When I woke up this morning, the first thing I noticed was the searing pain in my legs – I can’t believe that a half hour scavenger hunt has left me this worn out. Seriously. I am SO out of shape. This didn’t bode well considering we had about five hours of site inspections on the to-do list. I walked around in zombie fashion this morning, touring a few nearby properties.
My favorite part of the morning was when Bonnie, our super sweet contact at Ani Villas, picked us up to do the site inspection. She had such an obvious enthusiasm for the villa guests that I can only imagine how well they pamper the visitors. The two villas that make up the property are modern, luxurious, and 5 bedrooms each. Both villas sit side by side on a bluff overlooking a magnificent ocean view.
The Ani Villas team went above and beyond to reach out to our group in order to arrange a site – even going so far as to inviting us to stay a couple of nights (kicking myself that we had already purchased our airfare!!), so I’m more than impressed with their generosity and dedication to partnering with travel agents. Nothing but great things to say about the property!
After quite a tiring morning, we retreated back to the Viceroy for a free afternoon (free afternoon = facial and beach time) before meeting the entire crew (minus Beatrice, who left this morning – we miss you, B!) for a farewell dinner. This was not just any farewell dinner, though. It was a thoughtful, immaculate spread hosted in one of the 5 bedroom villas, complete with a sushi lesson at the beginning.
Some might find this hard to believe because I have such abismal cooking skills (my dishes turn out edible, but the course they take to get there is not always pretty), but there was a point in my college career where I wanted to drop out and go to culinary school. I swear to you. Now, after ranking last place in samosa making at the Cellars in Cape Town and last place at sushi making at the Viceroy, I’m afraid that culinary school would have been an epic failure. Thank God the travel business rescued from becoming a culinary school dropout.
My first wrong turn in sushi making was when I forgot to wet my hands before grabbing the sticky rice. I think Tamara has some photos of this, but sticky rice is VERY hard to get off of you when you grab a handful without completing the proper protocol. Chef Juan seemed very disappointed in me, but I thought my crab and avocado rolls were delicious.
This is a huge accomplishment considering that I just started eating sushi two days ago (I’ve tried in the past but the fishy taste usually makes me gag). Everyone else made very pretty, creative sushi that could’ve easily been served at a fine establishment, like in the Publix sushi section. Next, dinner was served family style at our private setup on the villa’s deck. We chowed down on steak, mahi, and the most amazing coconut rice (the chef told us it was award winning – I believe him).
Always the creative thinkers, our hosts arranged an incredible goodbye for us: wish lanterns.
We wrote our wishes on each individual lantern and lit a section on fire, which hoisted the lantern into the air as far as the eye could see, much like a mini-hot air balloon. This is all beautiful and romantic unless you are me or Laura Allen. After watching others successfully send their wishes flying toward the heavens, Laura managed to let her balloon go before the heat has had time to build tension. The balloon fluttered to the ground, right along the shore, where a wave crashed and extinguished the entire thing.
During my second lantern lighting, somehow the wind picked up (some might argue that I just didn’t know how to hold the lantern properly) and I lit my lantern on fire. Here’s the progression of that occurring, in photos:
Once the lanterns were lit and soaring into the sky, one after the other, it was a really magical scene. Apparently the Viceroy let go of hundreds of these during the holiday season – I’m sure it was incredible to witness and can only hope that they did so with more grace than I had tonight.
I am so thankful for our gracious hosts, Tamara, Brent, and Beatrice, and for the entire staff for making us feel like home. I can’t believe our three days are already up – what surprises me even more is how close we’ve all gotten in such a short period of time. There’s something about the camaraderie of a fam trip and the bond between agents that just leaves little room for conflict – how could you not make an entire new group of friends when you’re experiencing a property as amazing as the Viceroy? I am just so fortunate for the generosity of this hotel and for the friendships I’ve formed in this industry as a whole, but especially those on this trip. Thanks to Laura, Kelly, Josh, Luke, Beatrice, Tamra, and Brent for making that happen – you guys are great travel companions and Travel Mart can’t come fast enough to reunite!
We said our goodbyes after an interesting night of dancing and tomorrow, Laura and I will be taking off to St. Barth’s for two nights. It should be a totally different experience and I’m looking forward to sharing with you all!