From the day when we had the five spice creme brulee for lunch: Rent a car. Nevermind that car rental is expensive. Nevermind that The Island in Question is 8 square kilometers, so small you feel you really ought to be able to walk anywhere you’d want to go. Nevermind that Leslie the travel agent told you, in serious tones, that you would not need a car. (Maybe she wanted to shield us from the poverty?) Rent the car. Why? Because if you don’t, you will be stuck at the (lovely, beautiful, amazing, swank, way-beyond-your-normal-means) resort. Why is this so bad? Because at the aforementioned resort, a Nicoise salad costs $29, a burger and fries costs $22 and those are the two cheapest items on the lunch menu. And nevermind the cost, you’d really just like a tuna sandwich already. Or a roll. Or anything not featuring seafood, because you’ve been eating like a queen for three days and your stomach is starting to rebel. So you will order dessert for lunch, and thus begin your rapid descent into what shall henceforth be known as “Creme Brulee-fest 2006”.

From the day we had dark chocolate creme brulee with passionfruit sauce for dessert: Embrace the fact that you are Not A Swank Traveller. Swank Travellers, I have learned, employ an entirely different set of rules than the rest of us. Swank Travellers think nothing of bringing their nine year old children to islands whose primary offerings are topless sunbathing and fruity rum drinks. Swank Travellers have entire sets of Louis Vuitton luggage, which, doing a quick mental calculation after wandering by mistake into a Louis Vuitton store on Island Number Two, costs approximately one gazillion dollars. Weirdest of all, Swank Travellers arrive at Swank Resorts ALREADY TAN. I learned from a nice woman who took a snorkel trip the same day we did, and who works in the “tanning industry,” (?) that what I should have done was buy an unlimited pass to a tanning salon for the month before my trip and spent “three to four minutes per day” in the tanning bed to build up a nice deep golden glow. Um, I’m sorry, but who has time to go every day to the tanning salon? Oh, that’s right, the lithe, fit, holy crap they look so amazing in bikinis that I’m having trouble believing their bodies actually once bore children mothers in their 40s and 50s who populate Swank Resorts do. Paging Pseudostoops, pale doughgirl party of one! Your body complex is calling! Fortunately, I was travelling with John, my great Irish partner in paleness who doesn’t really work out either, so we could glop on sunblock and hoard beach umbrellas together.

From the day we had creme brulee with chicory and coffee granita after a truly superb dinner: Oh ye of Irish descent should just give up on beach vacations already. For when, after a week of dilligently slathering on SPF 5012, wearing a hat at all times, and sporting muumuus on the beach to protect delicate shoulders, your body finanlly CATCHES ON, and realizes that you are SPENDING TIME IN THE SUN, which is AGAINST THE RULES, it will give you sunstroke. This will cause your arms and legs (and even your poor tummy, in a bikini for the first time since age FIVE- never again!) to break out in angry, itchy, bright red little bumps, and you will spend the rest of your vacation furtively scratching and despeartely hoping that the lithe tan fit women don’t notice that you look like the skin of a piece of uncooked chicken.

From the day we broke with newly-established tradition and ate a “key lime pie in a glass,” which is perhaps the world’s perfect dessert: At the end of a brutal academic quarter and a mild but still cold and gray Chicago winter, everyone who has the chance should leave for a week to a place with no cell phones, no email, and a really cool travel companion. And a lot of fruity rum drinks.