Adventure, Food, Travel, Uncategorized

Return to Paradise, Part 9

There Is No “Goodbye”, Only “Until Death Do Us Part”

Rainy days and Mondays always get me down. Especially when they coincide with departure day. And especially when that rain is torrential, and lasts for the better part of an hour, a crucial chunk of time when you’re hoping to fit in a final jaunt to Captains Bay.

There is time, however, for a final dash over to Island Harbor and Le Bon Pain to grab a last bounty of pastries for breakfast and sandwiches for the plane ride, and to bid farewell to the lovely and sweet Paulette.

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Our plane is scheduled for departure from St. Maarten at 2:35 this afternoon, which in my mind means there’s still time to visit one more beach. See that little road leading over to Rendezvous Bay? Just so I can kiss the beach one last time? So I can throw myself on its shores, and dare anyone to pry me away?

But Mark is having none of it, and I decide I’m not going to push it, after all his indulgences with me over the past week.

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We arrive at the ferry terminal in Blowing Point at 11:00, far too early in my mind. It turns out that Mark was right in pushing us to allow so much time, though: the public ferry ride over is smooth, as is the taxi to the airport, but things turn sour after that, and sour quickly.

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It would seem we will now be made to pay dearly for these last blissful eleven days. We trudge, along with about eight hundred thousand other travelers, from checkpoint to senseless security checkpoint, up stairs, around corners, and at last through the final checkpoint, to arrive at our gate at 1:55 for our 2:13 boarding call.

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We then sit on the tarmac for an hour waiting for clearance for take off. I am wedged in what literally has to be the worst seat on the plane, that one in the far corner at the very, very back of the plane. At least the rest of my family is all seated all together, in the first row after first class. It would appear I in particular am being punished.

It’s 3:15 when we are finally cleared for takeoff. Our fearless captain chooses at this time to inform us we will break from routine, and will be taking off over water due to the fact we are overloaded and might not clear those mountains. Thanks for that information, Captain America, I’m feeling secure now. We are in safe hands!

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Over the next three hours the woman seated next to me relays the tale of agony she has just endured when her boyfriend was detained and prevented from joining her on their planned vacation.

My heart goes out to her and all, but right now I just want to curl up and cry. Because it’s suddenly obvious to me that I have once again left my heart on the beaches of Anguilla.

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Did you know that if you switch planes in Philadelphia (at least internationally), you have to change terminals? As in: leave one building, enter another, and go through security all over again?

At least I’m seated near my family on the last leg of our journey, so I’ll be near my loved ones when my body recognizes it is missing a crucial organ and just quits.

But somehow it continues, seemingly on autopilot.

My brother-in-law picks us up from the airport, chats with my husband about March Madness until he deposits us back home, which, to all appearances, seems completely unchanged.

How can this be, as my very DNA structure seems irretrievably altered?

The pain is literally physical over the next few weeks, as I gradually lose my tan and the inclination to drive on the left. Luckily the latter is mainly contained to grocery store parking lots, as I’m in too much of a daze to notice otherwise, and would get smashed to utter bits out on the open road.

Eventually, though, as the weeks pass I feel I start to pull the pieces of my life back together. This comes mainly from forbidding myself to check Facebook or TripAdvisor, and from looking at the pictures on my phone.

But then one day in late April when I am working in the backyard, a mosquito bites my ankle. I spray on some bug repellent, and immediately recognize it as the same one we used on Anguilla.

I backslide. Next thing I know, I’m watching a horrid reality dating show by Mark Burnett that was filmed on Anguilla while we were there, in hopes of catching mere glimpses of my beloved island. This is how low I have sunk.

Once again it becomes routine: checking forums on Facebook and TripAdvisor, reading Anguilla-Beaches’ weekly updates, searching for websites and online menus. I graduate to designing itineraries for imaginary trips, then further detailing these imaginary itineraries down to the last half hour. I even design itineraries for friends, and imagine I could do this for a living.

My husband and I host a (fairly) yearly tiki party for our friends and family. We decide this year to make a minor change: instead of tiki, the theme is “Take Me Back To AXA.” We carefully design a menu to accurately reflect the flavors of Anguilla:

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create a mockup of Garvey’s Sunshine Shack:

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and add all the details we can think of:

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It even rains the day of the party, creating an authentic March 2016 Anguilla experience.

But nothing helps. Absolutely nothing. Anguilla is a mighty powerful drug, my friend. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

No, I take it back. One thing does help: returning to Anguilla.

Our new Canadian friend Lynne? She returns in August. For the entire month. One. Whole. Month.

She returns again for a week in February of 2017, this time accompanied once again by Angela and Angela’s mother Karen.

Peter and Paula? They have a trip scheduled for this April to celebrate a milestone birthday. Except they couldn’t wait that long, booked a quickie over New Year’s when Jet Blue suddenly offered extraordinary round trip airfare from Boston.

Other friends from the various forums share similar stories: back in May, but booked a quickie in March (which, due to snowstorms, is prolonged from five to seven days). Another couple who travel regularly in May book an extra trip to take advantage of a promotional rate offered by a new hotel on Shoal Bay East. And so on, and so forth.

Not so us. I pathetically attention to somewhat fill the void by listening to reggae music. One day in late August, while Mark and I are working in our kitchen, a song comes on that reminds me of Bob and Lynda Batson. I decide it’s time to look them up on Facebook.

I am stunned to see postings commemorating Bob’s sudden passing, am heartbroken to think of Lynda without her lifelong dancing partner and love of her life.

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She returns in February with her son to scatter some of Bob’s ashes on his favorite beach.

These are only a few of the examples of what may happen to you, once you have contracted Anguilla Fever.

So please, my friend, understand that Anguilla is not just a lighthearted vacation you will take and leave behind in a file of pictures and “nice memories.” You need to recognize that it will become a lifelong habit, and that you will do whatever is within your means to support it. And, if necessary, a few things that may lie outside of your means.

I do not know when my next trip to Anguilla may be, but am currently looking into the going rate for selling plasma.

I will be reunited with my heart, one way or another.

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Return to Paradise, Part 8

Limin’ on a Sunday Afternoon

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Sunday.

For the first time this vacation I wake after the sun rises. Or, more accurately, as it is rising. I know it is time but I remain under the covers, luxuriating in the comfort of the fourposter bed, enjoying the ocean breezes through the louvered doors as the surf crashes below.

Today is our last full day on the island. I imagine I should be panicking, knowing this will be our final opportunity to enjoy all Anguilla has to offer, at least for a good long while.

But instead I’m feeling a sense of surrender. There is no way we can possibly squeeze in everything we still want to do. We cannot make it to both Sarjai’s and E’s Oven, two restaurants I’ve been dying to try, and certainly not back to the Barrel Stay. In fact, we’ll be lucky to make it to any of them. That notion of mine for lunching with Mark at Jacala while the kids grab a bite next door at Blanchard’s Beach Shack? Yeah, that’s not going to happen either. I think this family is plumb dined out.

And you know what? I’m okay with that.

Don’t think I didn’t hear your jaw just hit the floor. Yes, I am fully capable of riding the current of popular choice. I don’t always have to be Julie McCoy, hustling the family along with my clipboard in hand. I can chill.

Funny story: I didn’t learn to swim until I was in my teens (which probably explains my skittishness with snorkeling, right?). And because of this, I’m a firm believer that everyone should learn this skill in early childhood, because believe me, any later in life and it becomes an ordeal.

In particular I remember learning to float on my back. I would throw my body backwards and kick my feet up, then try to will myself to stay afloat. Inevitably the water would close in over my face.

Over and over I tried. I can be doggedly stubborn when it comes to certain things, such as acquiring a stupid skill that the rest of the human population can accomplish without thinking. Yet over and over I kept sinking.

Until, that is, my uncle told me that was my problem, that I needed to just stop thinking, stop trying so darn hard. Just puff out your chest, he said, and let go. Just let it come.

So I took a deep breath, stuck out my chest, pointed my toes, and just let go.

And guess what? It worked! I floated, and have floated every try since then. In fact, I can’t remember why it seemed so hard in the first place.

Sometimes you have to stop trying so hard and just surrender, let the water carry you.

So that’s the plan for our last day on Anguilla. We (and by that I mean “I”) will just let this day carry us where it will, no stress.

That’s not to say there’s not a few definite items on the agenda. It is Funday Sunday, after all.

After a leisurely morning of dipping in the pool and eating leftover pizza, we strike out for Meads Bay.

A trip we decide to make by way of Forest Bay. Because why not check out another new-to-us beach? Especially as it should be just a quick jaunt down Tanglewood Road.

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It is not quick at all.

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Hmm… would you risk it?

Note: Tanglewood Road has the SAME DESIGNATION on the map as John Hodge Road, that road that leads to Meads Bay.

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We pull over to evaluate the situation. Which course should we take? Can we even go any farther without tipping the car?

Just as we’re trying to figure out how to get the car turned around and head back to safe ground, a tiny Suzuki the size of a love seat comes barreling up this very road.

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Same type of car, seen later at Meads Bay

The dreadlocked driver waves to me cheerily.

We decide to power on down the road (sorry again, Ronnie!).

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Somehow we manage to land at Forest Bay relatively unscathed. And decide we’ll stick to the well known roads for the rest of our brief time here.

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Another attempt to memorialize the moment

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YOU try working with this bunch of clowns!

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Meads Bay is perfect today, hardly a swell at all.

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We land back at Blanchard’s Beach Shack for lunch.

And since I am in full limin’ mode, it doesn’t even enter my mind to take a single picture of it. I get the fried shrimp (don’t judge– it’s my last day of vacation!). I have no idea what anybody else orders.

We plunk ourselves down on the beach, where we lounge for the next couple of hours.

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Eventually we rouse ourselves out of our stupor and mosey down to Ocean Echo, where we find our favorite Andrea waiting tables, Omalie 360 on stage, and the Greens at lunch.

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Delacroix, hard at work keeping things running smoothly!

We have an action-packed couple of hours at Ocean Echo, listening to the band, helping to free a boat that has grounded on the beach, and sharing a famed Rumzie (or two) with the Greens (Paula and Peter, thank you for the cocktails, and for your delightful company. I know we will meet again in the future!), before the day carries us on to Rendezvous Bay to catch the end of Reggae Sunday at the Sunshine Shack.

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Does it feel like this day is ripping by at warp speed? Because it is. That is how your last day on the island will go, and there’s not a thing you can do about it except put your feet up, point your toes, and ride the current.

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The vibe at the SSS is different, more down-to-earth than that at Ocean Echo. Mystic Vybes is performing reggae, the real deal, not the contemporary cover material done by so many other bands. We are in our element.

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Unfortunately we are also in the final hours of daylight. We get to bob our heads for just about an hour before the sun starts to sink low.

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We grab some ribs and coleslaw to go, the only things Garvey has leftover from lunch, and make the trek back to the villa to watch the sun set over Sandy Hill Bay.

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But Funday Sunday is not over for us yet.

My original itinerary had the Barrel Stay slated for dinner tonight, an opportunity for Mark and I to return to our favorite restaurant from our honeymoon, and introduce our children to that famous fish soup.

Not going to happen. It got knocked off the itinerary Friday night, when we ticked “fancy sit down seafood dinner” off our list at Mangos.

It was temporarily replaced with plans to visit either Sarjai’s or E’s Oven, more down-to-earth establishments offering local fare like creole snapper and curried goat stew. Frankly I’m more excited about dining at either of these places than another fancy restaurant. Stew me up an old shoe and chances are I will be perfectly content.

But this is not going to happen either, I realize by sunset. The girls, it soon becomes clear, are wiped out and will not be leaving the villa, content to graze on the ribs. And while Mark and Aaron would like to go out for our last night, it is not for a sit-down dinner.

We return to our old stomping grounds of Sandy Ground, where the Funday Sunday party continues at Dad’s.

Except there seems to be no party, or at least no live music. Our waitress informs us there’s been a death in the family for one of the members of EarthLight, and they will not be playing tonight.

Devastating news! No fancy seaside dinner, no cozy dinner of stewed goat with the locals, and now no music.

This is sad stuff, people.

At least there’s calypso wings.

And then, just as I am tucking into them, I see people with instruments and microphones rustling up on the stage. What’s this?

It’s not EarthLight, it’s clear; they have not miraculously appeared. But it is a band. Not a reggae one, but also not a cover band. Instead these guys start playing another type of Caribbean music, soca, and it is the perfect compliment to my calypso wings.

We dance with the mix of tourists and locals until around 10 o’clock, when the DJ takes over the stage, then reluctantly tear ourselves away.

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Bye bye, Dad’s. Bye bye, calypso wings.

Our last day, for all practical purposes, has been perfect. Sure, not a whole lot of food, captured in fewer pictures, but it has been filled with the things we love most about this island: gorgeous beaches, great music, and so many beautiful, generous people. All this, topped off with one last late-night swim in our beautiful pool, one last blissful night’s sleep in our luxurious beds.

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Adventure, Food, Travel, Uncategorized

Return to Paradise, Part 7

A Moveable Feast

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Imagine you are invited to a great feast. When you arrive, you find a table laden with every food imaginable. Before you you see some of your favorite foods, whatever they may be: spaghetti carbonara, pizza margherita, lobster rolls, cheeseburgers, whatever it is your heart desires. Additionally, there are wonders you’ve only ever heard of, exotic dishes from foreign countries, delicacies that until now have only existed in your mind. But here they all are, laid out before you for the taking.

The only thing is, you have, say, five hours in which to consume anything and everything you wish. You may gorge yourself on whatever you want. But after those five hours, time’s up. The doors close, you are done. Whatever you don’t consume… well, you’re just out of luck.

So the question is: what exactly do you choose?

You could gorge yourself on your very favorite things (um, oysters on the half-shell? You could eat those until you’re blue in the face). Or you could explore all those exotic dishes from foreign countries, the things you’ve only ever heard about and that you may never encounter again.

You do have five hours in which to indulge. That’s a fair amount of time, right?

But keep in mind, unless you are one of those immortal few who can eat their weight and never feel it, your stomach is going to present certain limitations. Namely: capacity.

So. You must pick and choose. Do you decide on a menu of delicacies that you may never encounter again? Do you splurge those three hours gorging yourself on those foods you prize above all others? Or do you find a happy compromise between the two?

This is the conundrum we face Saturday morning. The feast that is Anguilla lies before us on a banquet table, all 33 beaches, every 100+ restaurants we have yet to grace: all this at our fingertips, and only 48 hours or so in which to choose.

Obviously we need to choose wisely.

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Saturday dawns innocuously enough. I wake before the sun actually rises. Any other time this may be an annoyance. Here in Anguilla it is a luxury. Especially as I am waking to the sounds of the surf, not a rooster crowing or the blast of a ship’s horn. This is as gentle as a feather stroking your face, as the cricket strum on your iPhone settings.

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This view never gets old!

I brush my teeth, make the coffee, witness the sun rise as I enjoy a cup before I set out to Island Harbor to fetch the pastries. By now it is routine.

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Busy scene in Island Harbor

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According to routine, I arrive before Le Bon Pain opens, and still am only third in line. It is 8:15, though, a full fifteen minutes after the posted opening time. But no worries.

At least not for me. This might not be the case for everyone, though. I can hear another patron grumbling about the delay. It’s okay, I want to assure him. You’re on vacation, it’s all good, we’re all good here.

The situation jogs my memory to the two summers in college I spent working at a guest lodge in the Selway Wilderness in Idaho. It was a fairly primitive establishment, no phone, no electricity, miles and miles from civilization. We hosted people from all walks of life, but especially many CEO types from the Bay Area. Each guest arrived by flying in on a Cessna 180 and landing on a grass strip, or packing in sixteen miles by mule train on the path that follows the Selway River. It was literally miles and miles from civilization. But figuratively too. It was a place where you could simply check all the trappings of modern life and just be. Which is what attracted most of the lodge’s guests in the first place.

But for some guests it took a few days to unwind. They arrived with the importance of their occupations draped around their necks and the habits of the daily lives kicking their heels, and had little patience with the slower pace of life there and even less tolerance for a college girl like me suggesting they move their horse a little more to the center of the trail.

The beauty lay in watching these people unwind over the course of the week. By Friday afternoon they had shed their pretentious old selves and were downright euphoric to sit under the old apple tree in the company of everyone from their fellow CEOs to whichever employee had the night off, sipping rhubarb wine and nibbling homemade cheese crackers while discussing fly fishing or poetry.

This is what I see with the patron on the wooden deck of Le Bon Pain. Maybe this guy has just arrived, and is still yoked by his important job, his important life back home. But none of that matters here, I want to assure him. What matters here are the chickens scratching in the gravel, the fishing boats bobbing in the water, those almond croissants fresh from the oven. It’s all good here.

But God help that person who may attempt to order all the almond croissants before I get up there.

My wait in line does give me the chance to talk to some of the other patrons in line, including another TripAdvisor member. How fun to  put faces to names. Sue, it was a pleasure to meet you! I hope we meet again sometime in the future!

I do get those almond croissants, as well as a cornucopia of other pastries. The First Course of our Anguilla feast.

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In fact, I get so many we actually have leftovers this time.

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Second Course of the feast is the kayaking trip to Little Bay we had planned for yesterday.

Now, you would think that when you rent kayaks to take out on the open water, you might be asked about previous water sports experience. This is not the case with us. The young man at da’Vidas outfits us with three kayaks, then launches us out to sea.

Which is exactly where we head. Possibly straight out to Dog Island.

Somehow we manage to turn ourselves around.

And head straight for the cliffs.

At least the young man had the presence of mind to supply us with life jackets too.

Finally we get ourselves straightened out, and start practicing the strategy of “the shortest distance between two lines…”

Now that Mark and I are set, we look back to see what progress our girls are making.

God only knows what possessed us to put our twin teenaged daughters in the same boat. I can only chalk it up to some serious brain melt by Day Ten on island time. We simply must have lost our minds.

They’ve progressed maybe 30 feet. Arms are flying, and not in any productive way, although I do see a hat fly off a head and into the water.

Be assured, our girls are wonderful young ladies, but they are just fifteen years old, an age where hormones swirl around your heads like buzzards waiting for the opportunity to swoop in and devour sanity. They are also the best of friends. Until they are not. A situation, my friend, which can switch on a moment’s notice.

At this moment the two of them are locked in mortal combat.

There’s little Mark and I can do to help, as we’ll be lucky ourselves not to be bashed to pieces on the cliffs. We send our son Aaron to the rescue.

Somehow against all odds we make it safely to Little Bay without capsizing any boats nor any heads being bludgeoned.

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Little Bay used to be one of Anguilla’s best kept secrets. These days the secret is out, and the place can get crowded.

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We are here early enough we have the entire place to ourselves for a while.

The kids snorkel and capture some great underwater pictures.

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I practice my kayaking, determined that the return trip will be much smoother.

Eventually a catamaran moves in, and our private hideout suddenly feels crowded.

We decide it’s time to head back.

Obviously we pair off differently for this leg. Mark and Zoe share a boat this time, and Lauren and I team up to tackle the return trip.

The return proves much more difficult. We have our paddling down pat by this time, and could probably win a regatta with our technique. That is, if it were not for the headwind and current we suddenly find ourselves facing. Our efforts forward are severely tested as these elements keep pushing us back the other direction.

My arms burn from the effort. I pause for a moment to rest them. Instantly we are blown back three of the 15 feet we just gained.

I glance over at Mark as a mild panic begins to overtake me. Sweat rolls down his forehead as he digs his paddle deep.

Zoe is stretched out behind him sunbathing.

I briefly considered what will happen if we don’t make it back, if we are swept out to sea. Will the Coast Guard rescue us? Is there even a Coast Guard here?

We’re gonna die!

But obviously you know we don’t, as I’m writing this today. After much time and great effort we stagger onto shore back at Crocus Bay, utterly spent.

We lie panting on the beach as the attendant gathers the kayaks and lifejackets, nonchalantly as though he were clearing a table, obviously oblivious to our near death experience.

I gaze longingly at the padded loungers that line the bay. They looks so tempting.

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But we have other plans.

Third Course of today’s feast is another delicacy of which we have only ever heard: Limestone Bay. Our plan is to enjoy a picnic lunch of Le Bon Pain sandwiches on its beautiful sands, washed down by Tings and painkillers.

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Have you ever been to Limestone Bay? It’s beautiful, for sure, but its crashing waves and churning waters are the yang to Little Bay’s tranquil yin. I am terrified as I watch my husband and children play a game of chicken with the waves.

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At least the sandwiches take me to a happy place. The painkillers don’t hurt either.

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Having finished lunch and successfully to defying death once again, we decide to explore the roads in this area a little more, see what treasures Blackgarden Bay holds.

I use the term “roads” loosely.

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We never do find out what lies at Blackgarden Bay. Certainly not our transmission.

It is with great relief that we manage to turn the car around and get back to the safety of a real road. We decide we’ve had enough adventure for now, and that it’s high time for the Fourth Course of today’s Anguilla feast: limin’ at Shoal Bay East.

If you haven’t figured it out already, Shoal Bay East is the dry aged porterhouse of the feast, the shellfish tower, that one single favorite thing you could dine on alone and be perfectly content.

It’s a glorious afternoon for it, with brilliant blue skies and just a mild swell to the ocean.

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We return to our favorite spot at Elodia’s, where we rent chairs and an umbrella near our new friends Paula and Peter Green. Unfortunately Sprocka is not playing here as advertised, but that’s perfectly fine. We have rum punches and great companionship on a gorgeous beach, and even a stingray that flies out of the water not once but twice.

We bob the afternoon away, noting that margaritas might be a better beverage choice, for all the saltwater that splashes into our drinks.

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Time passes all too quickly.

We part ways with the Greens with plans to meet up the next day, then head back to the villa to clean up for dinner.

Zoe and I are ready first. We decide that while the rest of the party showers and primps, we will return to Shoal Bay East and try to finally catch a sunset.

This time we succeed!

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New hotel, the Manoah, under construction next to Uncle Ernie’s

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…or rather, on top of Uncle Ernie’s

We had originally planned to dine at Straw Hat tonight, and had attempted to make reservations at lunch Thursday. However, we were informed that the restaurant would be closed for a private event. So we have no set plans for tonight, but hopes that we can find a table at a new restaurant on this end of the island, Artisan Pizza Napoletana.

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Now, I like pizza, don’t get me wrong. But given the choice between it and, say, fried snapper, I will hands down pick the latter. But we have heard great things about this restaurant, including from Sue this morning, so we decide to give it a try. If that plan falls through, we can always head to Falcons Nest for fish.

But we do indeed find a seat at Artisan, possibly the last one, and I am so glad we do.

Oh, Artisan, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

1.) The decor.

Now, you must understand that this is not a restaurant on the beach. Actually, it’s just barely off the road in Island Harbor. Our table is just a couple of feet away from it. We can hear the school drum corps practicing just down the road.

And it is by no means a fancy restaurant. You won’t find white tablecloths or fine china. What you will find is a carefully constructed “rebel chic” decor, where each item has been thoughtfully chosen or designed. Including the sign, which is a rendition of an Arawak Indian drawing.

2.) The food.

This is not just any pizza joint. First of all, it is one of the few establishments outside of Naples that is AVPN certified, meaning this is the real deal, authentic Neapolitan pizza, straight out of a wood fired oven imported from Italy.

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Pizza Crudo

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Authentic wood burning oven, a week before it is finished in tiles

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Clean plater, Pizza Njuda

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Clean plater, Pizza Margherita

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(A dubious) clean plater, Pizza Crudo

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Almost clean plater

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Not even close. Although that is about 4 lbs of cheese!

But find you’re not in the mood for pizza? You can choose from the various other house made specials, from fresh pasta to wood fired seafood. If you’re really lucky, you’ll find yourself there on a night when porchetta is one of the specials.

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And then there are the bookends to the meal. You are greeted with a glass jar of house made caramel popcorn, and thanked at its end with a complimentary shot of house made “passionfruit cella,” possibly the single best thing I tasted our entire trip.

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You can also end your meal with a choice of the many (yes, house made) gelato flavors.

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3.) The owners, Juergen and Indrid

Well, in truth we only meet Juergen, but what a prince. He was formerly a banker, originally from Lichtenstein, but is now pursuing his passion for food. We chat with him for a long time about our mutual passion, and about the many recipes and preservation techniques he learned from his father, about how he plans to make his own beer, pickles, cured meats. He even graciously gives me a tour of the kitchen.

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And about that graciousness. At one point a gentleman, who seems to be quite familiar to the other patrons, and who is clearly inebriated, takes a seat at the bar. Any average bar owner might have condescendingly served the man, or even turned him away. Instead, Juergen greets the man warmly, pours him a glass of red wine, and then listens not just politely but attentively as the man talks. What a gem.

It goes without saying, our Fifth Course of the day is delightful, and Artisan rises to the very top of my list for overall dining experiences on Anguilla.

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The check is delivered in this little box

Course #6 was supposed to be an excursion out to find more live music. Of course this does not happen. Not even close. But we do find music back at the villa, played on our own sound system, as we take a late night dip in the pool.

Consider it the post-dinner mint after a very long day of feasting.

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Return to Paradise, Part 6

A Brief Interlude

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Thursday

I have to warn you, friend: things are about to get pretty boring for a while.

This new lodging situation? It changes the dynamics of our vacation entirely, and wreaks utter havoc on that aforementioned itinerary. Over the next couple of days it will become next to impossible to pry the family away from this place. They just don’t want to move. Unless you count trying out the many different seating areas, or traversing the path to the pool.

That’s okay, though. They deserve it, right?

You know what else they deserve? Pastries from Le Bon Pain.

And since I’m up with the sunrise, I’m the designated hunter/gatherer.

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Le Bon Pain is now just a short drive from us. It doesn’t take nearly as long to drive there as I think it will, so I actually arrive before Le Bon Pain even opens. But that’s perfectly fine– better safe than sorry. I am determined to get one of those almond croissants today.

The hunter/gatherer returns with a bounty of pastries, including not one but two almond croissants.

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At the time I’m thinking there might be enough for a snack later on. Silly me.

The rest of the morning is a study in relaxation as we shift from seating area to seating area. The double chaise lounges, the sofa and arm chairs, the chaise lounges on the balcony, the balcony’s bistro table and chairs. Then there is the downstairs. And the pool area, with its pool loungers. Not to mention the poolside bistro table and chairs. So many combinations! So much time!

It’s not easy, but I convince Mark to steal away with me for lunch. Luckily I had the foresight to order sandwiches from Le Bon Pain for the kids.

The trek to Meads Bay is much longer than that from Sandy Ground, but I don’t mind. I love driving the island, windows down, smelling that sweet, unidentifiable aroma, watching for chickens and goats. It feels so luxurious to be on vacation while the people that live here are going about their day-to-day business, working their jobs, going to school.

But we are on vacation, and the business at hand is eating lunch, which today is at Straw Hat.

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We decide it’s a toss up between the Ferry Boat Inn’s rum punch and the Straw Hat’s ti punch as to which we prefer. If only we could do a side-by-side tasting.

It’s funny: that itinerary I’ve been planning for the past two years, the one entitled “Dreaming,” is carefully mapped out with places to go for lunch and dinner, and the can’t-miss things to order at each one. But we are finding we simply do not have the gastronomical fortitude to keep up the pace. Simply put, our stomachs are too darn small.

Of course, the flip side is we know that if we don’t eat it now, who knows when we might have the opportunity again.

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This in mind, we power on, but on half scale. We split the wasabi dusted Big Eye tuna flatbread for a starter, followed by a half each of the fish sandwich with spicy jerk aioli. Half a sandwich for each of us, yes, but that certainly can’t be half an order of fries on each plate. Which, by the way, are the best part. I could easily have skipped everything else and just eaten a platter of those fried ribbons.

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We could stay and enjoy the beach in Straw Hat’s loungers after lunch, but it’s hard to rest easy with thoughts of your teenagers alone back at your villa nagging at your brain. Besides, there’s the gravitational pull of that pool to contend with.

We return to Sea Feathers for the remainder of the afternoon.

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The kids bounce back and forth between the pool and their own living area downstairs. Mark bounces between the pool and the March Madness games playing on the 60″ TV. I finish my book.

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Afternoon stretches into early evening.

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It becomes clear that vacation paralysis has set in, and that whatever we do for dinner, it’s going to happen right here at the villa.

The hunter/gatherer sets out once again. This time I’m accompanied by Aaron and Zoe, with a destination of Corner Bar Pizza.

A phone would be quite handy at this point to call and order ahead, but that’s the one thing this villa does not have, and I have no idea what the charge would be to use my cellphone. I’d hate to have this turn into a $100 pizza.

Right now I want to take a moment to make a public service announcement: WATCH OUT FOR THE DRAINAGE DIPS on be road to Corner Bar! Somehow we manage to find the restaurant without taking out the bottom of Ronnie’s car.

The restaurant is small, with about as much ambience as a drugstore. The woman behind the counter is a doll, though, less like a business owner and more like your best friend’s mother. Especially when Zoe informs me she’s not feeling well. I’m in the middle of instructing Aaron to wait for the pizza so I can sit with Zoe in the car when the woman (Lorna, I think?) says, “You take her out, I’ll come get you when your pizzas are ready.”

See what I mean about these people of Anguilla?

We return to the villa with our loot of two large pizzas, one lobster, one supreme.

I have to say that Corner Bar pizza and a bottle of prosecco in our beautiful villa rivals any dining experience we’ve had so far.

Especially when followed by a late night dip in our own pool.

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Friday.

There’s a few clouds in the sky this morning, but nothing too threatening. In fact, a little cloud cover will be good, I think, as the plan for today is to kayak to Little Bay.

Coffee on the balcony, staring at Saint Martin, cold pizza for breakfast. Life is good.

Except for Zoe. Zoe does not feel well, and would like to just rest in her comfortable bed.

Little Bay will have to wait.

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See that green roof? That’s our villa

We decide to explore Sandy Hill Bay instead. The beach is right across the bay from our villa, so if Zoe (who will obviously be staying put) will be able to see us from our balcony.

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Closer view of our villa

Additionally, we’ve heard this is one of the better snorkeling spots on the island.

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The Master at Work

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Finished!

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The Master at Rest

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I confess I have a minor motive of my own, as I’m hoping to find the villa that Mark and I stayed in on our honeymoon many years ago. I have a hunch that it might lie just around the corner of Sandy Hill Bay.

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Close, but not a match.

Last night’s pizza is gone, and I’m pretty sure the family is not going to want to go out for lunch (Hello?Pool? Sick Zoe?), so I suggest more takeout. I’ve been wanting to try Ken’s BBQ anyway.

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Ken’s is in the Valley, one of the many food stands and trucks that make up the Strip. Though we’ve made up our minds to pick up Ken’s BBQ, I have to say all the offerings here sound good. There’s corn soup, stewed goat, oxtail stew… This is my kind of place!

 

Sadly my family is not as excited about the Strip’s possibilities as I am.

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We pay for our food and take our leave. I snap a few more pictures as they drag me away.

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On our way back to the villa we have to stop to refuel. Thank heavens we went low budget for lunch.

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Yes, that does read $107.29. Luckily that’s ECU, not US$!

Lunch is fabulous.

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By mid afternoon I have read the latest edition of Vanity Fair cover to cover and swam about four miles in our 20 ft pool. Suffice it to say I am restless.

I slip my shoes on my feet and slap my floppy hat on my head, and set out to explore the neighborhood.

If Anguilla had a suburban neighborhood, it would be Sea Feathers. From what I’ve read, it’s home to many of the island’s expats. And somewhere in this neighborhood is the villa where Mark and I honeymooned. Today I am going to find it.

I’m sure if anyone in the neighborhood is looking out their windows today, they are puzzled by the sight of a strange woman wandering the streets, peering over fences and ducking down walkways (I apologize to anyone if I trespassed! It’s hard to tell sometimes where properties begin and end!).

Finally I decide I stand the best chance of finding this villa if I go down to water’s edge and follow it back around the bend.

Imagine the surprise of the poor man out spraying weeds in his yard when he looks up and sees the crazy woman walking up from the sea.

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It’s the same villa, all right, and in fact the poor man who I have startled is the father of our old friend in Montana. And you know what? He invites me in for a tour.

Even the expats here in Anguilla are the nicest sort of people!

My quest finally satisfied, I head back to the villa. The path back, unfortunately, is entirely uphill. In 84° weather. I don’t even want to know the Real Feel. I just know I’m burning the soles of my feet, even though I’m wearing shoes.

Thank heavens for that pool.

We spend the remainder of the afternoon lounging some more at the villa. See how boring we’ve become? Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

But I’ll be damned if we are going to stay one more meal in this villa. We have reservations for Mango’s for tonight, and no way are we going to cancel.

Luckily, the rest of the family seems to feel the same way. After their two day hiatus from restaurants, everyone has a renewed enthusiasm for the idea of dressing up and embarking on a dining adventure.

We intentionally made reservations for 6:30 with the hope of finally witnessing a sunset. Unfortunately we have to drive practically to the other end of the island to do so. We set out a few minutes before 6:00, and while we feel like we’re cutting it a little close, we should still get there in time.

Unfortunately it becomes quickly apparent that Anguilla is capable of rush hour traffic. And then, just after the light to Blowing Point Road, we get stuck behind a driver who doesn’t share our same sense of urgency. We putter along behind him with no chance to pass because of all the oncoming traffic. Just where did all these cars come from?

Finally the car turns off into the Best Buy parking lot, and we have a clear road ahead of us. We fly down the remaining stretch of Albert Hughes Road, yank the car to the right, bounce from rock to rock down the drive to Mango’s, then slam the car into park. We sprint across the parking lot and finally up the steps to the restaurant.

We almost make it.

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Oh well. We still have two opportunities left.

Once again our table is perfect, upfront closest to the water. And when they say waterfront here, they really mean it. We are literally steps away from the oceans edge.

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You’d be hard pressed to find a waitress with more personality than Andrea. She’s the stuff those endearing TV sitcoms like Alice are made of. She fusses over the kids, treating Aaron like a prince and calling the girls “baby doll.” She takes one look at Mark staring bewildered at his whole snapper, then swoops in to rescue him with a masterful performance of tableside deboning. By the end of the meal we feel like she’s family.

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And speaking of the end of the meal, these kids have been deprived of dessert for days. Of course we are once again stuffed, but second stomach and all. There’s certainly room for a Mango’s banana split.

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If you check that “Dreaming” itinerary, you’ll see there’s one more item on the agenda for today, Friday night music at Bankie Banx’s Dune Preserve. But of course you know that does not happen. Yes, we’ve become downright boring.

And that’s okay. We have to save some things for our next visit, right?

Besides, we need to rest up for tomorrow. It’s going to be an epic day.

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Return to Paradise, Part 5

Our Ship Comes In

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Wednesday. Hump Day.

This is the day our luck changes (well, with the exception of the crustacean conspiracy).

Let’s start with the weather. For the first time this entire trip the day dawns bright and clear, not a cloud in the sky.

It’s a glorious sight.

I wish I could say the same about my “cold.” I’m sincerely hoping at this point it doesn’t turn into anything worse, if it hasn’t already. I barely have a voice, and there’s some other, nastier symptoms I won’t go into.

But I refuse to let it slow me down.

Let’s take this morning, for instance. I wake as the sun is rising, 6:20 AM, and even though I know I should probably stay in bed and rest, the siren call of the beach proves irresistible.

I check in with the kids to see if anyone else hears it.

In truth, I think they just hear me. But at least two are game.

Zoe, Aaron and I slip quietly out the door and down the back path to the beach. Mercifully, we run into no other guests this morning.

We trek the beach to the far end, even climbing around the shipwreck to the other side, shimmying over clusters of boulders, jumping from perch to perch. We push as far as one can possibly go without cloven hooves.

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Yes, I can hang with the kids. I just pray I don’t fall and break a hip to add to my physical misery.

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Road Bay is absolutely gorgeous this morning, reminding me why we chose to stay here in the first place. Believe me, I am ready to leave Pelicans. Just not this beach.

Back at the villa we find that Mark and Lauren are up and the French guests are gone. This gives us the chance to enjoy coffee on the terrace one last time, listening to a the birds and soaking up the beauty of the view.

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If only we knew the treat that’s coming our way.

But first we have to pack and move out of here. That’s the big drag of switching lodgings mid-trip. It’s bad enough packing once, let alone twice. And why is it that everything never fits back in the same suitcase it came in?

At least we can stuff all our odds and ends into the car, especially since we wizened up this time and rented a Hyundai Tucson instead of a Jeep. This way we can fit us AND our luggage inside its cabin.

Leaving this place, I realize, is bittersweet. I’ve actually grown quite fond of it. Just not so fond of its Proprietress.

But it is beyond time to close this chapter of our trip. We snap a few last pictures, bid adieu to Pelicans and Road Bay, and set out on the next one.

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The road to Nat’s Palm Grove is not long, necessarily, but it is winding. And bumpy. There are spots in the road where you have to slow to barely a crawl. It feels like the very scraggly, scrubby end of the earth.

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However, if you know about Nat’s, and if you’ve been to Savannah Bay, it feels like coming home when you catch sight of those palm trees blowing in the wind.

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There’s about four hours of lag time between check out at Pelicans and check in at our new villa. Time which could be perfectly filled with some of Nat’s crayfish and Johnny cakes.

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Nat’s warm hospitality is legendary, as are his crayfish and Johnny cakes. It’s been on the itinerary since I started it two years ago. So we are saddened when our young waiter tells us that Nat is not in today, and crestfallen when he informs us they have no crayfish.

Once again it’s a crayfish conspiracy! Darn this weather!!

Mark and the kids order ribs and chicken.I decide I am splurging on the lobster.

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Looks delicious, doesn’t it?

Too bad it doesn’t taste as good as it looks.

The chicken and ribs are good, though. Stick with them if you go (although maybe you’ll be lucky enough to find crayfish). And definitely some Johnny cakes.

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It’s quiet in the restaurant. Too quiet. It needs music. Or Nat.

And the young man waiting on us does not seem too interested in doing so.

We decide not to linger.

Especially when Junks Hole and Savannah Bay await. And, unlike our last visit, we are wearing actual shoes!

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Did I mention everything is in bloom?

 

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I mean everything!

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Whelks

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The sargassum is bad this time

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Apparently we have forgotten how hot the sun the sun can be without any clouds to obscure it. Zoe is looking quite red by now (that alabaster skin!), and Lauren is still recovering from the weekend’s overexposure.

We decide it’s time to take a break from all that sun. Besides, we need stop by Best Buy and Tropical Distributors to pick up refreshments for the next villa.

Don’t you love an island where a liter of rum is cheaper than a gallon of milk? Unless, of course, you have three teenagers who drink milk. By the gallon.

All we have to do now is find the villa.

I suddenly have butterflies in my stomach.

I should give you the backstory. Because, well, there’s always a backstory, isn’t there?

We found this villa last year on the Vacation Rentals link on TripAdvisor. It was listed as “Stunning Sea Feathers Villa.” Not the most original name, but if the reviews and pictures of it are accurate, it will truly be spectacular.

It’s just that at the point in time we reserved it, there had only been seven reviews. And of those seven reviewers, only one had posted more than one review. Between the time we booked and now, more reviews have been posted. But three of the four of these were from one-time posters, and they were all from Ohio. Not that I don’t trust posters from Ohio, being one myself. But they were all glowing reviews. From one-time posters. All from the same area. Which is the same area that the emails from the owner had come.

I am a little suspicious. This isn’t my first rodeo.

And we all know how those other rodeos have gone down.

For verification I have brought with me copies of all our email correspondence, as well as the email the villa’s owner had sent before we left the States. All seven pages of it, full of information she thought might be helpful for our stay, along with detailed instructions on how to find the villa. Sounds good, right?

But once burned…

No, make that twice…

You can’t blame me for being a little gun shy.

I am hopeful for this place. With luck, it will be half as beautiful as the pictures.

We follow the detailed directions. Pass the light pink house, turn right, turn right again on the next road (this is a road?!), then find the villa on the right, the one with the green roof.

We pull into the driveway.

And step out of the car.

And look around in wonder.

Not only does “Stunning Sea Feathers” live up to its name. It surpasses it.

It’s as if we have stepped out of our car and into the pages of House Beautiful.

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The villa is listed as three bedrooms and three baths. In reality it’s four bedrooms, two upstairs, two down. The owner does not advertise the fourth because it does not have an en suite bath, and perhaps doesn’t have the ambience of the others. Which we find laughable. Compared to our previous digs, even this bedroom is the Ritz Carlton.

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Master bedroom

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Seating in the master bedroom

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Bedroom #2, upstairs

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Seating in bedroom #2

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More seating in bedroom #2

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Bedroom #3, downstairs

The kitchen is gorgeous, with stainless steel appliances (including a wine refrigerator) and dinnerware that looks straight out of Pottery Barn. There’s even a paella pan. A PAELLA PAN. You have no idea how excited those words make me.

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But not only is there one kitchen. There’s a SECOND one on the lower floor!! JUST AS BEAUTIFUL AS THE FIRST! Just maybe not quite as well equipped.

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The downstairs has its own living area. Which, I must say, does not look your average basement.

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The living area upstairs is open-aired, with a large dining table and several seating areas. Beyond that are more seating areas outdoors on the balcony overlooking the pool and Saint Martin.

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Yes, a pool. Our own pool, with comfortable loungers and a table with an umbrella.

There’s also shuffleboard and a cornhole game.

Cornhole? If you’re from the East or West Coast, you may not know what this is. But if you’re from the Midwest, you’ll know what I’m talking about. There is no way the owner of this villa is not from Ohio.

And the entire villa is surrounded by a well-maintained garden, full of flowering bushes, seating areas, and winding paths.

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Did I mention this villa has four bedrooms? A room for everyone to have their own. That is more than our own home has to offer.

The kids scatter to make their claims.

I can tell already we will be spending more time at home base.

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And truly, I think the only reason I’m able to pry them away for dinner is because there is absolutely no food to be found on the premises.

Thank heavens. Because tonight is Wing Night at the Ferry Boat Inn. And you know already how I feel about wings. Add to that the proclamations of love for FBI’s cheeseburgers by a certain regular TripAdvisor poster, and we can’t possibly miss this dinner.

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Still, it’s not until long after the sun has gone down that we head out to Blowing Point and the Ferry Boat Inn.

The parking lot is filled to overflowing. We’re lucky to find a spot at the far end. We’ll be even luckier to find a seat in the restaurant.

Even before we reach the steps to the restaurant, we see some familiar faces. It’s Angela and Lynne!

We exchange hugs, and I tell them how happy we are that we ended up in the same place for their last night. “Oh, yes,” Angela says. “Paula told us about this place, how we had to come for Wing Night.”

“Paula?” I ask.

“Yes, Paula Green. We met her the other day.”

Paula Green. The same Paula Green with whom I’ve been playing messaging tag this whole time. Who by now must think I’ve been purposely avoiding.

And at long last, we meet Paula and her husband Peter face to face. And miraculously, they’re not mad at all. In fact, they’re just as thrilled to meet us as we are them.

We chat with the Greens for quite a while as we wait for a table for five to open. They have been on the island for several weeks already, and will be here for the remainder of the month. We compare notes on our children, the crazy weather, our mutual love of Anguilla. It feels like we’ve known one another for years.

Finally a table opens, and by luck it’s nestled between the Greens and the party of our new and dear friends from Canada.

The kids, of course, are famished by now, and exhausted. We need food, and we need it now.

Our server informs us there are exactly three burgers left in the entire establishment, so if we want them, we should claim them now.

Three cheeseburgers, three kids. That works.

Mark and I order wings. Not that we have much of a choice. But it’s not like it’s a hardship either. Because: wings!

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I do discover, though, that hot wings and sunburned lips do not a happy match make.

The other discovery I make is that the FBI’s rum punch is one of my favorites (I am thrilled when, a few months later, a TripAdvisor member shares the recipe on the forum!).

It comes as no surprise, I’m sure, that we don’t last much longer.

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We say goodbye to our (old by now) friends from Canada, and make tentative plans to meet up later with our new friends the Greens.

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Love these women!

As tempting as it would be any other time to take a late night swim, I recognize that will not be happening tonight, at least for me. I am completely and utterly done.

I make sure the kids are squared away with their sleeping arrangements, and check that Mark is set for now, then crawl into the enormous, and enormously comfortable, bed with a wad of Kleenex, where I will rest assured that our little family has this entire, beautiful place all to ourselves.

Priceless.

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Return to Paradise, Part 3

Limin’ At Breakneck Speed

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One of the side effects of your Anguilla addiction is you will start to follow trip reports. You may not know such a thing even exists. Once your addiction has set in, however, and you start to research all things Anguilla, you will discover this nifty resource on TripAdvisor. And you will use it to feed your hunger to be back on the island.

You will find all sorts of trip reports.

There will be newbies just returned from their first visit, still stunned from Anguilla’s beauty and amazed by its hospitality, and curious now as to what they missed and need to try next time.

There will be reports from visitors on their second or third trip, who are applying everything they’ve learned from prior trips to fine tune their next one. These members might also be checking in to see what has changed on the island since they’re last visit.

And every now and then you will find reports from longtime visitors, the ones who have been returning year after year, sometimes twice or more, the ones who no longer worry about missing out on anything. They’ve probably already done most everything they wish to. And if they haven’t, they’ll catch it the next time around.

You may find these veterans somewhat reluctant to post, and often apologetic. “We’re so boring,” they protest. “What’s there to report? All we do is eat and lounge on the beach. Eat some more, lounge some more. Then we get cleaned up for dinner and go to one of our favorite restaurants, then come back and go to sleep. Then we get up the next day and do it all over again.”

I guess it might seem boring if you take the approach that a beach vacation must be filled with water sports and sailing excursions and nightclubs and casinos. But personally I love their perspective. I would love to vacation that way on Anguilla.

I only wish I could do that.

You see, on the contrary, I feel a constant need to be on the move. I don’t mean to say I feel the need to parasail or kitesurf (although when traveling with teenagers, you can never entirely rule out those options). Instead, I feel an urgency to take in as much as I possibly can, to explore every beach and road, no matter how obscure, to listen to as much music I can squeeze in, eat as much food as my mortal limitations will allow. To suck the very marrow, so to speak. I want to get to know Anguilla as best I can in the short time I have here, for I’m pretty sure this will be our last trip for quite a while.

After all, one only has so many kidneys.

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My normal sense of urgency, I realize as my eyes pop open at 6:20 in the morning, is going to be a force to reckon with today. For today is Funday Sunday.

Sunday on Anguilla is the day for live music, with bands playing at beach bars all around the island. And even though this trip we are lucky enough to have two Sundays to tuck under our belt, there are enough options to fill at least eight.

However, we’ll start the day in a relaxed way, appreciating little things like…

1.) this rainbow:

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2.) this guy, who joins me on the balcony for my morning coffee:

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Who are you?

3.) Hall’s Unique Bakery.

On recommendation from Ronnie Bryan, Zoe and I head there to bring back sandwiches for breakfast. The ham, egg, and cheese one is quite good. The salt fish, we all decide, is an acquired taste.

It is clear early on that some members of the family will not be moving quickly today. In fact, Lauren doesn’t want to move at all. She is now paying dearly for not diligently applying sunscreen yesterday, believing like her father that her Greek blood will help protect her from the sun’s power. Mark is in slightly better shape, but not by much. The two of them decide they need a few hours of rest and shade at the villa.

Aaron and Zoe head off on a sibling adventure to explore the ruins next door at the old Mariners resort.

That leaves me alone to pick up the limin’ mantle.

Now limin’, in case you’re not familiar with it, is not a culinary term. Basically it means to “chill” or “hang out.” It is best done in the company of others, ideally with adult beverages and music, maybe some dominos.

But in a pinch it can be accomplished solo.

I drag one of the chairs down to the beach with a bottle of water and settle in with my book for some limin’ time.

Now, usually I am capable of little more than staring slack jawed at the water, so it is a testament to the suspense power of The Girl on the Train that it is able to hold my attention for any amount of time.

I lime away at least a couple of hours.

Eventually Mark joins me with a chair and a Heineken for each of us. We spend another hour or so limin’ together, watching the boats sail in and out of the harbor and building sand creatures.

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I do an admirable job of relaxing on our beach, I think, but I do want to say that this really does throw off our itinerary. Right now we are supposed to be enjoying the prix fixe lobster lunch at Le Bar. Scrap that one.

Had I known the Greens, some TripAdvisor acquaintances with whom I’ve been engaged in a game of personal messaging tag, are at present doing that very thing, I could be crashing their lunch.

But that familiar sense of urgency starts to grow as time passes. By 12:30 I am noticeably restless. By 1:00 I am downright antsy. By 1:30 I decide it’s time to make a move. Festivities are well under way across the island, and we are going to miss them if we don’t shake a sandy leg.

Aaron and Zoe are still out, and Lauren is quite comfortable in the villa, so we leave her with another glass of water and directions on where to find us.

Johnno’s is packed, nearly every seat occupied and turned to Sprocka, who is playing acoustic guitar and singing on the small stage. Obviously we are late to the party.

We take what is possibly the last seat and settle in for a more organized form of limin’.

The Heineken was fine, but I decide my sick self could benefit from a little vitamin C. I order a mango colada.

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Or two.

Mark, who is obviously not nursing a major illness, is content with another Heineken.

 

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No trip to Johnno’s would be complete without partaking in its famous steamed whole snapper. Those breakfast sandwiches were quite hearty, so Mark and I decide to split one between the two of us.

You can choose how you want your snapper served, dry with fries and coleslaw or rice and peas, or the more traditional option, where it’s served in its pot liquor with fungi (sort of a steamed cornbread pudding) and vegetables. Onions, peppers, potatoes, yams, and a rather disconcerting looking steamed plantain.

We choose the traditional.

 

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We (well, maybe one of us slightly more so than the other) devour every last bite of that snapper and vegetables. The plantain, however, remains on the plate relatively untouched. Not that I don’t like plantains. Just not ones that look, er, so suggestive.

After an hour or so of jazz, we are just considering moving on when we see our son making his way down the beach.

He orders the whole snapper too, this time fried, and with fries and a salad.

I am so distracted by Sprocka’s spot-on rendition of “Layla” that I forget entirely to take a picture of his plate of fish.

Then, just as Aaron is finishing his meal and we are gathering our things to leave, Zoe arrives. By this time it’s 3:00, however, and we definitely have to move on now if we are going to catch any of Omari Banks at DaVida.

We hustle back to the villa to round up Lauren, but she still shows absolutely no interest in moving. While normally I would be more persistent in my persuasion efforts, I decide this time that another hour or so of Minecraft will hurt nothing, whereas a grumpy teenager might wreck an otherwise lovely outing.

We leave her with juice and a slice of breakfast sandwich for sustenance, and then hit the road at breakneck speed.

Or at least as fast as one can go dodging Sunday drivers and goats.

We find da’Vidas on Crocus Bay, in the spot that Roy’s used to occupy. It looks nothing like the old Roy’s, however. The Bayside Grill is gorgeous, a lofty, open-air wooden structure surrounded by lush vegetation, all facing a beautiful beach lined with upscale wooden loungers with white cushions.

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Flowers given to us by some little girls

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We are greeted warmly, and led to a table in the center of the pavilion, where a table has miraculously just opened in spite of the large crowd. We take our seats facing not the beautiful beach but with the crowd turned the other direction, toward the stage and Omari Banks.

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By now I have familiarized myself with Omari, the son of the legendary Bankie Banx, and listened to recordings of his music. But I am unprepared for the charisma he exudes. This man is a rockstar.

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Unfortunately we have once again arrived late to the scene. We get to witness Omari Banks’ star power for just three songs before he wraps up the performance for the day.

We do get a picture of him as he makes his way through the crowd talking to guests, though. Or Zoe does, and only because I can’t hear well, the result of this cold moving to my ears as well. When he asks Zoe if she likes her pizza, I hear, “Would you like a picture?”

Zoe, utterly mortified, nonetheless allows me to take her picture with Omari.

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I’m sure she will thank me one day.

Bob and Lynda are there too. Today is their last day on the island, they tell us, and while they are sad to be leaving, they are ready to get back home.

I try to imagine ever getting to the point that I might feel that way.

We depart with hugs and hopes that we’ll meet up again tonight at Dad’s.

Back at the villa, I become painfully aware of just how much sitting I’ve done today, whether on the beach or in a beach bar. I decide I need a hike.

I’m not a particularly physical person, and have practically zero hand/eye coordination, but one thing I am good at is hiking. I love the physical exertion and the feeling of being one with nature.

Plus, I need to work off some coladas and snapper if I’m going to have any room for dinner.

Zoe and Aaron, ever game, are up for more adventure too. Lauren and Mark are once again content to relax on the terrace.

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Our hike takes us down the beach past the old Mariners resort. We poke around the dilapidated restaurant, startling some lizards, and imagine the glory it must have been in its heyday.

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How quickly one gets used to wearing beachwear, no matter how questionable the fashion choice

Then we head up the goat path leading to the Backroad area overlooking Sandy Ground. We can hear music and laughter coming from Johnno’s, where Funday Sunday continues.

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And yes, I vaguely yearn to be among that crowd.

But I settle for heading back to the villa to freshen up for dinner.

 

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Dinner tonight is to be a very casual affair, but one which I greatly anticipate. The Conch Shack is our destination, right there on Sandy Ground, just steps beyond Dad’s, where we plan to spend the rest of the evening listening to music.

And it is indeed a shack, about the size of a closet, with an order window at one end and several picnic tables for seating. All extremely casual. But the aromas emanating from it are delicious.

None of us have ever tried cracked Conch, and we’re pretty excited about the prospect, even Lauren, who we’ve managed to pry out of her nest at the villa, assuring her that her enemy the sun has safely set. So we are crushed when the Conch Shack informs us they are out of conch. Plenty of wings and chicken nuggets, but no conch.

Oh, the best laid plans.

Dejected and hungry, we shuffle back to Dad’s.

I look around as we take a seat on the picnic tables set in the sand, and realize how woefully underdressed I am. Anticipating a casual dinner at a beach bar, toes in the sand, I had donned (nice) shorts and a (crisp, new) tank to. But the women here, tourists and locals alike, are decked out in maxi dresses and wedge heals. Including the girlfriend trippers from the ferry.

I slink down on my bench to inspect the menu.

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We decide on burgers and a few tapas (there’s crayfish on the menu- $10 for three!), then settle in to watch people and listen to some more music.

Now, in addition to its reputation for excellent food, Anguilla is known for its respectable music scene. But most of what I’ve heard to this point, I’d have to say, has been pretty American and contemporary.

So I’m delighted to note scene here at Dad’s is decidedly Caribbean. Earthlight, the band, plays reggae interspersed with a few soca tunes, and the mood is infectious. Pretty soon I’m dancing in my seat- er, bench, maxi dress or not.

And when the food comes, we forget our disappointment over the conch conundrum.

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I snap a picture of the crayfish before they’re devoured. They are great, but even better are the calypso wings. I’m transported to calypso heaven, whatever that might be. Maybe it’s all the mango coladas talking, but these are some of the best wings I’ve ever had, and I consider myself a wing connoisseur. And of course at this point my hands are covered with calypso wings, so I can’t take a picture. And I sure as shooting am not going to pause to clean them up, because: three hungry teenagers, who will gobble them all up before I can even focus my camera.

So you’ll have to use your imagination on this one.

We last through Earthlight’s entire performance, and even some of the DJ who follows them. Sadly, we do not see Lynda and Bob, so bid then adieu and safe travels in our hearts.

Then, finally, the day catches up with us, all the coladas and rum punches and Heinekens, all the sea and sun descending like a heavy curtain. That’s enough limin’ for one day. Time to go home.

To a villa that we once again have all to ourselves.

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Monday dawns with threats of not being such a fun day.

My voice is barely a croak, I’ve blown (quite literally) through the last of my Kleenex, and the skies are overcast and threatening rain.

But don’t think for a moment we’re going to let any of this slow us down. Overcast days may not be the best for lying on a beach, but do you know what they are good for?

Exploring!

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The far west end, a veritable dessert the last time we visited, is now a lush garden. Everything is in bloom.

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I mean everything.

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We find the arch again with no problem.

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I wish this time it were maybe a little more elusive.

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We press farther this time, just to see what we might find.

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Stairway to heaven?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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By this time it is after noon. The clouds are showing no sign of dispersing, but it’s also not raining, so we decide to make a go at lunch and some beach time on Meads Bay.

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The menu at Blanchard’s Beach Shack is so large it’s almost overwhelming. We stare it in bewilderment for at least fifteen minutes before deciding.

At least it’s an easy decision on what to drink.

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We discover our friends Lynne and Angela and the rest of their party on the beach, and park our own party next to ours, in front of our future business venture.

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Future home of the Touris’ Beach Shack?

 

And watch the yachts roll in for a late lunch.

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The occupants of this one disembark for Jacala.

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The occupants of this sinister looking one are preceded by an entire boatload of crew members, who proceed to set up a picnic on Turtle Cove that takes up the entire little beach, complete with umbrellas and loungers, tables, and even towels laid out so the guests’ feet do not even have to touch the sand.

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I guess that particular public beach will be a private one today.

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Gazing longingly at Turtle Cove

 

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The sky is turning darker and darker, and soon it’s looking like a page out of a Donald Crews picture book.

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We decide to try our luck on Rendezvous Bay.

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We find no sunshine at the Sunshine Shack either.

But we do find Garvey. And BBCs.

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But the skies just refuse to cooperate today, and as more time passes, it’s clear it is going to rain any time now.

At least it waits until we’re safely in the car driving home.

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Dinner that night is at Picante, which means we have to drive to the west end of the island once again. Which the entire family finds actually quite interesting, as the island looks like an entirely different place when you drive it at night.

Although we have to dash from the car to the restaurant between showers that evening, at least Picante delivers up some delicious Tex-Mex for dinner.

We start with margaritas (at least for Mark and me) and chips and guacamole (at least for the kids).

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Who thought one order would be enough?

 

 

 

 

We waste no time ordering tonight. Each of us knows exactly what we want.

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Steak burrito for Aaron

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Burrito for Zoe, chicken, please

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Tacos for taco lover Lauren

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Steak enchilada for Mark

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Seafood enchilada heaven for me!

My seafood enchiladas are a plateful of cheesy goodness that hopefully won’t hit my waistline until I’m safely home and out of swimwear.

We all decide I have a Diane Arbus slant to my photography.

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Guess I don’t get to take the Christmas card photo!

Sure, we’re stuffed by the end of this gluttony. Of course we should exercise restraint and think twice before ordering dessert.

Who are we kidding? Of course we’re not going to skip dessert. In fact, we’ll take two!

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Flan!

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Churros!

 

 

Although it’s only 8:30 by the time we receive the check (and how cute is this delivery?!), we are once again utterly wiped out.

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It is clear there will be no stroll down the beach to Elvis’ tonight, no popping in to the Pumphouse to see what’s happening. How boring we are becoming!

Of course, we still have six more nights to fill. Plenty of time to fit in everything we want to do.

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