Adventure, Food, Travel, Uncategorized

Return to Paradise, Part 4

Genug. Assez. Abbastanza. How Do You Say “Enough?”

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Tuesday.

This is the day things get messy at the villa.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that it’s a bad day. We actually we have a great day. By day’s end we will have visited some of our favorite places and eaten some great food.

And it’s not that it doesn’t end well.

But…

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Tuesday. Our last day here at Pelicans.

The day certainly does not start out brilliantly. It’s overcast with light rain once again. But there’s also a stiff breeze that’s moving the clouds along. Hopefully it will blow them out of here altogether.

It does blow one of the beach towels off the railing. When I step out on the terrace to retrieve it, I see our downstairs neighbor in the backyard.

This is when my day picks up.

I’m sure you’re wondering just what I mean. This could be going any number of ways, right?

We’ve been sharing Pelicans this whole time with this young man and woman who are renting the lower two-bedroom unit for an entire month. I thought it would bother me, since last time we had the entire villa to ourselves. But actually we have hardly even seen these guys the entire time we’ve been here.

And now here they are this morning in the backyard. No big deal, right?

Except the young man (John?) has shimmied up one of the palm trees and is hacking off coconuts.

Seriously? This is a BUCKET LIST item for me!

Well, not the shimmying up the tree part. Remember that climbing rope in gym class? My early childhood was traumatized by that thing.

But a fresh coconut? Who doesn’t fantasize about drinking out of one of those?

And today is my lucky day (well, for now at least). Because John (?) scores a coconut for me! And chops off the top! With a machete!

Boom!

Sadly, I have to say the reality of that coconut does not live up to the one in my fantasies.

But that’s okay. Check one off the list!

By now the rain has moved on. Time to get this show on the road. I slather on a healthy layer of sunscreen, load book, sunglasses, and a fist-size wad of toilet paper (I ran out of Kleenex lonngggg ago) in my bag, then settle in with the Anguilla Guide while I wait for the rest of the family.

It takes a decade getting them out the door today. Not that they’re not game for the adventure, they’re completely on board. They are just in vacation mode. I get that.

But what they don’t get is that, if we don’t speed things up, this is all that’s going to be left at Le Bon Pain:

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This darling French bakery is the size of a coin purse located roadside in Island Harbor, and even though it’s definitely not posh, and even though it’s on the far east end of Anguilla, visitors will drive the length of the island to purchase their delicious pastries. The caveat is you have to get there early, because they sell out within hours.

So it is only by the mercy of Paulette, the sweet woman behind the counter, that we are able to get any croissants at all. The guy in front of us literally buys everything else. A dozen of these, eighteen of those, the rest of those blueberry and peach danishes.

Noting the despair rising on my teenagers’ faces, Paulette generously allows them to reserve a few croissants before the man buys everything else. See how nice these Anguillans are?

Mark and I settle for a slice of ham and cheese quiche. As if that’s settling.

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And a baguette with butter, though Lauren devours half of that too.

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Especially since it comes with this thoughtful little bowl of cinnamon sugar.

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But really, it’s fine. After everything I’ve consumed these last five days, I’m pretty sure I would be fine with just a caf√® au lait.

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After enjoying our breakfast while watching chickens strut on the bakery’s postcard deck, and after once again trying unsuccessfully to snap a few pictures of the family to preserve the moment, we head out on our mission to visit Upper Shoal Bay East, former home of Gwen’s Reggae Grill.

Which turns out to be mission impossible.

Although we turn off where we’re pretty sure the entrance was, we cannot find the road that used to lead straight there. How quickly nature has reclaimed her property.

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We bushwhack towards the sound of the ocean. Finally we catch a glimpse of that aqua blue water through the bushes.

That is, on the other side of a chain link fence.

We make the executive decision to enter the beach from Serenity’s.

A grand decision on several levels.

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We send the kids down the beach, then settle in with rum punches for a nano teenager-free date.

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The amount of sargassum in the water at Serenity is shocking. With no place to go, it just collects in the corner under the restaurant. So sad, for such a beautiful place. That certainly can’t be good for business, especially noting we are the only customers here.

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We decide we should contribute a little more to the restaurant’s income.

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The kind servers allow us to take our beverages down the beach to Gwen’s old spot. Guess they’re not too worried about us skipping out, as theirs seems to be the only exit.

Or maybe it’s just another example of that magnanimous Anguilla hospitality.

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Luckily the sargassum is not as bad down on this end of the beach, and what little there is has collected high up on near the berm. The water is blissfully clear. And there is a decent amount of beach still. All in all, really not all that different from our last visit.

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Except that it’s very different from our last visit. There’s no Gwen’s. No Scratch Band. And definitely no hammocks.

I miss all of it, but at this particular moment I especially miss the hammocks. I try to settle my butt into the sand. But I’m too freaking old to manage sitting in the sand AND holding a drink. It’s one or the other.

Maybe I can find a seat on a pile of boulders.

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It’s not bad.

It’s not good either.

It quickly becomes clear that I am not going to find a comfortable seat, nor are the kids going to succeed in their mission of cracking a coconut.

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Besides, it’s lunchtime.

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Time for some of the fish bits that our friends Bob and Lynda had raved about at Falcons Nest, a new, toes-in-the-sand place in Island Harbor.

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And cheeseburgers for the kids.

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And Falcon dip on everything.

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By the end of lunch we are ripe for some beach lounging. In actual beach loungers.

And the best place for beach lounging, in my humble opinion? Shoal Bay East.

Too often I take for granted that everyone is familiar with Shoal Bay East, and I shouldn’t. After all, obviously everybody hasn’t been to Anguilla. And even some of those who have been there don’t make their way to that end of the island, preferring to stay on the west end, with all it has to offer.

Even then, I should seize every opportunity to extol the beauty of this 2 mile stretch of sand, the beach where I first fell in love with Anguilla, a beach which has changed so much since we first laid eyes on it in 1994 yet whose beauty never fails to stun me.

Better yet, I should show you pictures of it. They would show you its beauty better than any words I can find.

It’s not until we’re in the car driving back from the beach and I’m looking through the pictures on my phone that I realize I forgot to take any of Shoal Bay East. Not a single one.

I looked through Mark’s phone. He didn’t take any either.

I check with each of my kids. Nope. Nothing to show for our afternoon of bliss. We were all so busy enjoying the moment that no one thought to capture it.

You’ll just have to take my word for it. Meanwhile, here’s a picture from a past trip so you get an idea of what we’re dealing with here:

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We spend the afternoon at the Elodias, a beach bar down by the Point. See those yellow umbrellas?

We rent one of those umbrellas, along with two chairs, for the afternoon, and order two rum punches to enjoy in them. The young woman behind the bar doesn’t look old enough to even serve alcohol; it’s soon obvious, though, she knows what she’s doing. I count four different types of rum, along with a shot of Disaranno. There may have been a splash of fruit juice in there, too. I’m not sure.

We lounge away a chunk of the afternoon watching terns dive into the ocean while our teenagers snorkel. When we (or I) decide we need to stretch our legs, we order another rum punch, then stroll the length of the beach.

I am surprised by the changes that have occurred even since our last visit. A new hotel, Zemi Beach House, has just opened at the far west end of the beach. While not a high-rise, it’s definitely a resort, something I never expected to see on this beach. I will admit, though, it does look beautiful.

Glen’s Reggae Grill has relocated down to this end of the beach.

A new hotel is being built next to Uncle Ernie’s. Actually, right on top of it, it would seem.

I confess I miss the beach’s former ruggedness. But, progress and all. And as I said, it’s still stunning.

Finally around 4:30 we’ve had our fill of sun and sand for the day. We had back to the villa to get cleaned up for dinner, and hopefully finally catch a sunset.

There is an unfamiliar car in the driveway. We wonder if the cleaning lady is still here.

She’s not.

Instead we find two strangers in the kitchen, unpacking drinks into the refrigerator.

You’re really not surprised, are you?

Nice people, a middle-aged couple from France. I don’t even ask how long they’ll be here. It doesn’t matter: we will be out of here tomorrow.

And believe me, I am ready to go.

I play with the kids one last time down on the beach. It’s just so beautiful here. I will miss this part.

After I shower, I pour a glass of wine with a promise from Mark that he’ll join me as soon as he’s ready. I grab a chair to drag down to the beach for our last sunset. Hopefully we will actually be blessed with one on our final night on Sandy Ground.

As I rounded the corner of the Villa, I hear a male voice. “Scuzzi?”

I’m confused. Does the French guest think I’m Italian? I turn around.

It’s not our French flatmate after all. It’s another person altogether, a tall, handsome man, looking at me imploringly.

He apologizes for startling me. He’s Italian, and explains that he is part of the crew of a ship that is spending the night here in Anguilla. He and another traveler are staying in the second bedroom in the downstairs unit. His companion is sick, and he wonders if I might know of a place nearby that he could get something to eat.

Pelicans has become an international hostel.

These poor people. Hopefully it’s not their first exposure to Anguilla. I’m certainly glad it’s not ours.

I set him up with instructions, and proceed to the beach where I sip wine waiting for Mark and hoping the clouds will blow away at the last minute.

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They don’t.

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But even a half-hearted sunset can’t dampen my spirits, for dinner tonight is at my favorite restaurant from our last visit: Dolce Vita.

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As we finish the last of our wine, neither Mark nor I can remember if we made reservations for 7:00 or 7:30. Look what vacation has done to our brains!

We decide to err on the side of caution.

And of course the reservation is for 7:30.

We apologize for our vacation amnesia, and tell the host we’ll go for a stroll on the beach until then. However, they graciously tell us it’s no problem, they can seat us now.

We should have waited, for unfortunately I fear it throws off the whole evening.

Or waterfront table is perfect, though. We settle in to enjoy the basket of focaccia with olive oil and balsamic, and study the menu.

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We have a long time to study it.

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Dolce Vita is packed tonight, nearly every table filled already. We see Abbi moving gracefully around the room, moving tables, opening wine, filleting fish table side. I look forward to his magic gracing our table.

We start with the burrata appetizer and of course an order of the gorgonzola gnocchi. It is as wonderful as I remember it.

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We eat through another basket of focaccia. I’m not too worried about filling up on bread. Dinner, I decide, can go into my dessert stomach.

Finally our dinners arrive.

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An order each of lobster pasta for Aaron and Zoe

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Lauren’s New York strip

Everything is wonderful, but we all decide once again that Mark’s choice of lasagna was best (I will attempt, over the next year, to replicate that dish).

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My homemade pappardelle with royal duck sauce can only be better sprinkled with a little Abbi magic dust.

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But Abbi is busy with another table, one whose occupants he seems to know well.

We finish our dinners, then sit waiting. For Abbi. For a desert menu. For a bill perhaps?

I feel bad. Obviously we should have waited for our actual reservation time.

Abbi drops by two other tables, then finally arrives at ours. We are happy to see him, and tell him how we enjoyed our dinner so much last time that we just had to come back. Ever the gracious host, he thanks us for returning and hopes we enjoyed our dinner tonight, then moves on to the next table.

What was I expecting? That he would actually remember us from that one visit that one time, when so many customers pass through his restaurant every day?

I guess from the magic last time, I did.

Twenty more minutes pass, and our teenagers have grown beyond restless. Our waitress arrives with a bottle of limoncello. She pours a complimentary shot for each of us, a nice touch to the end of the meal, then asks if we would like to order dessert.

The kids look at us, then actually shake their heads, an occasion as rare as a narwhal sighting.

We politely decline.

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Our teenagers are done. They leave Mark and I to enjoy some time alone, and return to the villa under stern institutions to make sure the doors are locked.

But Mark and I are not done. This is our last night with Sandy Ground at our fingertips.

We pay our bill and depart our dear Dolce Vita with hopes of returning someday for a more magical experience once again.

Our intention is to head to Elvis’ at the far end of the beach, then bar hop our way back. But then we spot Angela and Lynne and their party dining at SandBar.

Of course we have to crash their dinner.

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I can’t tell you enough how much we love these guys. It really was a shame we all didn’t end up together at Pelicans.

The plan to bar hop is scrapped. We close down the place, chatting for hours. Actually, the darling owners Daron and Alicia close it down, literally, shutter by shutter, around us.

Reluctantly, we finally take the hint.

We part with our Canadian crew with no specific plans to meet up the next day, but with hopes that we do.

And on that note, Mark and I decide we’ve had a very full day.

We call it a night, and head back home to our very full villa.

And those downstairs neighbors that we have hardly seen this whole time? We encounter them once again. This time in the pool, in a very intimate embrace.

¬°Bastante!

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2 thoughts on “Return to Paradise, Part 4

  1. Kyla, I swear you have the patience of Job to put up with strangers in your villa, I am afraid I would have gone ballistic.
    Love Dolce Vita and Abby, he is such a great guy, it is one of our do not miss spots, always good, always welcoming.
    Thanks for a great read.
    Ellen

    Like

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