Part 2: Paradise Found
Do you know how early the sun rises in Anguilla in March? Dang early. 6:15 early, in fact. And as the sun rises, so do my eyelids.
I oblige my eyelids, and rise along with them. After a quick brushing of the teeth, I sneak to the sliding door in the adjoining bedroom and slip outside. There’s a small landing, then a few stairs that lead to the ground below, a straggly lawn (although that’s normal for Anguilla) dotted with palm trees, beyond which lies the beach.
Except that dangling between me and the promise of beach is a massive spider web, and off to its side a spider the size of a small rodent.
I find a stick on the landing (guess the lack of a good housekeeping is a blessing in disguise). In a big sweep I strip away the web, then commence battle with the beast. It’s not a pretty or noble battle, punctuated by a heebie jeebie dance, but in the end I prevail. Safe passage granted to the beach.
It is stunningly beautiful.
At the far west end I see what looks like a shipwreck. I start to walk in that direction, savoring the warm, powdery sand between my toes. To my left, set back from the shore a bit, lies a cluster of abandoned little cottages and the wreck of what looks like was once a beachfront restaurant. A ghost town! And that is indeed a shipwreck!
I know I have promised to let my family sleep in all they want on this vacation, to not hustle them along on an agenda. But this is too good to keep all to myself!
I return to the villa and rouse my daughter Lauren, and together we scuttle past the spider corpse and head back down to the beach.
The magic of Anguilla starts to set in. The spotty night’s sleep on hard mattresses and unyielding pillows, the assault of the bass of the neighbor’s massive sound system, the knots of uncertainty and stress of the previous day, they all fade away with the crash of the waves and the salty breeze on our faces.
It’s not but five minutes before my other children, Aaron and Zoe, join us. I hug them good morning, then just watch as they absorb it all. It’s like watching them unwrap presents on Christmas morning.
We poke around the wrecked ship a while, but leave without penetrating beyond its hull on our shoeless feet, deciding it best not to start the vacation with a case of tetanus.
We spend the bulk of the morning back at the beach in front of the villa, the kids getting their first taste of snorkeling. Unlike their mother, who had to be rescued on her honeymoon by her new husband when she ventured too far out on Shoal Bay East, they take to it with ease. The three of them frolic like a pod of dolphins, and together with my husband discover a constellation of starfish.
I watch safely from shore.
Hunger eventually sets in, so we head down the beach toward Sandy Ground. It’s not far at all, we realize in the light of day, and has the added bonus of yet another ship wreck, this one right before the pier. TWO shipwrecks on our beach. Boom!
Still craving the barbecue we were denied the previous night, we end up at Dad’s.
Everybody orders chicken or ribs, but my eye is drawn to the steamed whole snapper with funghie. Fresh fish sounds delightful, and I love mushrooms in any form. Dad himself explains to me that it’s actually a sort of steamed dumpling, and that his cook is the famed cook from his neighbor Johnnos.
What comes out is a beautiful plate brimming with fish, vegetables, funghie, and a rich broth. Oh mama. One taste of that broth and I wanted to climb in that dish. I eat until I am beyond stuffed, devouring every last morsel of food on that plate.
(Dad’s menu has since changed, and it appears that the snapper is no longer on the menu. And I suspect the cook has returned to Johnnos?)
After lunch my family rolls me back down the beach, under the pier, around the shipwreck (“that’s a mighty big rope,” my husband takes to saying each time we pass it), and up to the villa to digest the feast.
As Mark and I sit on the back terrace in duplicate food comas, we hear a key in the door. In walks a woman armed with cleaning supplies, who proceeds to CLEAN THE ENTIRE VILLA.
Things are definitely looking up.
Dinners weren’t as a rule a priority on this trip (and as I have mentioned, that was very out of character for me: I have been known to herd my family across an entire city in search of the perfect po’ boy). However, dinner this first night turns out to be a gem. Alicia at Sandbar graciously seats us with a wonderful view of the setting sun.
We order drinks and an array of tapas. Tuna poke, beer battered mahi bites, mahi fra diavolo, chicken satay, strip steak with chimichurri sauce, and two orders of SandBar fries. I do not get a chance to snap pictures of the food, choosing to grab what I could before it is devoured by the wolves.
Followed by three desserts. I don’t remember what they all were, because once I taste that mango cobbler nothing else matters.
Darren and Alicia are absolutely delightful and the food delicious. A perfect cap on what is a decidedly better day than the previous one.
We duck back under the pier (“that’s a mighty big rope”), and as we are walking along the water’s edge, I notice that as everybody lifts their feet, their footsteps remain, glowing in the sand. Did I have one too many cocktails? But no, everyone else can see it too.
We walk on back to the villa, leaving a glowing trail of bioluminescence in our wake.