Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Pickle Ball in the Caribbean!

The beach at Club Med (Grace Bay)

Greetings, dear readers!

Is it spring yet where you live? The calendar officially changed to spring the day we returned from the Caribbean, but it sure doesn’t feel like spring here at the Jersey shore! Gray, chilly, rain, rain, rain. It was a rude awakening landing at Newark Airport on a bone-chilling windy night after spending seven glorious, sun-filled days on the beautiful island of Turks and Caicos. 

Some of the folks who play pickle ball in the community where I live got together last fall and decided to take our pickle ball show on the road. And in mid-March what better place to do it than in the Caribbean? Our terrific travel agent recommended the adults-only Club Med with its’ ten PB courts, three of which would be reserved exclusively for our group every morning. 

I had never been to a Club Med and wasn’t sure what to expect. It was founded in the 50s by a Belgian entrepreneur named Gerard Blitz, who envisioned it as a “wholesome, community atmosphere of an Olympic village.” It was based on a simple philosophy:

“The aim in life is to be happy. The place to be happy is here. And the time to be happy is now.” Who could argue with that? Certainly not me during my time at Club Med. If you’d like to read more about the history of “le Club,” this is a great overview.

Dessert Offerings

A few past guests had told me that all the meals are served “cafeteria” style, and that the house wines served at lunch and dinner were “meh.” If you know anything about me, you know I am all about the food experience when I travel so I was a little apprehensive after hearing this. But we were really going for a week of pickle ball with our group not so much for a fine dining experience. So I have to say that I was very pleasantly surprised at the quality of the food offerings and the presentation at this Club Med. There is a very nice wine bar with more high end offerings, and the availability of doing wine tastings. We bought bottles there a few nights to complement our dinners, and one night had dinner at the wine bar, which was lovely. In addition, there were options for every dietary need, vegan, vegetarian, etc. Every meal had soup, fresh fish, pasta, incredible bread, great cheeses, and gelato for lunch and dinner. One evening, during the "White Night" event, they served beef Wellington, which was outstanding. Another night, they offered several varieties of sushi. In the mornings, you could get made-to-order eggs, omelets, or choose oatmeal, cereal, granola, waffles, fresh fruit - you get the idea. 

After a day or two, we fell into a rather comfortable routine: breakfast, a couple of hours of pickle ball, followed by a healthy smoothie at Sharkie’s Beach Bar, then off to loll on the beach or lounge at the pool until, say, 4 or 5pm, when we’d return to the room for a shower (or sometimes a nap!), meet at the lobby bar for a sunset cocktail, dinner, then dancing! This was on repeat for seven days and nights! 

Our favorite, Tropical Martinis

You may know that Club Med is famous for its’ nightly entertainment, which are a bit like variety shows put on by the team members (or Gentle Organizers, in Club Med parlance).  Again, I was skeptical at what the quality of these shows could be; and again, I was bowled over by the talent of these folks. Singing, dancing, acrobatics - it was very close to the Cirque de Soleil I saw many years ago in NYC. Right after the show, the club’s general manager and the performers would race over to the lobby bar where a stage had been set up, music was blaring, and they would whip the crowd into a dancing frenzy! It was wild, and I loved every minute of it!

Club Med Acrobatic Performer

One evening we took a cab to Da Conch Shack, which had been recommended by friends. Conch is the national dish of Turks so I knew I’d want to sample it while there. I had been introduced to conch fritters many years ago on St John USVI. Da Conch Shack is simply picnic tables on the beach, about 20 feet from the water, with friendly servers, great cocktails, and of course, fabulous conch! We loved the fritters, the conch stew, the fresh blackened grouper, and especially the rum cake with drunken raisins. Highly recommend if you are on the island.

Conch Fritters

Da Conch Shack

I think what I really loved about our experience at Club Med is that you can do as much as you want and be busy all day, or do nothing. The options for activities are endless - sailing, snorkeling, paddle board, tennis, bocce, trapeze (which one of our friends did!), spa, Zumba, yoga, etc. This Club Med is one of the few adults only locations on Turks and its all-inclusive so you can leave your wallet in the room safe and just enjoy everything the resort have to offer! We are already planning to return next year!

I do hope “real” spring arrives soon here and where you live! In the meantime, eat well, stay warm, and be happy!