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This Week's HipBites

48 in Turks

When the markets are this bad, you find yourself scared to go too far from your PC! But who doesn't want to get away when it's this cold so my next two pieces will cover destinations, two of which are quick getaways and one luxe but at budget prices.

I first went to Turks & Caicos well over twelve years ago when there was only Grace Bay and Club Med. Boy has it changed. Just 575 miles from Miami, this little string of quiet islands still boasts the most beautiful waters I've seen on any continent. ~ Syl

p.s. As always at the bottom are our most recent reviews. Cafe Select, White Star, Vintage Irving, Southside and Apiary in New York; Lounge Bohemia in London; Canteen, Nopa, Range and Incanto in SF are just a few that have made the cut for the site lately.

STAY
The place you're going to want to be is Dellis Cay, a new island (the main two are Grand Turk and Providenciales aka Provo.) The 'being built as I type' Piero Lissoni Mandarin Oriental will be open by summer '09. Hotelier Cem Kinay of the O Property Collection's spot will be waterfront and only 209 of the 560 acres of the island is open to development. Expect 24 hotel residences, 54 beach houses, 9 ocean villas and 8 beach villas, some like Carl Ettensperger's will be on stilts perched above the water. But if you're thinking about buying, now's the time to do it as celeb architects Zaha Hadid, Chad Oppenheim, David Chipperfield and Shigeru Ban are all building available residences on the private island. Hadid's is the gem in the selection.

But in the meantime, you'll need to stay some place to check out these properties. There's the classic and legendary Grace Bay. But I also like Le Vele. With an intimate front desk, the kind with a kitchen where you can help yourself to paperbacks, DVDs, and coffee, the two bedroom suites overlooking the ocean are bigger than most Manhattan apartments. I also hear good things about the Turks and Caicos Club and the Ocean Club but I've not personally stayed in either.
-Le Vele on Grace Bay Beach, Providenciales
649 941 8800
-Grace Bay Club on Providenciales
649 946 5757
-Mandarin Oriental on Dellis Cay
opropertycollection.com

SEE & SWIM
It's all about the ocean here. Miles of white sand, there's diving, fishing, water skiing, wind surfing, catamarans, snorkeling, kiteboarding, it's endless. Diving is the top sport.
-Dive Provo for scuba diving on Providenciales
649 946 5040 or diveprovo.com
-Blue Water for diving off Grand Turk
649 946 1226 or grandturkscuba.com
-Nautique Sports for kiteboarding and water skiing
649 231 6890 or nautiquesports.com

The Conch Bar Caves in Middle Caicos are also a must. Conch is the national food and though it is endangered in most parts of the world, they are raised here at the Caicos Conch Farm for most of the Caribbean. Fresh conch ceviche can't be missed. I like the Island Discovery full day excursion tour from J & B which includes a fresh conch BBQ and lobster in season. For those who don't want to get wet, the island of Little Water Cay is a nature reserve and home to the local rock iguanas. Go to Leeward Marina and book an excursion for a half day to see and feed them.
-J & B Tours for excursions, catamaran, fishing trips etc.
649 946 5047

If riding on the beach is something you always dreamed of doing, you can do this on both Grand Turk and Provo.
-Provo Ponies
649 241 6350 or 946 5252
-Caicos Corral
649 231 3939 or 946 4351

EAT & DRINK
If you like seafood, these islands will be a dream for you. Including things that can only be had in the Caribbean such as local lobster and conch, it's an endless array of amazing fish and shellfish. I personally like Da Conch Shack and Bay Bistro, the latter for its simple prices and view of the beach. For an uncomplicated lunchtime meal, go for the by-pool restaurant at Point Grace. At dinnertime, Anacaona is to me the nicest place on these islands. Canadian chef Joel Rheaume and Chef de Cuisine Eion Laird make a mix of Caribbean cuisine with Asian and Mediterranean touches. But most amazingly is that the restaurant can set up a table on the beach with torch lighting. Have drinks afterwards at Grace Bay's Infiniti Bar. Or for a livelier evening go to Nikki Beach.
-Da Conch Shack
649 946 8877
-Bay Bistro at Sibonne Beach Hotel on Grace Bay Beach
649 946 5396
-Anacaona and Infiniti at Grace Bay
649 946 5050
-Nikki Beach
649 941 3747

ECO
I'm a fan of the new National Environmental Center's exhibition center. You can see the map of the migrating humpback whales that come to the islands from March to November as well as the Dwarf Dry Tropical Forest. Whale watching tours can be booked on Salt Cay. Turks has 33 protected National Park areas, the most in the Caribbean, consisting of mangrove sanctuaries, coral reefs and wetlands. They're teeming with important medicinal plants, insects, lignum vitae trees so hard that they were used to make WWII ball bearings. Once used by the Taino Indians, the Middle Caicos Caves are home to bats and a sight to see. From this center you can map out what you might want to do. The mangrove estuaries are important grounds for fishes, shrimp, birds and crabs. Long story short, without mangroves we wouldn't exist as bird poo creates plankton which feeds the oceanic life that sustains the world. Our photographer fell in love with the local breed of dogs, the potcakes.
-NEC on Lower Bight Road, east of Pratt's Road
-National Parks
649 941 5122
-The Potcake Foundation
649 941 3765

LOGISTICS
You'll need a passport. American has 2 flights a day from Miami. Delta flies via Atlanta. Air Canada flies to Grand Provo from Toronto. British Air goes via Nassau. Local currency is the American dollar. TDMA or GSM phones will work. The country is on E.S.T. (not island time contrary to belief.) You won't need special immunisations but you will need Deep Woods Off and heaps of sunblock (I happen to prefer Banana Boat's Baby 50.) Trust me. Sundresses, chinos and bathing suits are the right attire.

TAKE WITH YOU
I recently got Atomic Bass ear-buds. I rarely think something is good enough to rave about; these are awesome. I have my pod equaliser set to 'dance' and they've gone with me on all my trips. CNET gave them a higher rating than other 'luxury' $100-$250 ear buds and these retail for $39.95 so if you leave 'em on a flight, no biggie.
Atomic Bass ear-buds at RadiusEarphones.com



above View of Turks & Caicos, actual beach view from Le Vele shot during our visit . Photo courtesy of Duffy-Marie Arnoult. All rights reserved.

Hip Tunes
I took with me to Turks 'The Ivy Ceiling' a CD by Lokah featuring Sting and Russell Simmons. Really enjoyable island listening.
http://www.lokahmusic.com or on itunes.com









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