If you have to undertake a recon mission, Anguilla is a pretty good place to do it.
So when I finally convinced my sister and her husband to join us for their first-ever trip to Anguilla (after what we both agree was 20+ years of non-stop nagging), I knew a recon mission was in order. It had been 6 long months since our last visit, but it was only 6 short months until theirs. And so someone had to come down ahead of time to make sure the resorts were still open and the beaches were still there and the cheeseburgers still tasted the same . . . right???
And as luck would have it, generous friends stepped in to make our unexpected trip less of a burden, offering up not just free places to stay, but places with warm hospitality and spectacular views and private swimming pools. And so Mission: Newbies was born.
We made our way to the west end of the island, where a friend had invited us to stay at her beloved home, Octagon Villa, in her absence -- a bold move if ever there was one. I mean, knowing that I've walked into others' homes uninvited and critiqued their decor, what might I do with an actual invitation: Commandeer an entire bedroom just for my shoe collection? Bolt ironing boards to the floor in every room? Not just raid the fridge, but strap the thing to my back and carry it home?
It turns out I did none of those things, but only because it took the entire duration of our stay for me to learn the layout of the house. That's because, true to its name, Octagon Villa is a gated compound of eight individual pods surrounding a large, private swimming pool, with each free-standing pod containing one room of the house.
This unique layout is absolutely perfect for those travelling with kids or with another couple, since the amount of privacy is unsurpassed. It's also perfect for folks like me who love indoor-outdoor living, as even moving from the kitchen to the living room affords a quick trip outside. (And the walkways are covered, for folks like me who are allergic to rain.) If, however, also like me, you hear the phrase, "Your other left" with alarming frequency, it may take a little getting used to, as my days were spent something like this:
Me: Think I'll go to the kitchen for a diet Coke.
Me (opening door to Pod 1): Whoops. Living room.
Me (opening door to Pod 2): Shoot. Master bedroom.
Me (opening door to Pod 3 and giving the washing machine the side-eye): Dammit! You know, I'm not really thirsty after all.
Angel, whose sense of direction is superb, of course had a field day with this, calling out "In the bedroom!" every time I yelled for him, then giggling as I made my rounds of every room in the house before finally finding (and vowing to strangle) him.
Having settled in after an early-morning arrival, we set off for the one thing I actually can find: Ferryboat Inn.
There, we planned to meet up with Rob and Julie, who had become fast friends after they spent nearly a week helping us look for my ring on our last trip; now, they'd agreed to spend an afternoon admiring my new bling and watching me gobble down cheeseburgers. Gluttons for punishment, I tell you.
They even played hide-and-seek with us.
By the time lunch was over, I was a little tipsy, a lot stuffed, and my face hurt from laughing so hard, so we decided to spend the balance of the afternoon doing nothing more than hanging around the villa. There, we discovered a bunch of other features to love, including a pool so private you could go au naturel in it (not that I would do such a thing -- ahem), a panoramic view of Shoal Bay West from the roof deck, and one of the lushest gardens I've ever seen in Anguilla.
It even had a chicken. In a tree.
I know it's hard to top a chicken in a tree, but Octagon also has three ginormous bedrooms, each of which is roughly the size of an airplane hangar.
Indeed, the rooms were so large and comfortable that eventually I gave up trying to find the other pods, since each bedroom already had everything I needed: A huge attached bathroom, a flat-screen TV, and a color-coordinated mini fridge and coffee maker.
In fact, Octagon is stocked as though the Zombie Apocalypse -- or my Boy Scout husband -- is coming any minute: Virtually everything in the house comes in triplicate, quadruplicate, and more, from coolers to candles, blenders to bottled water, dinnerware to dry goods . . . you could be happily holed up here for years and never run out of anything.
But the outside world beckoned, and so we set off for a late afternoon visit to the Dune Preserve.
Dune Preserve reminds me of the tree houses and pirate ships we used to play on as kids, with the welcome addition of alcohol.
Before we knew it, we were enjoying a spectacular sunset at Rendezvous.
The day had gotten away from us, so we raced back to the villa for a quick change of clothes, then set off for dinner at E's Oven.
Back at Octagon, we took a quick dip in the pool, then headed off to bed.
And it only took me two tries to find my bedroom.
CLICK HERE to read Part 2!