 or so restaurants along Grace Bay (most at the resorts).  But we had several guides that provided helpful information, a sample of which looked like this:

Mango Reef:  International cuisine with a Caribbean flare.  Casual yet elegant dining on the beach.  Live music Tuesdays and Fridays.
Anaconda:  International cuisine with a Caribbean flare.  Casual yet elegant dining on the beach.  Live music Thursdays and Fridays.
Po-po's Pizza Hut:  International cuisine with a Caribbean flare.  Casual yet elegant dining on the beach.  Live music Wednesdays and Fridays.
Big Al's Hamburger and ton-o-fun shack:  International cuisine with a Caribbean flare.  Casual yet elegant dining on the beach.  Live music Mondays and Fridays.

As it turned out, "Live music" was the thing you wanted to watch for, because getting a root canal done by a dental school dropout has to preferrable to hearing a lounge music version of Bob Marley played loud enough to rattle your teeth.

However, for what it's worth, which isn't much unless you go to Turks and Caicos Islands RIGHT NOW, here are some standouts:

Hemingways:  Conch Chowder to die for.  And we're not a big fan of Conch.
CoCo Bistro: 
Lobster and Avacodo Spring Roles
The Lounge
(love seats scattered around a oceanside patio at the Regency Grand with tapas-style dishes) - Crab cakes (while snuggling with your sweetie at the same time)
Mango Reef (the Royal West Indies restaurant): 
Blackened Mahi-Mahi
Snorkeling adventures:

Other cool things:
Above: The bat caves.  Which were full of bats up bat hidy-holes. 

Right:  Lunch in a local village.

Below:  A "Potcake" stray; the local resorts and hotels all have stray cats that are allowed to hang around, and they would do all sorts of antics to attract attention (and food)
Below, left:  Touring the island on a scooter, driving on the wrong side of the road, taking dirt path detours and having unfriendly locals sic their rabid dogs on you

Below, right:  Kayak eco tour, with Big Blue Unlimited (we did a tour with someone else as well, but it was a crowded feed-them-rum-punch boat; Big Blue is a little more expensive, but small groups with good tour guides, a much nicer experience).
And, finally, proof that you can train reptiles... feeding wild iguanas from your hand.  When we arrived on the protected island, there was a little picnic area.  No sooner had we set up for a fruit and cookie snackfest than a half dozen of the prehistoric looking critters showed up. 

Well, enough for now.  You can see all the photos here.