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.

IMG_0624

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.

IMG_0636

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.

IMG_0296

IMG_0297

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.

IMG_0299

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!

IMG_0637

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.

IMG_0640

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:

IMG_0929

IMG_0927

IMG_0919

IMG_0911

IMG_0926

IMG_0914

IMG_0913

IMG_0918

IMG_0915

IMG_0916

IMG_0938

IMG_0941

IMG_0936

 

create a mockup of Garvey’s Sunshine Shack:

IMG_0906

 

IMG_0908

IMG_0909

IMG_0910

and add all the details we can think of:

IMG_0945

IMG_0949

IMG_0921

IMG_0905

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.

IMG_0160

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.

IMG_0344

Advertisements
Standard
Adventure, Food, Travel, Uncategorized

Return to Paradise, Part 7

A Moveable Feast

IMG_0546

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.

IMG_0519

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.

IMG_0520

IMG_0521

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.

IMG_0545

IMG_0539

Busy scene in Island Harbor

IMG_0540

IMG_0544

 

 

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.

IMG_0548

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

IMG_0549

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.

IMG_1410

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

IMG_1409

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

The kids snorkel and capture some great underwater pictures.

IMG_1417

IMG_1416

IMG_1415

IMG_1414

IMG_1413

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.

IMG_0553

IMG_0552

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.

IMG_0556

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.

IMG_1367

IMG_1390

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

IMG_1389

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.

IMG_0557

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.

IMG_1408

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.

IMG_1403

IMG_1404

IMG_1405

IMG_1406

IMG_1407

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!

IMG_0560

IMG_0562

IMG_0563

IMG_0564

IMG_0567

IMG_0559

IMG_0568

IMG_0570

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

IMG_0572

…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.

IMG_0576

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.

IMG_0579

Pizza Crudo

IMG_0597

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

IMG_0595

IMG_0581

Clean plater, Pizza Njuda

IMG_0580

Clean plater, Pizza Margherita

IMG_0585

(A dubious) clean plater, Pizza Crudo

IMG_0587

Almost clean plater

IMG_0588

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.

IMG_0574

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.

IMG_0591

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

IMG_0590

 

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.

IMG_0593

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.

IMG_0598

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.

Standard
Adventure, Food, Travel, Uncategorized

Return to Paradise, Part 6

A Brief Interlude

IMG_0457

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.

IMG_0458

IMG_1385

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.

IMG_0459

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.

IMG_0466

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.

IMG_0464

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.

IMG_0465

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.

IMG_0461

IMG_0463

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.

IMG_1366

IMG_0201

IMG_0254

Afternoon stretches into early evening.

IMG_0223

IMG_0215

IMG_0239

IMG_0241

IMG_0244

IMG_0243

IMG_0242

 

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.

IMG_0280

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.

IMG_0487

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.

IMG_0485

Closer view of our villa

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

IMG_0486

IMG_0487

IMG_0488

IMG_0489

IMG_0490

IMG_0473

The Master at Work

IMG_0480

IMG_0483

Finished!

IMG_0482

The Master at Rest

IMG_0472

IMG_1387

IMG_1386

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.

IMG_0471

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.

IMG_0496

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.

IMG_0494

IMG_0492

IMG_0493

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

IMG_0497

IMG_0498

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

IMG_0499

IMG_0500

IMG_0501

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

Lunch is fabulous.

IMG_0502

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.

IMG_0504

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.

IMG_0505

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.

IMG_0512

IMG_0510

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.

IMG_0513

IMG_0515

IMG_0516

IMG_0514

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.

IMG_0517

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.

Standard
Adventure, Food, Travel, Uncategorized

Return to Paradise, Part 5

Our Ship Comes In

IMG_0382

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.

IMG_0386

IMG_0387

IMG_0388

IMG_0389

IMG_0390

IMG_0391

IMG_0392

IMG_0393

IMG_0394

IMG_0395

IMG_0396

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

IMG_0398

IMG_0399

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.

IMG_1384

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.

IMG_1365

IMG_0405

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.

IMG_0406

IMG_0407

IMG_0409

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.

IMG_0411

 

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.

IMG_0413

IMG_0419

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.

IMG_0414

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.

IMG_0416

IMG_0417

IMG_0415

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!

IMG_0420

IMG_0421

IMG_0421

IMG_0422

IMG_0425

IMG_0430

Did I mention everything is in bloom?

 

IMG_0433

I mean everything!

IMG_0432

Whelks

IMG_0434

The sargassum is bad this time

IMG_0436

IMG_0435

IMG_0437

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.

IMG_0622

IMG_0260

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.

IMG_0625

Master bedroom

IMG_0626

Seating in the master bedroom

IMG_0629

Bedroom #2, upstairs

IMG_0630

Seating in bedroom #2

IMG_0631

More seating in bedroom #2

IMG_0632

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.

IMG_0627

IMG_0628

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.

IMG_0633

IMG_0634

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

IMG_0635

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.

IMG_0211

IMG_0203

IMG_0256

IMG_0250

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.

IMG_0623

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.

IMG_0442

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.

IMG_0220

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!

IMG_0452

IMG_0453

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.

IMG_0454

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.

IMG_0451

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.

IMG_0280

Standard
Adventure, Food, Travel, Uncategorized

Return to Paradise, Part 3

Limin’ At Breakneck Speed

IMG_0262

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.

IMG_0193

 

 

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:

IMG_0194

 

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

IMG_0116

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.

IMG_0196

IMG_0195

IMG_0197

 

 

 

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.

IMG_0198

 

Or two.

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

 

IMG_0198

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.

 

IMG_0200

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.

IMG_0206

Flowers given to us by some little girls

IMG_0207

 

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.

IMG_0204

IMG_0165

IMG_0164

IMG_0162

 

 

 

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.

IMG_0201

 

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.

IMG_0203

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.

IMG_1368

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.

IMG_1361

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.

IMG_1364

 

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

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

 

IMG_0209

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.

IMG_0210

 

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.

IMG_0211

 

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.

*********

IMG_1380

 

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!

IMG_0221

IMG_0222

IMG_0223

 

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

IMG_0212

IMG_0213

IMG_0214

IMG_0215

IMG_0216

IMG_0220

IMG_0225

IMG_0226

Enter a caption

 

 

 

 

 

 

I mean everything.

IMG_0242

IMG_0227

IMG_0233

 

 

 

We find the arch again with no problem.

IMG_0218

 

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

IMG_0224

IMG_0224

 

 

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

IMG_0235

IMG_0234

IMG_0236

IMG_0232

IMG_0241

IMG_1373

IMG_1374

IMG_1375

IMG_1375

IMG_1377

IMG_0237

IMG_1378

IMG_0228

IMG_0231

Stairway to heaven?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_0238

 

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.

IMG_0251

IMG_0255

IMG_0252

IMG_0255

IMG_0254

IMG_0257

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

IMG_0256

 

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.

IMG_0278

IMG_0277

Future home of the Touris’ Beach Shack?

 

And watch the yachts roll in for a late lunch.

IMG_0275

 

The occupants of this one disembark for Jacala.

IMG_0272

 

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.

IMG_0263

 

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

IMG_0273

Gazing longingly at Turtle Cove

 

IMG_0272

IMG_0264

IMG_0268

 

IMG_0267

 

 

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

IMG_0269

IMG_0274

IMG_0270

IMG_0271

 

 

 

 

We decide to try our luck on Rendezvous Bay.

IMG_0279

IMG_0280

 

 

We find no sunshine at the Sunshine Shack either.

But we do find Garvey. And BBCs.

IMG_0281

 

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.

IMG_0310

 

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).

IMG_0283

IMG_0284

IMG_0285

IMG_0287

IMG_0289

Who thought one order would be enough?

 

 

 

 

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

IMG_0290

Steak burrito for Aaron

IMG_0291

Burrito for Zoe, chicken, please

IMG_0293

Tacos for taco lover Lauren

IMG_0295

Steak enchilada for Mark

IMG_0294

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.

IMG_0297

 

IMG_0298

 

IMG_0299

 

IMG_0300

 

IMG_0303

 

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!

IMG_0304

Flan!

IMG_0305

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.

IMG_0306

 

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.

IMG_0312

 

Standard
Adventure, Food, Travel, Uncategorized

Return to Paradise, Part 2

Old Haunts, New Haunts, New Friends, Hopefully For Life

IMG_0058

 

6:25 AM

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.

IMG_0059

 

And check out the new business development just outside the gate.

IMG_0056

Our own beach bar!

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.

IMG_0087

 

We decide to dive straight into lunch.

IMG_0126

IMG_0125

IMG_0064

IMG_0068

Spaghetti vongole

 

 

IMG_0074

Penne al Pomodoro i Basilico

IMG_0077

la Penna alla Pesto

IMG_0079

Grilled Mahi

And a prosecco with mango, aka the Michelangelo.

IMG_0062

 

IMG_0080

IMG_0082

 

 

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.

IMG_0121

IMG_0081

IMG_0084

IMG_0089

 

 

 

 

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.

IMG_0061

 

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.

IMG_0091

 

Maundays spills out before us, every bit as beautiful as its reputation.

IMG_0090

IMG_0092

 

 

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.

IMG_0093

IMG_0094

IMG_0098

IMG_0099

 

IMG_0101

 

 

 

 

 

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.

IMG_0090

 

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.

IMG_0104

IMG_0138

IMG_0128

 

 

 

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.

IMG_0108

 

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.

IMG_0109

 

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!

IMG_0109

 

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.

IMG_0110

IMG_0111

 

 

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.

*******

IMG_0117

 

 

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.

IMG_0118

IMG_0121

 

 

 

Soon Zoe and Lauren join me.

IMG_0124

 

IMG_0125

 

 

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.

IMG_0129

IMG_0133

IMG_0127

IMG_0130

 

 

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.

IMG_0144

IMG_0139

IMG_0126

IMG_0138

IMG_0136

IMG_0141

IMG_0142

IMG_0134

IMG_0131

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then it’s on to Smokey’s, and an afternoon of more Musical Brothers and more dancing. And more BBCs.

IMG_0149

IMG_0147

 

 

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.

IMG_1362

IMG_0152

 

Bob and Linda arrive too, and take up residence on the dance floor.

IMG_1363

 

They are one adorable couple.

IMG_0160

 

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.

IMG_0165

 

Jacala.

IMG_0169

IMG_0175

 

IMG_0176

IMG_0173

IMG_0174

 

 

 

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.

IMG_0170

Receiving the devastating news

 

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.

IMG_0166

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.

IMG_0172

Amuse bouche of carrot gazpacho

IMG_0182

IMG_0180

IMG_0178

IMG_0177

 

 

 

 

Everything is delicious.

Somehow we find room for dessert. As my children say, that’s for the other stomach.

One slice of Jacala cake.

IMG_0189

 

And a dessert sampler.

IMG_0188

 

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.

IMG_0186

IMG_0184

 

 

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.

Standard