Providenciales, Turks & Caicos
The Regent Palms Resort & Spa in Providenciales
After years of working my way through the ranks of the South Miami Police Department, I was finally scheduled to take the Sergeant’s exam. But law enforcement was the last thing on my mind when we touched down in the Turks & Caicos Islands, or “TCI” as the locals call them. Not because I hadn’t packed my textbooks; I had. But because turquoise water, endless blue skies, brilliant sunshine, and ice-cold Cuba Libres have a tendency to put a man’s mind on other things. Namely, my new bride Erika, a tall, effervescent redhead with a penchant for expensive shoes, whom I had met a year and a half earlier on a beach in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. It didn’t take long to know that Erika and I were meant for each other. So, a short while after our beach rendezvous, somewhere off the coast of Mexico, I put a three-carat, marquise-cut diamond on her left hand, a pair of sky-high Christian Louboutin pumps on her feet, and asked her to be mine forever. We were married in an intimate ceremony with family and friends by our side. The highlight of the wedding was when my work partner, our resident singing detective, sang “One in a Million You.” There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. After the wedding, two things were on our minds. First, we knew we wanted to start a family. Second, we wanted to travel. We had both cruised the Caribbean. I’d been to Italy, England, Israel, and Egypt. Erika had traveled to Greece and Tahiti. Now we wanted to visit those places together. Japan and Spain too. As luck would have it, our two goals coincided when we were presented with a honeymoon trip to the Turks & Caicos Islands as a gift. It was the perfect present—a romantic beach vacation in a place neither of us had ever been. There are 40 islands and cays in the Turks & Caicos but only eight of them are inhabited. Though considered part of the Caribbean community, the island chain is actually in the Atlantic, 600 miles southeast of Miami, a touch below the Bahamas, and not far from the coast of Cuba. A British Overseas Territory, the TCI use the U.S. Dollar for currency, are home to the third largest coral reef, and boast what Condé Nast claims is one of the top 10 beaches in the world. Our flight from massive Miami International to tiny Providenciales Airport was short and sweet. A taxi driver welcomed us to the islands with a big smile and a warm accent that was a honeyed mix of British English and Caribbean Creole. When he dropped us off at The Regent Palms Resort & Spa in Providenciales (or Provo as it is known locally) he gave us his card and offered to drive us wherever we needed to go. We thanked him and said we would. Then we approached the resort entrance and Erika, wide-eyed with delight, said, “Oh, Michael, this is going to be heavenly!” As we checked in under an airy white-washed portico, I surveyed the property and knew she was right. Manicured to within an inch of its life, every flower bush, every tree and plant, was the epitome of perfection. After we enjoyed the complimentary welcome beverages and island-style appetizers we headed off to explore our honeymoon suite. In May, the islands are summery and hot. Erika would tell you that it was “a ba-jillion” degrees that day. I’m not sure if that’s technically accurate, but you get the idea. When we opened the door to our suite, the cool air-conditioning felt incredible and “spacious” is an understatement for what we saw. The place was an impressive 1,500 square feet in size and decked out with vaulted ceilings, marble floors, mahogany furniture, and a private balcony with ocean views … and a plush daybed that was calling my name. We had a king-size bedroom, an ultra-modern bathroom, separate dining and living room, and a full-size kitchen. And, there on the granite counter top, was a bottle of Champagne and a box of chocolate dipped strawberries, gifts from my father. Despite having just had a snack, we indulged; it was our honeymoon after all. At The Regent Palms, high-speed internet is readily available and, on a normal day, we would have been using it to check our BlackBerrys, but this wasn’t a normal day. Back home, we’re both what you might call overachievers. I work for the Miami Police Department and teach Criminal Justice at Florida International University. At the time, I was also publishing my second book, working on the dissertation for my PhD, and preparing to take the Sergeant’s exam. Erika had been putting in 50-hour work weeks in her job as the Human Resources Site Director for a local hospital group. So to say that we needed a vacation would have been putting it mildly. Being in Turks & Caicos gave us the rare opportunity to turn off our phones, catch up on our sleep, and indulge in hours of “us time.” As Erika predicted, the whole experience was indeed heavenly. I tend to be an early riser so, most days, I let Erika sleep in. When she awakened, she would find me reading on the balcony daybed. We’d spend the morning together and then head out into the sunshine. The Regent Palms sits at the center of world renowned Grace Bay Beach. On our first day there, Erika fell in love with the powder-white sand and the most gorgeous turquoise water either of us had ever seen. She staked out a cabana chair beside the lapping waves and, every afternoon, she would sit there with a floppy hat and sunglasses on her delicate red head, a book in her hand, a cool beverage and generous amounts of sun protection by her side. I couldn’t get enough of the serpentine infinity pool. It had a swim-up bar and hot tubs, white terry covered lounges, and chilled towels. In the pool itself,there were sunken benches with tables that came out of the water. My favorite thing to do was to sit in the water with a cool drink and a hand-rolled cigar and read. After a couple hours, Erika would emerge from the beach looking healthy and happy, wrap herself in a feminine pareo, and join me for a relaxing lunch at Plunge, a poolside café that is surrounded by thick gardens and cool waterfalls. We were constantly impressed with the intuitive service at the resort. If we needed something, the wait staff were there for us. If we wanted to be alone, we didn’t even have to ask. Late afternoons were spent exploring the islands, which is how we came to find and fall in love with Da Conch Shack. This little café and rum bar is located just outside of Provo on Blue Hills Beach. When we arrived, the bartender brought us ice-cold bottles of locally brewed Turk’s Head beer. Then we made our way to a table in the sand and watched as two fishermen paddled a kayak out into the water. They pulled up fresh conchs, brought them ashore, and walked the meat to the kitchen where the chef prepared our meals. Wow. You hear people talk about farm-to-table, well this was ocean-to-table and we loved every minute of it. You can have the conchs prepared any way you desire: conch salad, conch chowder, coconut conch stew, conch fritters, curried, fried, you name it. The setting was amazing. The calypso-style music was soothing. And the rum punch was downright dangerous. When we weren’t patronizing Da Conch Shack, we would dress for dinner and head to The Regent Palms’ seaside bar. There, we would sip cocktails and watch the sun trace its languid path over the horizon. One afternoon, a small group of people rode by on horseback … spectacular. At Parallel 23, the resort’s fine dining restaurant, we were treated to a wonderful selection of expertly prepared nouvelle cuisine. Every dish that arrived was a true work of art. The chefs painted pictures with the sauces and the food was fantastic. After dinner, we retreated to our private balcony, the soft sounds of the ocean, and the twinkling stars overhead. The Regent Palms also has a 25,000 square foot spa with a range of exotic treatments. The whole place was so relaxing, we were tempted to extendour stay but the real world and our careers beckoned. So, with heavy sighs, we said goodbye to our airy suite and headed home. Back in busy Miami, Erika returned to wearing high heels and managing human resources. I settled back into my writing, teaching, and work routine. I’m not sure whether it was the tranquil island mindset, the time alone with my lovely new wife, or those mornings of study on the sunny daybed but something magical occurred on that trip. When it came time for me to take the Sergeant’s exam I not only passed, I got promoted.