Old Haunts, New Haunts, New Friends, Hopefully For Life
My throat is swollen and dry, my head a soggy diaper. I should stay in bed, I know, rest up for the day’s activities. But it’s morning #1 on Anguilla, and the sun is up. Therefore so am I. Thankfully, the young German couple seems to have left already. I brush my teeth, grab my flip flops and Kleenex, and slip out the door.
It’s a luxury I could get use to, staying right on the beach. I am an early riser, and known to be a little impatient waiting for my family to get moving. This way I can enjoy the sand and the surf for at least an hour or two before anyone else stirs.
And check out the new business development just outside the gate.
We might be able to make something of this.
It has rained overnight, and from the looks of it pretty heavily. Word has it that has been the case for much of the past month. Great for the island, which is normally quite arid. But not great for vacationers like us who are looking forward to basking in the sun. Hopefully that’s it for the day. We have beaches to hit!
But we do have to take care of a few business items first. Rental car paperwork with Ronnie Bryan at 9, followed by shopping for provisions. Then we can get back to the business of vacationing.
But by 10:30 it’s apparent Ronnie is going to be a no show. I am mildly surprised but not concerned. We have plenty of time to settle up.
I won’t bore you with the details of grocery shopping, any more than I wish to be doing it, other than to say it’s one of those mad dashes down the aisles stuffing the cart with essentials. You know, like milk. And rum. Mixers. Heineken. And at least case of Ting.
And a cooler. You know, one of those cheap, styrofoam ones you can find anywhere.
Except we can find one nowhere.
Four stops and 45 minutes later we finally find one at a Chinese grocery. By the time we return to the villa and unload our loot, we are alarmingly behind schedule. Especially when you throw three teenagers into the equation. Paint actually dries more quickly than teens packing for a day at the beach.
So it is nearly noon when we turn down the road to Shoal Bay West and Trattoria Tramonto, and immediately apparent that it’s far too late to score loungers and umbrellas on the beach.
We decide to dive straight into lunch.
And a prosecco with mango, aka the Michelangelo.
I have to say this place is pretty magical. Palm trees swaying in the breeze (well, today they are actually blowing, rather vigorously, in the wind), great music playing over the sound system, and little touches here and there to make this a little garden of Eden.
The only thing that’s going to pry us away from this spot is the allure of another, possibly even better beach.
Well, that and the fact there are still no loungers available.
Maundays Bay is pretty much synonymous with Cap Juluca. The posh, Moroccan-inspired luxury resort stretches from one end of the beach to the other. The beach itself is one of the most beautiful in the Caribbean, with pristine white sand and crystal clear water.
But I am relying on rumors here, for I have yet to lay eyes on Maundays myself.
And the parking attendant is going to make me wait even longer. Even though there’s plenty of parking in the lot closest to Maundays, he shakes his head at us and points to the lot farthest away. And there are only a few spots left in it, at the very end.
But no matter. We grab our towels and bags and cooler, then begin the long trek to Maundays.
We see the sign to Cove Bay. That’s how far away we are parked.
And it’s right about then that we hear a crack, and the handle I am holding on my end of the cooler breaks off, which crashes to the pavement and splinters into seven pieces. All the beverages we had hastily packed in it spill out onto the ground. How none of them break is a mystery.
We scoop up the debris and lug it all back to the car, then trudge back across the parking lots, past the Cove Bay sign, and finally down a path through a stand of sea grapes.
Maundays spills out before us, every bit as beautiful as its reputation.
Now, all the beaches on Anguilla are public. However, this one feels different. First of all, even though the beach is a mile long, nearly all the bathers are gathered at the east end under the sea grape trees, in what feels like the public part. There have to be close to fifty of us. Padded loungers and umbrellas dot the length of the beach, but those are reserved exclusively for the resort’s guests. The idea of plopping your own chairs or even towels anywhere along it seems preposterous.
We lay out our towels at the far edge of the throng. But after a few minutes of baking under the sun, I decide I would do well to work off some of my linguine vongole, and set off on a stroll down the beach.
By the time I return from my walk, the clouds that have been scattered on the eastern horizon have grown more numerous, so much so that at times they act as an umbrella for the entire beach. Still, when the sun does peek out, it is scorching hot.
I drag my towel back under the sea grapes along with the rest of the herd.
Try as I might to read, all I can manage to do once again is stare at the water, fascinated at how the colors change with the cloud cover.
And then the water turns quite dark, and the sky with it, and the first raindrops hit the sand. We hastily roll up our towels and grab our things to trek back to the car.
But not quickly enough. The rain starts to fall in earnest. We seek shelter under the trees with the other fifty sunbathers to wait for the storm to pass.
But this is a storm that is not going to just pass. It is going to sit on top of us, increasing in intensity until it feels like buckets of water are being dumped on us, until it threatens to soak everything we have on us, including our cellphones, until the lightening starts to crash.
We dash back to the car as fast as one can in waterlogged flip flops.
So much for that stop we had planned at the Sunshine Shack. And as for Maundays, we all agree it would be a spectacular beach to enjoy if we were fortunate enough to stay at Cap Jaluca, but that otherwise we would prefer a beach with welcoming loungers and umbrellas.
The storm clears out in time for the sunset, but not the clouds themselves. There will be no green flash tonight.
It’s Friday night, and that means a happy hour dinner of fish and chips at Roy’s, just a quick duck under the pier past Mr. Ted.
There’s a good crowd already gathered under the sail canopy. Children play in the sand while their parents enjoy a moment of peace and adult beverages. Others are already seated and tucking into plates of golden flaky fish.
But two faces grab my attention. I nudge Mark and point with my chin at the couple seated at a center table. It’s the dancers from last night!
Dinner is good if not great this time, and the Heineken drafts refreshing (Roy’s, you should know, boasts the one and only beer tap on the island). However, what really holds my attention is not the plate of fish and chips in front of me but the couple seated several tables over.
Mark thinks we should introduce ourselves. I think there will be two possible outcomes. 1: They tolerate us politely until we finally get the message and leave them to their peace, or 2: They stare us down, unblinking, until we finally get the message and leave them to their peace.
Mark decides to brave the consequences anyway.
I watch in mild horror as he greets the couple and begins to talk, gesturing with his hands, pantomiming dancing. Surprisingly, they don’t chuck a bottle at him, or even stare blankly. And then, moments later, the women rises and makes her way over to introduce herself to my children and me!
We talk with the couple for the next hour or so. They are originally from Boston, relocated now to Florida, and have been coming to Anguilla for several weeks a year for decades. We talk about our jobs, our children. And, of course, our love of Anguilla. They are lifelong addicts, it is clear.
At last they rise to leave, and depart with a hug and a promise to see us tomorrow at Smokey’s for more dancing and Musical Brothers.
I make a note on my phone: The Dancers. Bob and Lynda Batson.
According to my well planned itinerary, we are to visit Bankie Banks and the Dune Preserve tonight. However, I have worked my way through one pack of Kleenex already and am well into the second, and it’s only the first day. Maybe the Preserve is not a wise idea.
But a quick trip to Elvis’ for a rum punch is not out of the question.
It starts to sprinkle on our way back, so we duck into Dolce Vita and make reservations for Tuesday night. The rain subsides, and we continue on down the beach.
As we pass Le Bar, we see a woman seated on the steps. It turns out it is one of the five women from the car. The other four are enjoying a lobster dinner just up the steps.
Of course we crash their dinner. It’s becoming our modus operandi. Besides, it’s started to rain again.
They are a lovely party, Angela and her mother, Lynne and her two daughters. The Proprietress settled them into the house next door, the one she had originally slated for us. It was a bit disconcerting at first, they say, but seems quite suitable now. I relay to them, as best as my voice will allow, the fiasco of our first experience two years ago.
The rain has let up, so we decide to make a break for home. How nice it would be right now to just have to step next door and be in bed.
We are in front of Roy’s, just this side of the pier, when the skies open again. We get caught in one last downpour for the day, and arrive back at the villa utterly soaked once again.
It is time to put this day to rest.
I wake early again the next morning, Saturday. So many plans for the day, according to the itinerary. But plenty of time for coffee on the beach, inhaling the beauty.
Soon Zoe and Lauren join me.
Then Aaron, who tells me there’s a man at the villa looking for Mark and me.
It’s Ronnie Bryan.
He apologizes for missing us yesterday. He had had no idea where Pelicans the villa was, he explains, and had gone out to Pelican Bay instead.
I had heard many wonderful things about Ronnie Bryan. It turns out they do not even begin to describe what a rockstar this man is. We talk for about an hour, and he gives us tips on places to go and things to try. What a true ambassador for the the island of Anguilla.
The casualty of our lengthy visit is we now won’t make it to Cuisinart in time for the tour of their hydroponic gardens.
I can tell my family is just devastated.
B&D’s: it’s what’s for lunch. How can you beat this deal? Four massive plates of delicious food (complete with johnny cakes) and six beverages, all for under $50.
Then it’s on to Smokey’s, and an afternoon of more Musical Brothers and more dancing. And more BBCs.
The place is packed. Angela and Lynne and their party are there, set up on lounge chairs in the shade. We grab seats inside in front of the band. The reggae music and the drinks start to work their magic. I feel ourselves start to sink into island time.
Bob and Linda arrive too, and take up residence on the dance floor.
They are one adorable couple.
So far we have duplicated our last Saturday on Anguilla, but are determined not to have the day end as it did last time. That is, I mean, without dinner.
Instead, tonight we are dining in style.
We are seated, and soon Jacques greets us and welcomes us to his restaurant. And gives us the devastating news: no crayfish. Once again, a crustacean drought! Curse these storms of late. There is also no snapper, he informs us.
However, there is no shortage of Clos Beylesse. We order a bottle, then study the menu. Even with the elimination of the crayfish and snapper, there are still so many enticing options.
Luckily Jacques is occupied for quite a while attending to other tables. After much agonizing, we finally make our choices in time for his return. House made fettuccine for the girls, the lobster-stuffed chicken breast for Aaron, lamb chops for Mark. I choose the calamari risotto.
Everything is delicious.
Somehow we find room for dessert. As my children say, that’s for the other stomach.
One slice of Jacala cake.
And a dessert sampler.
Jacques has a reputation for being arrogant and condescending to customers at times. We see absolutely no evidence of this, and find him utterly charming. We end our evening talking with him while enjoying the complimentary shots of vanilla and spicy rums. The entire experience is thoroughly delightful.
Too tired for any more outings for the day, we retire to our balcony for a nightcap and some music. We don’t last long though. Exhausted, we tumble into bed, a three bedroom unit all to ourselves.
And rest up for Sunday Funday.