The first time we ever visited Anguilla's Little Bay, the ride was short and the boat was small, but the leap of faith was huge.
Based on an early, primitive version of TripAdvisor called "word of mouth," we'd managed to find a man identifying himself as Calvin (last name unknown, but Gumbs or Hodge is always a good bet) hanging out under a big tree near Crocus Bay. After a short discussion, he agreed to drop us off at Little Bay and pick us up three hours later. It sounded simple, but in ye olden times, before the internet, cell phones, and instant background checks, it was akin to accepting a ride from a stranger in a rusted-out van with the windows blacked out. And so it wasn't until we watched this Calvin Gumbs-Hodge motor away, his boat getting smaller and smaller and our sense of dread looming larger and larger, that the thought occurred to us: No one else on the planet knows where we are. If Calvin should get drunk with his buddies under "de big tree," spring a leak in his boat, end up in the doghouse with his wife, or develop a sudden case of amnesia . . . not a living soul in the world would have any idea what had happened to the two of us, except that the little one had tried to eat the big one before both of their skeletons were found.
Now, of course, Little Bay has been discovered by every private yacht, catamaran, and party boat from here to St. Martin, and you have a better chance of being marooned on Sandy Island than at Little Bay. The only saving grace is that most people like to sleep in when they're on vacation, and so we dragged ourselves out of bed as early as possible to beat the crowds.
We stepped outside and were greeted by this eight-legged leaf? flying snow pea? on the front porch steps, which is reason #1,642 why you should never, ever get up early.
After I climbed out a window to avoid exiting via the porch, we headed over to Crocus Bay and waited for Calvin to arrive.
I'm no Navy Seal, but even I know that it is never a good sign when your boat driver shows up armed with a roll of duct tape.
Apparently the canoe Calvin uses to access his "real" boat had sprung a leak, and so we watched as he nonchalantly duct-taped it back together. Then, trying not to think about the spit, glue, and wadded-up Kleenex that might be holding the real boat together, we went ahead and climbed aboard.
Calvin immediately recognized Angel's "Little Bay Boat Service" shirt, which has held up surprisingly well over the years, especially considering that Calvin admitted to giving them away to his friends once he discovered that all the lettering kept peeling off. (Ah - yet another use for duct tape.)
Soon we rounded the bend into Little Bay, which was just as stunning as we remembered.
We spent the better part of the morning blissfully alone, exploring the rock formations and snorkeling just offshore.
Well, mostly alone.
There is an old episode of "Seinfeld" where George Costanza's boss accuses him of having advance knowledge of a bomb threat called in to the office. "You know what I think?" the boss asks. "I think you knew about that bomb ahead of time, George. You climbed under that desk because you have E.S.P. What am I thinking right now? MMMEATBALLS!!!"
You may not have E.S.P., but I'm pretty sure you already know that we didn't drive all the way to the east end just to spend a few hours at Little Bay.
Located just above Crocus Bay, CeBlue is a small complex of just eight villas carved into the mountainside, each topped with a pale blue roof to mirror the crystalline waters of Crocus Bay below.
The Blue Bar is bright and airy, with a bird's-eye view of Crocus Bay and beyond.
We snagged a cliffside table and a couple of Coconut Mamas, which came topped with a floater of dark rum and a dusting of freshly-grated nutmeg.
They were like piña coladas . . . sans piña.
Then it was on to the main event: A baking dish filled with MMMEATBALLS!, then topped with Neapolitan-style tomato sauce, ricotta cheese, fresh mozzarella, and baked to bubbly perfection in CeBlue's brick oven.
Of course, you can't just have meatballs for lunch, so we ordered a couple of pizzas to go with them.
Angel decided on the Romana, topped with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, chicken, roasted peppers, and caramelized onions, while I stuck with a classic pepperoni.
And the remaining meatball sauce made the perfect dipping sauce for our pizza crust.
During my junior year of college, some friends and I decided to stay at school over Thanksgiving break and prepare our own turkey dinner. The guys next door decided to stay over break as well, so we offered to cook dinner for them, too. (We were no dummies -- they were old enough to buy booze.) And to add to the festivities, we included a Secret Santa gift exchange. As something of a joke, the person who drew my name got me a foot-long submarine sandwich, just to see if I'd actually eat it after our enormous Thanksgiving feast.
All of this is a long way of saying, if you were sure that I couldn't possibly have finished an entire pizza after those meatballs, you wouldn't be the first one to lose money on that bet.
After lunch, we took a drive over to Shoal Bay East.
We were already in the neighborhood, so we stopped by Serenity for some rum punch and a quick swim.
Serenity has a lovely open-air restaurant overlooking the water, along with a funky little beach bar right on the sand.
We spent a lazy afternoon alternating dips in the sea with sips of rum.
Later we took yet another dip -- this one in the pool back at Sweet Return -- before cleaning up for dinner at E's Oven.
E's is one of the unsung heroes of Anguilla's restaurant scene: Warm and friendly, with a cozy dining room, gentle prices, and food to rival some of the best restaurants on the island.
On this night, we started with an amuse bouche of tuna crostini, followed by E's smooth, velvety pumpkin soup.
Then it was on to the real stars of the show: E's sweet-and-spicy coconut-crusted grouper over white bean ragout for Angel, and tender chicken in a creamy mushroom sauce for me, ordered up with a side of E's cheesy potato gratin.
We finished the meal by candlelight, sipping our wine and reflecting on what we both agreed was one of our favorite meals of the trip.
Which is saying a lot, considering there weren't any meatballs.
Click here to read Part 8!