10.01.2010 32 °F
Today was the Happiest Day of the Year: The day we go to Ferryboat Inn for cheeseburgers.
It was about 700 degrees in the shade, and I was planning to carry my burger out to the car to eat in air-conditioned peace if necessary, but at the last minute, the Ground Beef Gods smiled on me, delivering a slight breeze.
I've spent alot of time thinking about how to adequately describe the incredibly delicious feat of awesomeness that is the Ferryboat Inn burger. There really are no words, but luckily I have pictures.
Ferryboat's burger is incredibly juicy, sloppy even, and yet somehow all of the juice stays inside the burger, not dripping all over your plate. It is huge and charred on the outside and marinated in something so delicious that it must be illegal. The soft, pillowy bun is slathered with some orange stuff - Thousand Island dressing? A ketchup and mayo mix? – that I fear would disgust me if I knew its true identity, so I never ask (and please don’t tell me if you know).
It puts all the other players in the “best burger” wars - In-N-Out, Shake Shack, Corner Bistro, Five Guys, you name it – to utter shame. It costs $10, but it could cost $100 and still be worth every penny. It needs absolutely nothing. Ketchup, mustard, lettuce, tomatoes - all are just distractions from its marvelous meaty goodness. It is, quite simply, perfection on a plate.
I once asked Marjorie, Ferryboat's charming English owner, what her secret was to making the burgers so delicious. Was she adding special spices to the ground meat mix, or marinating the burgers in something unusual? Oh no, dear, she assured me. We just use top-quality beef, that’s all.
Which I think is British for, Piss off, you bloody wanker, if you think I’m telling you how I make the world’s best hamburger. Cheerio!
Obviously I couldn't be seen in a bikini for a few hours after this, so it was time for some shopping.
Too quickly, our last night on the island arrived. Our last meal was at Oliver’s, where we decided to branch out and order something other than the Seafood Compote, a dish known to make grown men (okay, Angel) cry.
We also decided that perhaps we should try to get a photograph of us together, before those "Michael and Janet are the same person" type rumors get started.
For dinner I started with a simple green salad, while Angel decided to try the stingray. Given that I’d swum less than 3 feet away from not one but two different stringrays over the past 10 days, I decided not to disturb our tacit agreement, which is that I won’t eat them if they don’t eat me.
Angel then had the grouper in a lime and balsamic sauce, which was savory and sweet and tart all at the same time - not that I ate half of it or anything.
I had two grilled Anguillian lobster tails, and I know what you’re thinking: Only two?
Finally, sadly, it was time to leave -- but not before one last swim at Shoal Bay. Being on time for your flight is so overrated.
As our plane took off and the island became smaller and smaller in the distance, I began thinking about how much this little rock in the middle of the ocean has meant to me over the years, how it has changed my perceptions of beauty, tranquillity, and happiness. (You didn't think I could do sappy, eh? Read on.)
Anguilla, when we first met twelve years ago, I fell instantly in love with you. You were drop-dead gorgeous, yet unassuming and charming. You were simple yet luxurious; friendly but private. You were sleepy and slow-moving, but with an energy all your own, and you smelled like nowhere else in the world. You were, in a word, perfection, and I desperately hoped that you would never change.
When I am in your presence, a transformation takes place. Gone is the grown-up with a job, a mortgage, and countless responsibilities. Gone, too, is the woman who wears boots eight months out of the year and owns more winter coats than she has space for in her tiny New York City apartment; the woman who dreads the endless weeks of grey skies and rain. In her place is a happy young girl who fearlessly jumps off boats into crystal-clear water, whose hair is a salty tangle about her suntanned shoulders, who kicks the flip-flops off her browned feet and buries them in soft, sugar-white sand. I am changed because of you.
Over the past 12 years you have provided me with more happy memories than anyone probably deserves in a lifetime: Bumping along a rocky, unpaved road, nothing but our headlights and a handful of stars in the ink-black sky to guide the way . . . only to stumble upon tiny, candlelit Straw Hat restaurant, balanced on stilts above crystal-clear water, serving 5-star cuisine by the sweetest folks on the island. Making our way down a shady path at La Sirena, passing a tiny, sparkling, secret pool as we go. Pushing aside giant sea grape leaves at the path’s end to reveal a wide expanse of sugar-white sand, vivid blue water, a few wooden umbrellas . . . and not another living soul. Drawing in my breath and shaking my head in amazement at the overwhelming beauty of Shoal Bay, each and every time I see it. Having tiny, gorgeous Little Bay all to ourselves for an afternoon; our boat driver, Calvin, the only person in the world who knows where to find us. Seeing Rendezvous Bay for the first time: Barely registering the rocky yard and spare, squat buildings of Rendezvous Bay Hotel; seeing only brilliant blue water and blinding white sand. Picking up hitchhikers: maids in their white aprons, shy schoolchildren in their pressed uniforms. Breathing in your inimitable scent.
Indeed, you are so beautiful that I suppose it was inevitable that others, too, would eventually fall under your spell. You’ve been discovered, and over the years you have been changed by all the attention, by the press and praise. Road signs dot your landscape, eliminating the singular pleasure of getting lost on one of your formerly bumpy roads. New hotels and villas squeeze onto your beaches, even as many of us fear that you are becoming too crowded. Diamond stores and duty-free shops – will they edge out our local favorites? Everyone wants a piece of you now, and it’s hard to blame them.
And yet . . .
And yet, glimmers of the island I first fell in love with still remain. Sand so powdery that I find it clinging to my calves even after I’ve taken a shower. A huge smile and a warm “Welcome back!” at your shops and restaurants – more than two years after our last visit. Wading into one of your pristine bays and looking down to see a handful of curious little fish circling my feet. Water so clear that a snorkeling mask is merely optional.
The obvious pride on the faces of your gracious citizens when we respond that, No, it’s not our first time on the island.
And it won’t be our last.
Need more Anguilla? Click here for our Thanksgiving trip report!