A Visit to Turtle House

June 4, 2015

— There are only two parking spots at Turtle House and both of them are on the water. —

Turtle House is where my husband’s best and oldest friend, Frankie, once called home. When Frankie wasn’t hanging out with us at The Muddy Kitchen, or at Rose’s down the way, Frankie was at Turtle House looking out onto the crystal clear waters, reading in the hammock and enjoying his piece of magical paradise. 

— The only way to get there is to pull up and tie off. —

Once you step off your boat and onto the dock at Turtle House, you understand why Frankie never wanted to leave.

— Simple beauty everywhere you turn. —

It’s impossible to imagine Turtle House as a “house” per se; it’s more like a compound, a collection of rooms to sleep, rooms to shower or bath, spots to eat, to sit, to run the radios, a place to dock the boat, a rock to dive off of. 

— There’s not much difference between indoors and out at Turtle House. —

— If you squint, you might be able to see the nearest house, Croft’s place across the way. —

Turtle House is perched on a hill, which is on Stocking Island, which is a boat ride across from The Chat & Chill, which is a boat ride across from Exuma, which is somewhere in the Bahamas. There’s no real address, just a lot of pointing to a spot beyond some sailboats, a few warnings about shallow water here and there, and requests to bring over some rum if you have it, or a few bottles of beer, a loaf of bread, whatever.

— Self-sufficency is key when your world is so far away from the real world. —

There’s nothing to do at Turtle House and nowhere better to go. You’ll soon lose the need to know what time it is. You’ll quickly forget why clothes are all that important. You’ll start playing cards, reading the books on the shelf and appreciating the company of nice people.

— Wealthy German fantasy meets beach living? Maybe. —

— Sunscreen and flip-flops are a necessity no matter who’s coming. —

We heard tales of the original owner of this enchanted place: wealthy German scion? A reclusive rockstar? An eccentric hippie? Like most legends, it’s hard to know the absolute truth. Maybe. Any of those things might have been true. The relics of bygone eccentricities were everywhere.

— The view from Frankie’s bedroom. No real need to ever leave. —

— The ‘pool’ is never very far away. —

Frank’s friends and relatives gathered together at Turtle House as if Frankie was still there. Food was plentiful and made by lots of hands. The kitchen was always buzzing and full. Even in Exuma and with Frankie long gone, the Viggianos know how to represent. 

— The Viggianos represent. —

— No one ever goes hungry with Rose around. —

Rose always has a smile and a plate of something for everyone to share. Even when the cupboards were practically empty, somebody whipped up something delicious. And vaguely Italian.

— Of course it is the Bahamas. —

— Rum. The national beverage. — 

Soon the celebrations had us loading back onto the boat and ferrying across the way a few at a time to the local (and only) eating and drinking establishment. The ride there didn’t suck.

— Lunch is just a short ‘drive’ away. — 

No need to call ahead about the dress code at the Chat N’ Chill. Bring plenty of cash though; the sign promises the “Chat” for free, but they charge more than you’d think for the “Chill”. 

— The Chat is free. The Chill costs about $10 a pop. —

— They know from ceviche at the Chat N’ Chill. —

Luckily if I were stuck on this semi-deserted island forever, they make  something I could eat all day, every day, for the rest of my life and be happy. When you put these magical two words together – conch + ceviche – you know the key to my heart. They pull the conch fresh from the sea at the Chat N’ Chill and only make it a few batches at a time. The waiting is where the chill comes in, especially when you’re hungry. The chatting comes in handy too.

— No shortcuts here. —

— Conch ceviche, the spécialité of the island. —

CRACKED CONCH CEVICHE

This recipe presumes that someone like your personal sous chef can pull your conch fresh from the waters off your desert island, but if you don’t have a sous chef like that or conch as fresh and briny as they have off Exuma, I recommend a trip to the Chat N’ Chill. There is no substitution. 

Ingredients:

8 ounces fresh conch (preferably Bahamian, preferably pulled from the waters mere minutes earlier)

1 lemon + 1 orange + 2 limes freshly juiced

1/2 red onion, minced

½ sweet pepper, minced

½ jalapeno, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Cut the conch in small chunks. Add the citrus juices. Add all the vegetables. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

— Digesting lunch takes lots of time and little effort. —

— And the short ride back to Turtle House. — 

— Frankie’s sentiments at Turtle House loom large. —

— No real need for anyone to know about this place. —

Take your flip-flops off before you come in here!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Melanie Rees

I can’t believe I stumbled across this post. My husband and I lived in this house for 7 years in the 70’s early 80’s. Such a magical place, and at that time we were one of only 3 houses on the island.

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Jennifer Solow

Wow, Melanie! What a small world. How did you happen to stumble across this post. Do you have any photos from your years there? CRAZY! Are you on Facebook?

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