A Moveable Feast
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.
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.
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.
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.
In fact, I get so many we actually have leftovers this time.
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.
Little Bay used to be one of Anguilla’s best kept secrets. These days the secret is out, and the place can get crowded.
We are here early enough we have the entire place to ourselves for a while.
The kids snorkel and capture some great underwater pictures.
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.
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.
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.
At least the sandwiches take me to a happy place. The painkillers don’t hurt either.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
You can also end your meal with a choice of the many (yes, house made) gelato flavors.
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.
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.
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.