It was now Christmas Day, and I'd naturally made our lunch plans well in advance. I decided on the Lambert Beach Resort, an out-of-the-way property at the far eastern end of Tortola, and through a series of emails I was assured that they were most definitely open for lunch on Christmas and that no reservation was necessary and that they looked forward to seeing us. And so on Christmas morning we set off for the other end of the island, taking the longer but more scenic Ridge Road, which runs along the island's mountainous spine.
For the first hour or so, we ascended higher and higher up the mountain, stopping frequently for photos. Although the day was hazy, the views became more and more spectacular.
Along the way we encountered donkeys, cows, and other animals, almost none of whom were happy to be having their photo taken . . . and were not shy about saying so.
Well, except this guy. Then again, if he knew how many of his brethren I've gobbled up over the years, he probably would've told me to get lost, too.
The route soon became slow and arduous, repeatedly requiring us to scale the mountain via a series of angled switchbacks; slowly and carefully descend back down; then climb right back up again in order to go . . . straight ahead.
By the second hour, we both had to pee and were getting hungry.
As we neared the three-hour mark, I was kicking myself for not packing a jar of emergency peanut butter.
Finally, a Christmas miracle -- a sign directing us to Lambert Beach Resort! We attempted to gun the engine up the final series of steep hills -- the Tortolan equivalent of a marathoner crawling across the finish line and then promptly throwing up -- and, at long last, we pulled into the parking lot at Lambert Beach Resort, nearly three hours after we'd left the house. We were tired, hungry, and in urgent need of both a bathroom and a cocktail.
But both of those could wait because . . . kittens!!!
Eventually I tore myself away and we made our way over to the restaurant.
The restaurant was completely empty. I don't just mean that the 11:30 people never showed. I mean empty: No table settings. No menus. No bottles or glassware behind the bar.
And no people, save for a lone woman sitting at one of the tables using her computer. She gamely explained that the waitstaff had all gone home and the chef was at the beach, and therefore there hadn't been any food or drink at the resort for the past several days.
She also genially offered to make us sandwiches in her room, which we politely declined (though not without some regret on my part). Later, while we explained to the disinterested woman from the front desk that this whole fiasco was completely unacceptable, Sandwich Lady helpfully piped up, "Oh, you should have been here last year. It was even worse!"
(Wait a minute. You spent last year's vacation at a resort with no food or drinks, and then you came BACK the following year?!?! I have some swampland in Florida that we should talk about.)
Now, if you have been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that I like to eat. And I eat way more, and way more often, than the average person. And so, when it finally became clear that we had driven almost three hours LITERALLY UPHILL BOTH WAYS to get to Lambert Beach Resort for lunch, and that there was not actually going to be any lunch, well . . . I lost it. And it is particularly fitting that I lost it on Christmas Day, because the only way to explain what happened next is to use an example from one of the most famous Christmas movies of all time, "A Christmas Story." You know the scene: Young Ralphie, having been tormented for weeks by the neighborhood bully Scut Farkus, finally snaps and beats the living crap out of him, all while uttering a string of unmentionable curse words. In a voice-over, adult Ralphie explains: "I have since heard of people under extreme duress speaking in strange tongues. I became conscious that a steady torrent of obscenities and swearing of all kinds was pouring out of me as I screamed."
There were no beatings that day at the Lambert Beach Resort -- it was Christmas, after all -- but there was most certainly a steady torrent of obscenities and swearing of all kinds when I found out that I wasn't going to get my lunch.
(I wish I could say that we jumped in the car, revved the engine, and left skid marks on our way out of there, but the 90-degree hill we had to chug up to leave the parking lot didn't really allow for a dramatic exit. It was like trying to stomp out of a tent.)
After about another hour of driving, we made a fortuitous wrong turn in Road Town and ended up at the Village Cay Marina, a spot that we both vaguely remembered from six years ago as the site where we crashed a wedding after one too many bottles of wine at The Dove.
Thank you, Village Cay, for operating a restaurant with actual food. Your chicken fingers were juicy and tender, your shrimp wrap was overstuffed and tasty, and I am grateful that your bar was open so I did not have to go all "Roadhouse" on you.
Right nearby is the quaint and colorful Crafts Alive outdoor market, where I put that new stamper of mine to good use.
Back at Peach Cottage, we took a quick nap, then got ready for our dinner reservation at the Sugar Mill Hotel, whose lovely restaurant is housed in a romantic 17th century sugar mill with the original stone walls and beamed ceilings.
The Sugar Mill was one of several restaurants we visited on this trip that indulged us in the charming British tradition of the "Christmas Cracker," a brightly colored tube that's twisted at both ends. The cracker makes a popping sound when pulled apart, and inside you'll typically find a small token gift, a joke, and (best of all!) a shiny paper crown. We'd received utilitarian gifts like a tape measure and a shoe horn in the crackers at other restaurants, but the Sugar Mill must have known I was coming, because Angel received a mood fish and I received . . . a miniature pink squirt gun!!! You probably don't need a mood fish to guess Angel's mood from that moment on.
Dinner was fantastic, with pumpkin-and-black-bean soup for Angel, tuna tartare for me, and an un-ordered salad course for both of us. Extra food: Merry Christmas to me!
Angel barely even looked at the menu before deciding on the traditional turkey dinner, while I settled on the lobster medallions with risotto.
We each ordered the apple pie for dessert, which was the only disappointing note of the meal because it was served cold. So we took it to go, warmed it up back at the house, and ate it in bed.
That's one way to salvage Lunchless Christmas.
Next up, a day trip to Jost Van Dyke, where the beaches will be beautiful, the Painkillers will be plentiful, and the restaurant will be open . . . or "Boxing Day" will take on a whole new meaning.