Not So Grand

By Diane DeVaughn Stokes

Governor’s mansion sounds like a nice place doesn’t it? It wasn’t. And it was one of the craziest vacations we ever had thirty years ago.

Long before the internet when you could not tour each hotel room from top to bottom with explicit detail, Chuck and I decided to visit Grand Turk, which is the sister island to Provo in the lower Bahamas. Together they are referred to as Turks and Caicos. We spent four days in Grand Turk, then four days in Provo, which is known for its gorgeous beaches. However, Grand Turk is dotted with salt ponds leftover from the sea salt industry of yesteryear. Not an attractive island. And there was nothing to do there except to see their lighthouse perched high on a rocky bluff.  Not tour it, just see it from afar.

Our main interest was scuba diving. We heard that they had a magnificent wall that was so close into the shoreline you could actually walk in the water with your dive gear and descend upon this great structure with nothing but miles and miles of the great blue beneath you, feeling like an astronaut in outer space. The dive each day was magnificent, but the island itself was a “dive” if you get my drift!

Yes, I hear you. So why did we go to this place? It sounded quaint and charming, as it was billed as a quiet, friendly island with no hotels and riff and raff, no cruise ships, no gambling, short flight from Miami, and a magnificent shore dive where I did not have to worry about getting seasick on a boat in order to get to a beautiful reef.

The Governor’s mansion was an old house where the Grand Turk Governor actually lived many moons ago, perhaps, hundreds of years ago. You know the type: dark, musty, small rooms where if you rolled over, you might hit the wall, leaving no space for you to step out of the bed at night to go to the bathroom without crawling over your spouse and knocking him out of bed!

Breakfast was served in the antique dining room with big red felt roses that gave the wallpaper a three-dimensional look, a pattern from the early Napoleonic days. We were told that the dishes were used by the Grand Turk Governor and his family, which was strange since they were very feminine, covered in roses that matched the wallpaper. Certainly this must have been his wife’s personal choice.

One morning we had chunks of hominy with pigeon peas and pork patties, kind of like sausage but more ham taste. Another morning found us eating marinated Mahi Mahi on toast points topped with hard-boiled egg slices. Yes fish for breakfast! But the blim blim biscuits were not half bad as blim blim is in the star fruit family. One of the other breakfasts began with poached eggs over hash. I expected the hash to resemble the corned beef hash my grandmother used to prepare, and this was far from it. When I mentioned to the server that I thought the hash had gone bad, she said, “No ma’am. I kill goat this morning.”

Yuk. No more goat hash for me.

At lunch and dinner we dined at local establishments, as there were only two restaurants in town. One belonged to a well known, local woman who prepared meals each day for hungry divers, and that was the best of the bunch.

Our first evening, while having dinner in an open air concrete block building, a goat wandered through it – probably the one we ate the next morning, a wild pony and his pal, the miniature donkey, were chased away by the hostess, and chickens were cackling all around us. We would hate to tell you what we spent to get to this island for great diving, but it’s something we will never forget. Neither will our wallet!

Today Grand Turk has several REAL hotels, many restaurants and shops that cater to visitors. Yes, even tee shirt shops! Cruise ships are also stopping here to boost tourism and there are twenty-two things to do listed on the internet for Grand Turk, including zip lining, Catamaran Tours, and Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville with their famous swim-up bar!  But knowing all of that, I would not want to go back there now. The fact is, as goofy as it seemed when we were there, from the food, lodging and very little to do, as I look back, it really was somewhat charming. The locals were lovely, warm and friendly and genuinely thrilled we were there to see and share their homeland – real people in survival mode struggling with their early efforts of tourism.

You know what? It’s hard to find a place as rustic and real as Grand Turk anymore. And even though at the time we said it was “not so grand,” thirty years later I can actually say it was one of our most relaxed, and memorable vacations.

Grand Turk was “GRANDER” like it was than I’m sure it is now.

About this writer

  • Diane DeVaughn Stokes

    Diane DeVaughn Stokes

    Diane is the host and producer for “Inside Out” as seen on HTC TV Channel 4, and serves as a commercial spokesperson for several local businesses. She and her husband Chuck own Stages Video productions in Myrtle Beach and share passions for food, theater, travel and scuba diving.

    They own three four legged kids that they adore!

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2 Responses to “Not So Grand”

  1. Linda O'Connell says:

    I am certain that vacation remains prominent. We’ve traveled extensively and have also had this kind. Great story.

  2. Enjoyed your story. Loved all the details. And I admire you for scuba-diving. I tried it once and got sick on the boat out to the reef. You are a Braveheart!

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