Bahamas’ Breathtaking Simon’s Point For Water & Sky

“You know in yoga class when they tell you to close your eyes and visualize the place where you feel the most at peace?  This is my place.”  We are flying through the Bahamian waters, perched at the bow of the boat.  We were clutching the one and only rail preventing us from flying into the ocean beneath, our legs dangling over the edge, goosebumps prickling across our skin as the water splashes at our feet.  Maggie has been coming to Exuma since the year she was born, the land, water and people of this island as familiar to her as anything she’s ever known.  Exuma has forever been a constant, Simon’s Point a second home for love, laughter and escape.  We touched down in Exuma after an easy two hour flight from Atlanta, immediately energized and rejuvenated by the sun.  The following five days were absolutely euphoric and entirely disconnected.  No televisions, no computers, no iPads.  Just the lively breeze blowing through our hair, reminding us to feel from within, to not be distracted by anything but our own thoughts.  Exuma is a place of pure, untethered bliss.  A place that is so, so hard to leave.

Simon’s Point is a ten minute cab ride from the airport, a local grocery store and liquor stop conveniently located at the base of the entrance to the drive.  The ride is beautiful, views of the ocean peeking out at us through the thick island vegetation.  A small house will appear every mile or so but for the most part it is remote.  Maggie comments that things have really developed since her childhood.  The long drive leading from the entrance of Simon’s Point to the two homes gracing this peninsula is a bit rugged and our taxi driver has to negotiate several breaks in the concrete, leisurely making her way to our final destination.  Suddenly, a pale pink house emerges in the landscape.  Our vacation has begun.

Marjorie making bread
We walk into the house and the scent of warm flour hangs in the air, a whiff of yeast tickling my nose.  It leads me to a galley-style kichen where I find a cool breeze slipping through the window, dancing across the back of Marjorie’s neck as she firmly and decidedly kneads tan, speckled dough, pressing crisco into what is sure to be mind-altering Bahamian bread.  Marjorie has been cooking local, home-grown meals at Simon’s Point for years and you are well aware upon entry that she is the head of this kitchen.  I shyly ask her if I may watch her cook over the next few days, perhaps snap a few photos.  I receive a skeptical and sly sideways glance in reply.  “OK” she says, and I hope to myself that I am not imagining the smile that tugs at the corner of her mouth.  The spell Marjorie and the fresh bread have over me is broken by an excited shout “Lindsey put your swimsuit on – we’re going to the beach!”
Morning tea and tarot cards

And so begins a series of days that run in to one another.  Mornings are for drinking coffee and tea on the porch, watching the sailboats cross through the sun as it continues to climb high into the clouds.  We have a tarot card reading every morning as well, asking quiet questions to ourselves and seeing what sort of feedback the cards will present us with.  It proves to be a fun and insightful activity and a fantastic way to start the day.

The scenic stroll to the beach
The rest of the day is undefined, simply ruled by when one feels like strolling to the beach.  The concept of time sporadically pokes it’s head into conversations.  “Wait, is it 2pm or 3pm?”  Resounding responses follow: “I have 2pm on my phone but the stove clock reads 3pm.” “My phone reads 3pm but I see 2pm on the wall clock.”  The subject is not up for debate for long as we all conclude that it doesn’t really matter.  Time will take a backseat this week.
It is only when the last day is looming that we wish, desperately so, that we could transport this method of time-keeping back to our daily lives, lives that pre-Exuma were governed by clocks, smart phones, computers, iPads and televisions.  The act of disconnecting allows you to actually, for once, connect with both yourself and the world.  You feel, live and behave in a way that you have always envisioned for yourself.  The perfect version of you, a malleable blueprint sketched in each of our minds.  You vow to take some – all – of this energy back to the ‘real world.’  You vow to live your life to the very fullest.
Our private oasis
Our private little beach is tucked away at the end of an incredibly scenic walk, views of the ocean changing with every turn.  Chaise lounge chairs are fanned across the sand, facing the sea as the tide makes it way toward our feet.  Two hammocks swing in the canopy of palms, swaying low to the ground and a table and chairs is positioned in the center of the scene.  Our arched beach front is remote, disguised and blessedly private.
Fried Plantains
When we feel that familiar low growl in our tummies we make our way back to the house and are treated to a variety of fantastic island fare.  Fried plantains, Caribbean lobsters and Bahamian-style fried chicken are served with the traditional peas and rice and an unimaginably light coleslaw, the perfect cooling agent for the hints of pepper weaving through each dish.  Marjorie and Madeline, a Bahemian native as well, make sure we are well-nourished and are continually patient with my pictures and questions.  It is a treat and a true pleasure to watch them crafting these meals made up of dishes from their own homes, recipes shared for generations on this island.
Caribbean Lobster
Our sense of adventure overcomes us after a couple of days in our private paradise and we decide to venture out for an afternoon at the ‘Chat and Chill’, a beach shack perched on the edge of Stocking Island.  I haven’t been on a boat in quite some time and I can hardly wait for our ride to arrive at the end of the little dock adjacent to our beach.  Moses, a local and Simon’s Point regular, is our captain for the day and he nestles the boat up to the dock, the water beneath swaying rather aggressively.  We take unsteady leaps of faith into the boat and are off into the crystalline blue waters, Moses steering the vessel into the waves as screams of delight escape from our lips.  We fly through the Caribbean Sea, cays passing by on our right and our left, the rolling hills of the Bluegrass thousands of miles away.
The makings for conch salad at Stocking Island’s Chat and Chill

I have been hearing, and subsequently dreaming, about the fresh conch salad made to order at the Chat and Chill.  We approach Stocking Island and hop into the water, wading our way to shore.  We drop our towels and make a beeline for the brightly hued shack where ruby-red tomatoes and kelly-green bell peppers are being diced quickly and deftly by a local who has been harvesting fresh conch since he was a young child.

Harvesting Fresh Conch

When an order for a salad is called up he will stroll into the water where he retrieves a pole with live conchs looped around the base.  With decided and skilled hands he pops the conch out of the shell, the large and tough mussel of this mollusk the meat that puts his salads in such high demand.  I watched him slip a few choice pieces of the conch into his mouth as he worked and, when I inquired what they were, he smiled and responded “an aphrodisiac.”  He offered up this special item to me with the next conch and I ate it quickly, before my mind got the best of me.  I will let you use your imagination to determine exactly what part of the conch we dined on but I will mention that it is only found on male conchs and I was the only non-local who chose to give it a taste!

The Conch Burger at the Chat and Chill

Our beach-side Chef squeezes copious amounts of fresh lime juice onto the conch meat and tosses it with the onion, tomatoes and bell peppers, adding spicy jalapenos upon request.  If ceviche-style conch doesn’t get your taste buds going, I highly suggest you give their conch burger a try.  Tucked between a soft, kissed-by-the-grill sesame bun, the conch meat is blended with lively spices, the smoke from the grill coming through softly with each bite.  I had been hearing as much about the conch as I had about the signature libation of Exuma, the Goombay Smash.  A mix of several different spiced rums, pineapple juice and orange, the Chat and Chill poured them liberally out of recycled gallon jugs.  Ordered with a rum floater, the goombay smash rounded out our day in the Chat and Chill sun.  After naps on the beach we headed back to Simon’s Point, counting the cays we passed along the way.

The Market in downtown Exuma
Back at Simon’s Point we found we were dangerously low on rum.  This is not a position one wants to find oneself in when living the island life.  Maggie, Courtney and I used this as an excuse for a girls’ getaway and headed into town to explore the market and the small but busy ‘business district’ of Exuma.  Airy stalls painted in bright blues, reds and greens weaved along the main road, cutting through the center of town.  They flowed into one another, t-shirts, beach towels and necklaces decorating the ceiling and the walls, mountains of woven baskets, hats, purses and bowls filling in any and all empty space.  The ladies keep eye over their wares while coaxing long pieces of straw into submission, threading the reedy material into works of art.
The sun setting over downtown Exuma
After selected our handmade goodies we peaked into the Peace & Plenty, a beautiful hotel located right off the main drag in town.  We continued on and found our most desired provision, the rum, and started to make our way back toward the car, the sun setting in the distance.  Upon return home we were greeted by the scent of freshly fried chicken and the sounds of Z and our friends Robert and Jonathan piecing together the chords of a Beatles tune, Benton and Lee enjoying cocktails on the deck.  Post dinner we gathered the makings for the perfect s’more and negotiated our way through the dark, following the path to Princess Beach.  We coaxed a pile of sticks and dead palm fronds into a fire and toasted our marshmallows into charred perfection, melting the dark chocolate when sandwiching it between the graham crackers.  The moon was bright and the stars were shocking.  It was an idyllic last night.
Jonathan celebrating our fire
Lindsey McClave
Lindsey McClave has a deep love for food, wine and travel. While she has no intentions of becoming a chef or a sommelier and doesn't consider herself an expert in any culinary area, she is obsessed with learning.

She says, "the one thing I've taken away from my wine travels is that wine is meant for everyone - rich, poor, and everywhere in-between.” Whatever cooking becomes to you, she encourages you to find that foodie place, embrace it and run with it.
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