Adventure, Food, Travel, Uncategorized

Return to Paradise, Part 1

In Which I Sell A Kidney To Be Reunited With My Heart

 

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Can I give you a friendly word of advice? Don’t go to Anguilla. Ever.

“…wait, but…,” you’re thinking. “but you said…”

I know what I said. But trust me on this one. Do not go to Anguilla. Ever. Not, that is, if you ever want to pursue a normal life again.

Think you fancy a tropical beach vacation? Go to Mexico. Go to an all-inclusive. Go where there are high rises and fast food joints, where the roads are well-paved and well-mapped. Where the water is pretty, maybe even beautiful, but the beaches are filled with umbrellas and parasails and blaring music and hordes of tourists in straw cowboy hats.

Because once you go to Anguilla, you will be spoiled. You will spend the rest of your life searching for beaches that are as beautiful as those on Anguilla and for people that are as happy and welcoming as its residents.

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You may not realize at first the hold this island will gain on you. In fact, you may not realize it until you are home and your tan is flaking away. But mark my words: you will start to dream about it. About just what do the other 28 beaches that you missed look like. About the 90+ restaurants that you DIDN’T make it to, even though you ate out every meal, sometimes twice. About just where did that dirt “road” lead, the one that was clearly marked on the map but petered out into stone and ruts and disappeared around the bend.

You will try to put Anguilla out of your mind and get back to life as usual. This will be futile. Your life has been hacked. You will find yourself looking up flights and hotels, searching menus online, then putting it all together in elaborate itineraries. Elaborating on elaborate itineraries, planning them down to the half hour. Or less.

You will fall asleep at night, exhausted from your planning and fantasizing. Anguilla will wake you, her fingers entwined in yours, her eyes staring deep into your own, asking, “Did you forget about me?” And you will stammer, no, that in fact you were just dreaming about her.

Okay, so maybe I exaggerate that last part a bit.

But then again, maybe I didn’t.

Whatever the case, you need to recognize you’re dealing with a dangerous drug. Thousands of people, many stronger than you, have succumbed to its powers. Ask any one of them how many times they have been back. Ask what they are willing to do to in order to do so. Live on instant ramen noodles the rest of the year? Small sacrifice. Spend their children’s inheritance? Possibly. Sell a kidney? Not out of the question.

And if, for some reason, this does not happen, if you fail to fall under its spell, Anguilla is not for you.

Either way, it is best if you just don’t go in the first place.

But if you are curious, if you are feeling strong, then read on about our Adventures in Anguilla, Take Two.

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We are in a movie, a sequel this time, the setting the hull of a public ferry boat motoring out of the port at Marigot, St Martin. Except this is not a movie, this is a really us in the flesh, March 2016, bound once again for Anguilla. A 12 day trip this time, the sequel to that once-in-a-lifetime trip we took in 2014. Because don’t kid yourself: there is no such thing as a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Anguilla. Once the island hits your bloodstream, you’re stuck.

 

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Unlike our last trip on the ferry, this time we are stowed (safely, I hope) inside the hull, for the seas are monstrous this time. We crash from wave to wave as we bounce across the four mile stretch between St Martin and Anguilla. I’m hoping Zoe, ever prone to seasickness, will manage the crossing without, er… mishap. Oh, thank you, little angel named Dramamine.

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Mark and the girls occupy the seat in front of Aaron and me on this water coaster ride. Behind us a group of women on a girlfriends’ trip are enjoying the rum punches they scored at the terminal in Marigot. I try not to look at their cups too longingly. A rum punch sounds delightful after the busy month we’ve had at work. But I need to hold it together for a little while longer, at last until we get our lodging situation all squared away.

Yes…. the lodging situation.

If you’ve read my blog of our first trip to Anguilla, you will be familiar with the Experience we had with our lodging. If you haven’t read it, you can follow the whole caper here: https://kyla2016.wordpress.com/2016/01/20/33/

If you have read it, you will be saying to yourself, “At least they learned from that experience, and will be staying somewhere else this time.”

Except we’re not. At least for the first half of our trip.

But why, after all that trouble last time? you ask.

Well, this beach, for starters:

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With these sunsets:

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And this shipwreck:

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And this one:

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With this mighty big rope:

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All within stumbling distance from Roy’s Barrel Stay Le Bar SandBar Dolce Vita Dad’s Johnno’s Elvis’ AND the Pumphouse.

All at a phenomenal price.

Hell yes, I’m willing to deal with the devil.

The dealings began in March of 2015, a full year in advance. Although in truth the scheming had begun a full year prior even to that, mere days after returning from our first trip. Because that’s what you do once you’ve become addicted to Anguilla. The only way to survive reentry is to immediately start planning your next visit.

It began with an email to the Proprietress affirming dates and price, which was answered with an email from the Proprietress confirming dates and price. All we needed to do was put down a one night deposit once we purchased our tickets. Perfect.

But then calls went unanswered. Email went radio silent.

Then, a month or so later, correspondence picked up again. No problem.

Until, that is, I would call to make that deposit. No answer. Radio silence, again.

Finally, in January 2016, the Proprietress emailed saying the unit was available, but she had made a mistake on the price. It had risen some $75 per night.

Frustrating, for sure, but I was not going to let it deter our trip. A few extra dollars was nothing for this beach

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these sunsets

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this shipwreck

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Sandy Ground

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We threw in our hand, announced we would be arriving on this day, and trusted all would work out as well as last time.

But we’ll hold off on the rum punch until we’re safely squared away.

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It hits me about the same time as I see the welcome sign at Blowing Point: the aroma of Anguilla. On our first trip we initially suspected someone was holding a party in the bushes, just out of sight. Now we recognize that there’s a certain shrub with a scent somewhere between dark coffee and Little Kings beer. I look over at my son, he looks at me and nods, smiling. What a bad mother I am, I think. I gave him his first dose of Anguilla, and now he’s hooked.

It feels like coming home. Even the customs officials at Blowing Point, the ones who struck us as so foreboding last time, seem more like those grumpy neighbors you learn to tolerate, the ones who sneak you an extra piece of candy on Halloween. They even help to walk us through the customs process, as those forms never fail to confuse me.

And then we are on the other side, free and clear! We locate the car Ronnie Bryan left for us in the lot, pick up the kids and our luggage, and strike out for Sandy Ground in search of the Proprietress. Anne Edwards.

Now, I’d love to report we found Anne right away at Sydan’s. That we got everything settled and squared in time to hit the beach for a late afternoon swim and rum punch.

But we all know that is not to be the case.

Luckily we are at least able to deposit the kids on the beach at Dad’s, with money for drinks and a snack and instructions to meet us at Pelicans (our villa) before sunset.

Then we head across the road to Sydan’s, where we wait for the Proprietress  to return from a meeting somewhere on the island.

And wait.

And wait.

And just as we are about to abandon hope and join our children on the beach without a bed to rest our heads, Anne appears.

“Ahh. You are how many?” she asks.

Five, we remind her. The Tourises. Pelicans.

“Ahh, yes. Five. I put you in the house here, across the road. You will like it.”

Mark and I look at each other, shuffling our feet.

“No, we’ve reserved the upstairs unit at Pelicans. Although I’m sure we’d be fine with the downstairs one, if need be.”

“The downstairs unit is rented. We put you in the house across the street.”

I suck in a deep breath, wishing desperately for rum.

“No,” I say. “We don’t want to do that to our children. We would prefer to stay at Pelicans, if it is available.”

The Proprietress consults her ledger, draws a few lines, then nods her head. “Ok, Pelicans.”

With that, we square away the details of our lodging (with a few dollars more than we had anticipated, but whatever), are given the keys, and set off for our little home away from home on the other side of the pier.

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I am relieved to see it looks much the same as our last visit, in spite of the devastation Hurricane Gonzalo wreaked on other parts of the island. All is good here.

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The pool is clean this time!

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The backyard, leading to the beach. So lush this time!

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My flamboyant tree, not looking so good this time

We are dragging our luggage up the front steps when a little car comes bouncing down the drive. It pulls to a stop next to our rental, and five women pile onto the drive.

“Is Anne here?” they yell.

Mark and I look at each other, shuffling our feet, then walk over to make the acquaintance of these women and sort through the confusion.

They have just arrived from Canada, and are looking forward to a week of rest and relaxation, their first visit to Anguilla.

Mark and I nod our heads in sympathy with their situation. A party of five that have booked a villa through the Proprietress. What could possibly go awry?

We send them off down the road with directions to Sydan’s, then finally lug our bags into the villa.

It’s right about then we hear the commotion out back, coming from down by the beach. What on earth?We unlock the back door to the deck to get a better look, and discover our offspring on the other side of the gate, their entrance denied by an enormous chain and padlock.

And so ensues another hour of tracking down the Proprietress, who alone has possession of the key, and who has apparently trekked off to a corner of the island for another meeting.

At long last, we obtain the magic key, are reunited with our children, unpack a few items, and finally get down to the business of vacationing seriously.

We make our way to “our” beach to witness the first sunset of Anguilla Trip 2016. There are too many clouds for a spectacular sunset, or even really a good one, but no matter: we have been counting down to this moment for the past 249 days.

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What is more delicious than strolling down the beach to your first night’s dinner, the warm tropical air on your skin as you dodge the waves lapping the shore?

The menu at SandBar, that’s what. Everything on it sounds delicious.

But of course there are a few things we simply have to have. Tuna poki, beer battered mahi bites, mahi fra diavlo, skirt steak with chimichurri.

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Tuna poki

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And of course an order (okay, two) of SandBar fries, which, as far as I can tell, are potatoes that are cooked, mashed, formed into a fry shape, battered, then finally fried and served with a chili aioli. So good.

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And just to round things out, and to ensure we get our daily dose of vegetables, we throw in an order of zucchini carpaccio. Which turns out to be my favorite dish.

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We settle in with our cocktails and relax while we wait for our food. I watch a young German couple several tables over soothing their infant child, and congratulate ourselves that those baby days are long gone and we now travel with teens. Which, of course, presents its own highs and lows, but does not require diapers.

Dinner is fabulous, followed by an order of that mango crisp I remember so fondly from our first trip. It’s different this time, more of a bread pudding, not as over-the-moon good as I remember it, but still just fine.

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And with that, I am utterly stuffed. And exhausted. If we were anywhere else, I would head “home” and go directly to bed. Especially since I’ve been battling a savage cold for the last week, one that is lately showing signs of becoming a bronchial infection.

But we are in Anguilla, and it is Thursday night. Which means the Musical Brothers at the Pumphouse.

There’ll be time for sleep in April.

We convince our son to come with us, but the girls are wiped out (and craving some wifi time– they are 15, after all). We escort them safely back to the villa.

But as we are unlocking the front gate, we hear voices from inside the kitchen.

Utterly mystified, we open the door and discover… the young German couple from the restaurant! They look extremely uncomfortable, and quickly explain that the Proprietress has lodged them in the villa’s third bedroom. It’s just for the night, they explain, and assure us they will be gone early the next morning.

Mark and I look at each other, shuffling our feet. What’s there to do? Actually, I feel worse for these poor people than I do for us. Amazing what you get used to, dealing with the Proprietress.

We bid the young couple goodnight, then lock all the doors leading their way. Then, satisfied the girls will be fine, Mark, Aaron and I head back out, back down the beach to Sandy Ground.

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It’s well after 9 o’clock by the time we reach the Pumphouse. And unlike our last visit, it’s surprisingly quiet. A few band members are warming up on stage, and the customers are sparse. Still, we decide to stay for a drink and see what develops.

We order rum punches for Mark and me and a Ting for Aaron. The woman behind the bar is all tan and muscles. This, I decide, must be Deborah Vos, sailor and hostess extraordinaire of Traditions Sailing, one of the few remaining West Indian sloops in operation.

I also decide she pours one mean rum punch. Maybe this will knock this virus right out of my system.

Eventually the band strikes up and people start to dance. Tired as I am, I’m content to watch, especially as my dear husband has a heart filled with song but two feet filled with lead. A man leaning on the bar and apparently a regular at these events feels otherwise, though, and tugs me on to the dance floor, then grabs my husband to join us, and soon we are part of a merrymaking crowd.

I decide another rum punch is needed, and head back to the bar to order. However, my voice is at best a rasp by now. I pantomime as best as I can, and am rewarded by two more drinks. I even manage a brief rasp of a conversation with Deb, who asks, “Do I know you?” Frankly, after all these rum punches, I feel like I know everybody.

I am just turning back to my little party when the crowd parts and in walks– no, dances– a couple maybe in their late 60s. The woman is blond, tailored, and tiny, light on her feet, and dead serious; her male partner is all smiles. They take command of the dance floor, he dancing and grinning as though he’s courting her, she seemingly aloof. The lead singer greets them, and with that the parts starts in earnest. It’s obvious the night has been waiting for them.

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It is nearing one in the morning when we finally drag ourselves away. I know I’m going to pay physically for this late night party, but it was so worth it.

Everything seems fine back at the villa. We lock the doors, brush our teeth, and stumble into bed exhausted. The hard mattress and unyielding pillows are no obstacle tonight. We fall asleep almost immediately, serenaded by the ocean surf.

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11 thoughts on “Return to Paradise, Part 1

  1. Kyla, what a great read, I cannot believe Anne Edwards – she is something else, glad she only rented out the bedroom and not the whole unit. Deb Vos is a sweetie.
    Thanks for the laughs,
    Ellen

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  2. Nancy Vurckio says:

    What an honest and funny description of this Island Paradise that we discovered in 1989! Have been back every year since. No other place on earth compares to the beautiful beaches, people, and fabulous food this island offers! Was just there again for Christmas and already thinking about next Christmas! Thanks for the memories 👍 PS: We also enjoy Sandy Ground, it’s beach, so serene, Roy’s, Dolci Vita, Pumphouse, etc..

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  3. Angela P. says:

    As one of the ‘five’ women you and your family greeted upon arrival – suddenly without accommodations, I concur with your analogy of our situation. We ended our journey at Sydans and very happy, however, you must be prepared for the unexpected. The best thing that day, beside landing in Blowing Point was meeting you, Mark and family. Friends for life, I’m sure. xo.

    Angie

    Like

  4. Charlene Fowles says:

    Finally getting to read this now…busy enjoying my Anguilla fix. I have been addicted now for twelve years. Love your writing and totally understand your feelings for this amazing place. Can’t wait to hear more!

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  5. Joanne Ehrenzeller. says:

    Your writing is witty and clever ,yes we are also addicted and found the months,weeks ,days and minutes only get us closer to our beloved island,we book for the following year upon departure

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