“How did you end up deciding to go to that island?” my friend R. asks. She is casually sitting on the bed next to me while I am packing our suitcases. Clothes are lying everywhere on the floor.
I must pause as I don’t actually know how to answer.
“I am not sure,” I eventually mutter. “We just need a break, you know. P.’s heard about the island from friends who went. We wanted something simple and low key. Then, I found a house with a pool. Not too expensive. And it was not too far either. So I made it happen. Voilà ! You know me, that’s how it goes.”
We wanted to see turquoise blue waters. Feel the warmth of fine sand under our feet.
It’s close to noon on Saturday morning when we arrive at the airport of Miami. The place is bustling with activity. We have less than an hour to wait before our next flight. It’s short. Lulu is casually resting on my lap, feeding her baby doll, and despite our early start of the day, I can feel that my body is finally starting to relax.
Everything has been so far easy and it feels weird. This time, I am glad not to have forgotten a passport back at home. These things happen now.
The flight connection works fine. We don’t experience delays. Lulu is happy. So we are too. And now we even have a car ready for us at our final destination. Our next stop after that will be the house. At that point, I am simply craving a dip in the pool.
“Look at these colors!” I tell P. as I catch a glimpse of reefs in a beautifully clear blue sea, minutes before we eventually touch the ground.
The change of weather is striking.
“Wow, I had forgotten how summer feels! ” I tell P. as I watch him toss our bags in the trunk of our small rental car.
I am wearing a pair of jeans, a long-sleeved shirt and converse shoes, and all I wish for now is a pair of flip flops, a light skirt and a tank. Lulu looks tired and hot, but like us, she shows real signs of excitement about the new environment surrounding us. Especially when she catches a glimpse of the booster seat loosely installed in the back. While we are worried it might not be secure enough, she loves it right away.
“She looks grown up in it, don’t you think?” I tell P. when I see the big smile that lights up her entire face.
We don’t need to say it. We both feel proud of her for handling the trip so well. We are also very happy to have a quiet vacation, the three of us, on an island for an entire week.
“Is the house far?” P. asks after I start the car. I prefer to drive while he navigates. We always seem to work more efficiently this way.
“I can’t be.”
Provo–as the locals call it–is small indeed. It’s part of two groups of tropical islands in the West Indies that form Turks and Caicos.
The islands lie southeast of the Bahamas and north of Haiti and Dominican Republic. The land area covers 430 square kilometers and the total population is around 36,000, of whom approximately 22,500 live on Providenciales in the Caicos Islands.
We’ve decided to stay on the quiet side of Provo, away from the bigger and more touristy resorts. As is common with us when we travel.
Our house is located in a quiet neighborhood near Long Bay Beach. The kitchen, I quickly notice, could do with better equipment, but I make do with it.
“I feel less silly about the vegetable grater and knife I’ve brought with us,” I cannot help remark. to P. He always likes to tease me about this weird habit of mine. I like to think of it as useful instead.
With the privacy, the pool, jacuzzi and beach are what make the place.
Our days start slowly and follow an even slower routine with neither phones nor computers which we embrace with great ease.
That’s all we want.
After a morning swim, we eat at home, or we end up in pretty-looking beach bars, lunching on conch ceviche or tacos, mussels cooked in white wine, rice and peas and BBQ-ed fish. In the afternoon, we read, nap and go swimming again before dinner, and then we take a walk on the beach to watch the sunset. With the dogs who live on the property escorting us back and forth each time.
And the next day, we repeat the same pattern.
“It’s funny how people decide that one beach is amongst the most beautiful in the world,” I tell P. one morning while the three of us play in the sand on an empty end of Grace Bay beach.
While preparing for our trip, we had read that guide books refer to Grace Bay beach as one of the world’s top beach destinations. We understand why. The contrast between the green turquoise of the water and the lightly colored sand is stunning. Truly eye-catching. But yet we still prefer by far the natural beauty we find in Long Beach beach on the other side of the island where we stay; Whitby Beach in North Caicos and Mudjin Harbor beach in Middle Caicos that we visit as well. There are no crowds or fancy resort hotels there. If you wanted to, you could have the beach just for yourself.
On the Tuesday night, while we sit on the patio and enjoy a dinner made of white quinoa with stir fried vegetables and shrimp cooked in coconut milk, lime juice and lemongrass“, I tell P.: “I am really excited about tomorrow.”
“I know!” he says looking amused. “But it’s going to be a long day….”
I know it will, especially for Lulu, I fear. Yet that night, I cannot help but feel selfish. I am thinking about the visit of Government Farm in North Caicos, one bigger island near Provo.
P., I know, understands my eagerness. Over the years we’ve been together, we’ve traveled to a fair amount of islands in the Caribbean, and this time is my first to visit a farm on an island and see how local produce is grown.
Writing that I am excited is simply an understatement.
The trip to North Caicos is a short thirty minute ferry ride, which amuses Lulu who enjoys saying hello to every passenger. Before we know it, she has become the amusement on board.
“Will you tell me on this map how to get to the farm?” I ask miss Suzy, the short woman waiting for us on the dock.
Plump but moving with grace, wearing glasses covering her face, Miss Suzy who is renting us a car looks friendly and motherly right away. She bursts into a loud laughter and then says: “Sure, but you’ll just have to follow my directions, not the map. There are no signs“.
She is right. I am doubtful that we will be able to find the place, but oddly, her directions–plus a few stops to ask locals by the side of the road—work.
And the visit to the farm is a true delight.
“Oh, des moutons!” Lulu exclaims joyfully after we make a turn left through a fence onto a rugged path leading to the farm. Surprised, P. and I look around to see whether we can see sheep too.
“Où ça ?” (Where?) I ask her.
“Là-bas !” (Over there!) she says as she points directly in front of us. We burst out laughing. Dozens of goats, old and young, are gathered behind a fenced area where they can run and play.
Lulu has found friends.
A few footsteps away, I spot three men bent down. They are busy cleaning lines of zucchini, they tell me after I ask what they are doing.
“Are you selling anything right now?” I then ask another man who piques my curiosity. Tall and slender, he carries himself in a way that makes him look focused. Even serious. At first, I even have a hard time understanding him.
”Vous êtes française ?” (Are you French?) he eventually says.
Surprised, I look at him, unsure about what to respond. But when he eventually smiles, I smile back and let a faint “Oui” escape between my lips.
“Je suis haïtien.” (I am from Haïti.)
His name is Iram.
He walks me around the farm, showing where they grow eggplants, bananas, papayas, thyme and parsley–and so many plants I don’t know or recognize. I am enchanted to find so much. Iram enjoys talking. We chat away in French. “We just need a lot of water,” he tells me when I ask whether it’s hard to grow vegetables. “We can grow a lot. It’s easy.”
“At the moment, we also have a lot of callaloo,” he continues on.
Hearing that, I feel thrilled. I recall P.’s conversations about callaloo, and the fond memories he keeps of eating callaloo soup when he lived in Trinidad as a child.
“Can I have some?”
Before I know it, I am leaving the farm with a bag full of parsley, papaya, zucchini, peppers, a large bunch of callaloo that I stir fry that night, and four eggplants.
“And what are you planning to do with those?” P. remarks, seeing the heavy bags I am carrying in each hand. “Did you forget we are leaving in two days?”
“No.” I am smiling. I have ideas.
“You’ll love it.”
The night that follows, we are eating stuffed eggplants. De belles et délicieuses aubergines farcies !
My recipe is simple. Mix ground pork with carrot, sweet potato, tomatoes and eggplant flesh cooked in olive oil with garlic, shallot and spices. Then, stir in cheese and parsley, and then an egg to bind the ingredients together.
Once cooked, the eggplants are tender and melt-in-mouth. Their taste improves even more the second day.
“I cannot wait to try the recipe again at home.”
We are finishing lunch. Our last on the island.
“Oh please, yes!”
That dish, we agree, will always bring the memory of Iram; the visit to the farm; Callaloo; Miss Suzy; daily swims in the pool and deep green waters; drawing turtles in delicate fine sand; beautiful smiling school girls walking home by the side of the road; conch shells found on Long Bay beach during our evening walks; our first taste of conch; Lulu’s growing confidence in the water, and her discovery of bumpy roads and lizards.
All of it.
- 4 medium eggplants
- Sea salt
- Olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 shallot, chopped finely
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and minced finely
- 1 small carrot, peeled and grated finely
- 1/2 sweet potato, peeled and grated finely
- 4 medium tomatoes, blanched, peeled, seeds and diced
- 1 pound (450 g) ground pork
- 1 large egg
- Fresh parsley, chopped
- 2 ounces (60 g) Comté cheese, grated
- Using a small spoon, scoop the flesh out of the eggplants. Sprinkle the inside with salt and turn them, face down, on a working surface. Leave to rest for 30 minutes minimum. Chop the flesh finely and keep 1 cup aside.
- Preheat the oven to 375 F and have an oiled baking dish ready.
- In a frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. When warm, add the shallot, ground cumin and coriander. Cook for 2 minutes and add the garlic. Continue to cook for 1 minute.
- Add the grated carrots and sweet potato and cook, stirring once in a while, for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Add 1 cup of the eggplant flesh and cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetable preparation looks soft. Transfer to a bowl and let cool slightly.
- Stir in the meat, 3/4 of the cheese and then the egg. Add the parsley.
- Stuff the eggplants with this preparation. Place the eggplants in the dish and sprinkle with the rest of the cheese. Drizzle with olive oil and add water (or chicken stock) at the bottom of the dish (enough to create a small bed). Bake the eggplants for 1 hour, or until the cheese is lightly colored. These are even better the second day.
- 4 aubergines moyennes
- Sel de mer
- Huile d’olive
- 1/2 càc de cumin en poudre
- 1/2 càc de coriandre en poudre
- 1 échalote hachée finement
- 1 gousse d’aïl hachée finement
- 1 petite carotte, pelée et râpée finement
- 1/2 patate douce, pelée et râpée finement
- 4 tomates moyennes, pelées, sans les graines et coupées en dés
- 450 g de hachis de porc
- 1 gros oeuf
- Persil haché
- 60 g de Comté râpé
- Utilisez une petite cuiller pour évider les aubergines. Gardez une grosse tasse de chair d’aubergine et hachez-la. Salez l’intérieur des aubergines, retournez-les sur une planche à découper et laissez-les dégorger pendant 30 minutes minimum.
- Préchauffez le four à 180 C et huilez un plat allant au four.
- Dans une poêle, faites chauffer 2 càs d’huile. Ajoutez l’échalote, le cumin et la coriandre et cuisez pendant 2 minutes avant d’ajouter l’aïl. Poursuivez la cuisson pendant 1 minute.
- Ajoutez les carottes et la patate douce râpées et continuez à cuire, en remuant de temps à autre, pendant 3 à 4 minutes. Ajoutez les tomates et cuisez encore pendant 3 à 4 minutes. Ajoutez la chairt d’aubergine et poursuivez la cuisson jusqu’à ce que tous les légumes soient tendres. Transférez dans une jatte et laissez refroidir légèrement.
- Ajoutez le porc, 3/4 du fromage, l’oeuf et le persil.
- Farcissez les aubergines de cette préparation et mettez les aubergines dans le plat. Ajoutez le reste de fromage et arrosez d’un filet d’huile d’olive. Ajoutez de l’eau (ou du bouillon de poule) au fond du plat et enfournez pendant environ 1 heure, jusqu’à ce que le dessus soit doré. Le plat est encore meilleur le lendemain.
Stunning photos, those colours are just breathtakingly beautiful! And how amazing you got to visit a local farm, it is always so fascinating to get to see how locals go about their daily lives.
the turquoise and the green is out of this world. glad you enjoyed it!
Vous vivez ce que je rêve de vivre
What a GORGEOUS post, and it looks like the perfect vacation:). Lovely, lovely!
What fun! And a visit to a farm as well! Hope you can hang on to some of that relaxed feeling. So nice to see that the sun is shining somewhere in our world. Great photos as usual, Béa. Beautiful, beautiful colors. Welcome back.
Your post makes me dream of sand, sea, beaches, hot weather and relaxation. Sigh! I love the colours in your pictures. The farm looks very exciting too!
What an absolutely stunning post! Colors are unbelievable. Makes me want to dig my toes in the sand!!!
Lovely post and gorgeous pictures!
I read the title, not knowing what the post was about. When the top picture loaded, it literally took my breath away. I’m glad you had such a great holiday, and you shared with us both the pictures and the lovely recipe and memories. Thank you.
Great post. The colors are amazing. Beautiful pictures
I’m speechless or maybe not… 🙂 This post is wonderful. It’s well written, entertaining and the photos… hmmm… BEAUTIFUL, AMAZING!!!
You really had a nice, relaxing holiday! Thanks for sharing it.
Stunning. My dream vacation.
I first visited Turks and Caicos in 1988 when there was barely a hotel there. It sure has changed but is still so beautiful.
This is too beautiful. I wish summer vacation would come already. The photographs are beautiful!
beautiful post and photos… AMAZING
Béa, tu nous présentes toujours des photos magniphiques! En plus, avec ce merveilleux paysage… Ça me fait penser un peu à la mer de la Guadeloupe… quel bonheur!
The pictures our absolutely gorgeous, and your writing makes everything come alive! Congratulations on the interview with Saveur as well!
What an amazing post. The whole thing…from your lovely prose to the amazing photographs to the experience…amazing!
We are headed back to our home in Aruba in 3 weeks for about 3 weeks. I cannot wait. It’s the only place on earth I truly feel at peace. The water and beach colors look very similar to your photos.
Your photography…is just….stunning. As always!
beautiful place! some of the fruits and foliage make me homesick for Hawaii!
Would love your travel info for this trip. In need of a little turquoise water myself and love the low key!
so beautiful palace~
enjoy your days~~
Oh Béa, this post is such a treat! Incredible storytelling and amazing turquoise water. I’m so glad you and your family had a peaceful stay.
How lovely to share your vacation with all of us. Your photos and details of your stay on this lovely island are so enjoyable. We’re supposed to spend Xmas in the Yucatan. I’ve never been and now your photos make me so excited. Thank you.
This is gorgeous!!!! Oh I so need a vacation! Brilliant photos! I love stuffed eggplants.
so beautiful *__*
Magnifique, tu nous donnes l’impression d’être partis aussi! une vraie bouffée de bonheur, de sérénité, de beau. Merci
light is amazing!
What beautiful photographs! I love the colours. I’m also dreaming of white sand and turquoise sea, though today the park in London will have to do! (At least it’s sunny!).
This looks like the most beautiful place! I’ve never travelled to the Caribbean, and I’m definitely very curious now. And your photos are incredible Béa. The stuffed eggplants also look delicious – I can’t wait to try them either!
Ahh, je viens de passer 15 minutes de vacances en lisant cet article. Maintenant, je retourne étudier.
Je viens très souvent ici sans laisser de commentaire mais voilà, il faut que je le dise, j’adore votre blog! Les recettes sont très inspirantes et j’ai souvent envie d’essayer tout ce que vous proposez. Cet été, j’aurais le temps, alors je vais m’y mettre! =) Et bien sûr, j’attends le livre avec impatience!
What colors! and so lovely images!!!!
I am catching the next plane, certainly!
Lovely images! It looks like you had a fabulous and relaxing time. I’m relaxed just looking at the photos!
This post is just amazing. It’s so wonderful that you took the time out from your holiday to visit local people and local farm. I’m sure Lulu had a ball. I just recently made stuffed peppers so auberines sound liek a yum idea too!
I remember these vibrant hues of blues…. such happy memories. The eggplant sounds tres délicieux
What a gorgeous post! I love the photos of course, you always inspire me thank you!
These photos are a feast for the eyes, love the schoolgirls and the paw paw trees.
Wow, such beautiful photos!!
you have a talent of capturing scenes in your camera that are otherwise ordinary, and make it look extraordinary… that is special!
Just beautiful – your photos are breathtaking!
WOW! that’s all I can say.
Wonderful photos, great scenery, and as a bonus a nice, healthy recipe. Thanks.
Ce sont des photos magnifiques, et des paysages merveilleux!!!!
Avec ces vues nous sommes plus heureux!
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Fantastic post. I was transported. Beautifully done.
We lived in the West Indies for 4 years: 2 in Barbados and 2 in Haiti. My mother was French and so we all adored Haiti. Your post is absolutely fabulous: you capture the essence of what it is like absolutely – both in your photos and in what you say. Well done.
Gorgeous photos as always, makes me want to go back, such a beautiful place!
le calme et la simplicité de vos vacances sont largement ressentis rien qu’à la lecture de ce billet.
Et la précision en français “de belles et délicieuses aubergines farcies”, on sent toute la gourmandise du plat 😉
Bea, thank you so much for sharing your lovely vacation with us. Your oh-so-beautiful photos and sweet descriptions make me feel as if I have been there. Your site is a constant pleasure.xxx
I always look forward to reading your post and viewing your inspiring photographs. Looks like a fantastic vacation with your family!
Nice pictures and lovely holiday Bea. The climate and vegetation very similar to where I live. Lulu is so grown up now! Have a blessed Easter.
what an inspiration. thank you!
Sounds like an amazing vacation!! It’s wonderful to see your pictures — what a lovely place!
i want to go to there
Wow ! Un vrai régal pour les yeux avec toutes ces jolies couleurs sur tes photos.
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Your pics are stunning! the colours of the orange/pink bougainvilliers are so beautiful… looks like the perfect holiday to me!! congrats!
thanks for the nice story…
Les couleurs sont magnifiques ! Et bien qu’ici nous avons quitté l’été il n’y a pas si longtemps, ce récit de voyage me donne envie d’y retourner…
Je partage l’enthousiasme pour la visite de cette ferme locale.
Joyeuses Pâques !
J’adore! Quelles belles photos, quels beaux paysages, quel beau post! ça me fait rêver et me donne envie de voyager! 🙂 Merci et joyeuses Pâques!
My friend Krista recommended your blog, and I love reading it. It makes me want to start writing about food again. Thank you and keep it up!
Thank you everyone!
What a wonderful post! It was as if you took us there with you! thanks for that…..I needed to get away!
Amazing photos! My family is thinking about going in January but we are unsure of the weather at this time of year. However, the beautiful pictures are enough to convince me!
Great Post and great recipes.
The Wanderfull Traveler
what a wonderful place to visit and relax. the pictures are great, it really comforts the eye and the heart.
je viens de découvrir votre blog – et je l’adore! Les photos me font rêver – de voyage et de créer des nouveaux plats:) Et avant tout, votre interview de l’année dernière m’a laissé inspirée et motivée.
Je vous souhaite tout le bonheur du monde (comme dit Sinsemilia;))!
-Foodie from Norway
What a beautiful travel journal…
The photos are so colorful! my daughter really liked Lulu’s pictures…So cute..would like to visit the place one day
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I used your recipe for my lunch today…and oh my….it was SOOO good!!!It became our favourite meal :-)Thank you!!!
Oh my goodness. What a beautiful blog. J’adore vos photos, ils sont vraiment incroyable. You’re trip looks amazing!
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This post inspired my fiance and I to book our honeymoon on Long Bay Beach this week! How did you get in touch with the local farm? Was eating gluten free difficult at the beach bars? Merci!
heavenly! what beautiful photos. I loved the story. I’m just without words.
I made this recipe a few days ago–it turned out fantastic!
I used only half the stuffing with 2 eggplants and used to rest + a bit of cream to make a pasta dish. It was delicious.
So happy to hear Nurit. Thank you.
Kate, very easy to eat GF actually as the supermarkets surprised me with tons of GF products. The owner who rented us the house told me about the farm…
So glad to hear you liked the recipe! Merci
Thank you everyone!
que c’est beau ? vous avez trouvé le paradis ! c’est magnifique et ça me donne envie de faire ma valise et de partir directement
Un endroit de paradis … merci pour ton récit et les photos !
I have been seduced by your site, thank you, merci.
I cannot seem to find some recipes… do you not publish all of them or will I be able to find them in your cookbook?
Les couleurs sont époustouflantes en effet !
Quels paysages splendides !
looks like you had an awesome holiday there!
the different shades of blue in the pictures are so stunning, i wish to be there myself!!
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Gorgeous photos! And those eggplants look so delicious!
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the best post on turks and caicos, ever! i live here and still get amazed with your pictures and the islands seen through your eyes.
Stunning photography! I was just there as well, and just posted some pictures as well, interesting enough I thought of it the same – of the divine colors of T&C.
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unfortunately i can’t see any comments displayed and i was wondering if you can provide any infos on the house you rented?
oh, the comments are now displayed after i posted one myself.