A Travellerspoint blog

February 2016

A Sweet Return to Anguilla, Pt. 1: My Cheatin' Heart

Do you remember when Tiger Woods was married to the gorgeous Nordic goddess Elin Nordegren? She was stunning in her perfection, all tawny skin and baby-blonde hair and centerfold-worthy beach body. She bore him two equally stunning children, and even feigned interest in a sport so boring the players hire caddies to walk around with them and keep them awake. And then Woods cheated on her with a troupe of tramps sporting too little clothing and too much silicone, and everyone was left scratching their heads. What on earth was he thinking???

That's the best analogy I can come up with to explain why, after first discovering the island paradise of Anguilla back in 1997, we didn't just quit while we were ahead. We didn't accept perfection when it landed in our laps and, instead, like a fool who trades in a Bentley for a Buick, we flitted off to other islands, sure that something even better must be just another flight or ferry ride away.

It wasn't.

What we found instead were islands with so-so food, spotty electricity, and plastic wine glasses. What they lacked in modern conveniences, they made up for in spiders.

Some of them didn't even have ironing boards, for God's sake.

Anguilla, I'm sorry I cheated on you. You are Armani couture in a sea of saggy sweatpants; Dame Helen Mirren in a crowd of Kardashians. You are a Ferryboat cheeseburger in a passel of pink slimes. You are my everything.

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Our long-awaited reunion began during the 10-minute flight from St. Maarten. We cleared the island's lush green hills, then spent a few jumpy minutes over open water before Anguilla came into view. Flat, scrubby, and brown in spots . . . it was as breathtakingly beautiful as we remembered.

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Anguilla is known for its luxury hotels, and on past visits we've stayed everywhere from the oceanfront suites at Cap Juluca and Frangipani to the villas at Arawak and Rendezvous Bay Hotel, with stops at Ferryboat and Carimar in between. On this visit, though, we decided to forego the hotel altogether and rent a villa.

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Our first indication that we were going to love Sweet Return was the road leading up to it: An old-school dirt path so rocky and rut-filled that it prompted Ronnie Bryan to ask if perhaps there was another way up to the house, since the car we'd rented from him had just been painted.

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There was, but that path was even worse. And so the car rattled, our heads bobbled as if on springs, and our luggage took a beating . . . but there was no wiping the silly grins off our faces as we bounced along through the underbrush.

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Perched high on Isaac's Hill, Sweet Return was bright and open, with a gentle breeze flowing through the numerous windows positioned to catch the cooling trade winds. The stylish main house consisted of a combined living and dining area overlooking the pool, bookended by two spacious master suites with enormous stone baths. (I am not even going to mention the fact that those bathrooms were bigger than our kitchen in NYC. Then again, I use my oven for shoe storage, so who am I to complain?)

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You noticed that ultra-luxurious household appliance on the right, yes? That's how we knew we were back where we belonged.

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In fact, that kind of attention to detail turned out to be our favorite thing about Sweet Return. Umbrellas conveniently lined up right next to the front door. Baskets filled with towels handily placed right next to the pool. Bins full of sunscreen, bug spray, and first aid items all neatly organized and labeled. (With typed labels. Swoon.) They even labeled the light switches. Light switches! Forget the pool and the view: You had me at the dimmer switch.

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How to top all of these thoughtful touches? With a kitchen map, that's how. Sure, it was nice not having to haul my own iron and ironing board to Anguilla, but knowing that someone took the time to make a map of the kitchen so I didn't have to open five different cabinets to find a water glass? That is the stuff OCDreams are made of.

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The house even had a small, detached studio apartment, which would provide the perfect escape if you happen to be traveling with the kind of people who do not appreciate a good kitchen map.

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Best of all, the property manager at Sweet Return, a lovely woman named Catherine, confessed to being a longtime reader of this blog, and as a welcome gift she went out of her way to track down a favorite wine that I'd previously written about.

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Oh, and a cheese platter so generously Tracey-sized that we knew the wine couldn't have been just a lucky guess.

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It had been a long morning of travel, and the beach was just a stone's throw away. The sparkling pool beckoned. We'd traveled in our swimsuits to avoid missing a single minute of sunshine. But that cheese plate wasn't going to eat itself, so we slid into chairs at the dining table and gobbled up half a pound of goat cheese instead.

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Soon we were thirsty, and it was no accident that the villa was just across the street from CuisinArt. Nothing beats makeup sex when you patch things up with a lost love, but makeup mojitos run a close second.

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The afternoon slipped into that golden hour when the beach has emptied but the sun still lingers, and we embraced it like a friend we hadn't seen in a long while.

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Okay, fine, we almost squeezed it to death. Like I said, it had been waayyy too long.

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We were scheduled to spend nine nights on the island, but had approximately 42 restaurants on our list. If we were to make any headway, we were obviously going to have to double up. And so that evening, we set off for SandBar . . . and Dolce Vita. You know, in the interest of economy.

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We arrived at SandBar just in time for sunset, settled in at a waterside table, and kicked things off with a round of SandBar's eponymous mango and rum concoctions.

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We knew we'd be indulging in the divine pastas at Dolce Vita, so we stuck to the protein offerings at SandBar, sharing an order of the chicken satay with peanut sauce, along with the spicy pork tenderloin with chili-tamarind sauce.

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Once the sun had set, we walked the short distance down the beach to Dolce Vita.

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Dolce Vita, however, is not the kind of place where you can just show up. Preparations must be made. First, menus must be studied, past meals analyzed, and stomach capacity evaluated. Proper attire must be carefully chosen; billowy dresses for women and elastic-waist pants for men are preferred (potato sacks may be substituted in cooler weather). On the big day, breakfast is skipped and lunch entrees are kept on the light side to avoid spoiling dinner. (Hence, only half a pound of that goat cheese back at the villa.) You may whet the appetite with, say, some chicken skewers or spicy pork tenderloin, but anything more and you run the risk of having to leave behind an errant gnocchi or bite of lasagna.

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And you know Abbi checks.

We settled in to our "usual" corner table near the sand and ordered up two glasses of wine and Dolce Vita's heavenly tuna tartare.

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Then it was on to the melty, light-as-air homemade lasagna for me, and the evening's pasta special -- Anguillian lobster and shimp in a fragrant, garlicky white wine, butter, and lemon sauce -- for Angel.

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Abbi was his usual charming self, and after a few glasses of wine it seemed like a good idea to pose for a silly photo, sticking our bellies out in homage to the incredible meal we'd just enjoyed.

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Well, at least Abbi stuck his out. Ours just look like that.

After dinner, we bumped along the road back to Sweet Return, a star-scattered sky lighting our way.

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The hour was late, and it had been a long day of travel, but we somehow found the energy for a quick dip in the secluded pool before bed.

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We'd been back on island less than 12 hours, and already we'd enjoyed frosty drinks, delicious tapas, and a log of goat cheese. We'd been welcomed like old friends at Sweet Return and Dolce Vita, and stuffed ourselves silly with lasagna and lobster. Now, as we sunk our travel-weary bodies into the water, we plotted the next day's adventures: Lunch at Ferryboat Inn, an afternoon swim at Rendezous Bay, and tacos and tequila at Picante.

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And then, at long last, we fell into bed, as visions of cheeseburgers danced in our heads.

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Click here to read Part 2!

Posted by TraceyG 10:49 Archived in Anguilla Tagged sandbar anguilla cuisinart dolce_vita sweet_return_villa Comments (17)

A Sweet Return to Anguilla, Pt. 2: And So We Meat Again

The next morning was the Happiest Day of the Year. No, not the day the kids go back to school -- the day we go to Ferryboat Inn for cheeseburgers.

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In order to give such a momentous occasion its due, I have begun petitioning the Government of Anguilla to do away with Whit Monday, which celebrates the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the disciples of Jesus, and replace it with FBI Monday, which would celebrate the descent of hungry hordes upon Marjorie and Christian. Obviously it could be celebrated on any day of your choosing, except on Sundays when FBI is closed.

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Regular readers of this blog know that my love affair with the FBI cheeseburger is a long and passionate one, as I've spent many years swooning over its meaty magnificence both here and in numerous online forums. But for the newbies among us, I thought a little "how-to" guide for celebrating FBI Monday (as it shall henceforth be known) might come in handy.

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1. Prepare Accordingly

This one should be obvious: Do not plan to eat for two or three days prior to your visit. Getting too full to finish your burger is widely regarded as the second-worst possible outcome on FBI Monday. (The first would be waking up dead.) Tips for avoiding other unfavorable outcomes are described in sections 2 and 3 below.

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2. Plan a Diversion

The delightful and charming owners of Ferryboat Inn, Marjorie and her son Christian, have an equally delightful and charming dog named Angie. She also happens to be quite clever, because instead of begging at your table while you eat your burger, she simply hangs around nonchalantly near the steps and does this:

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It's almost impossible to say no to that face, but it's even harder to live with the guilt and regret of not hoarding every bite of that burger for yourself while you had the chance. I therefore recommend that you plan a diversion to keep Angie busy until you've finished eating.

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3. Take Extra Precautions

Obviously falling into a deep well or an open manhole is never exactly desirable, but falling into a deep well or open manhole on FBI Monday would be an absolute @#$%*& nightmare. Look alive, people!

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4. Dress Appropriately

As for clothing, you'll want to wear dark colors to avoid any potential grease, cheese, and/or drool stains, as well as something extra-forgiving to avoid public ridicule. (If you can arrange to spend the rest of the day in your pajamas, all the better.) Afterwards, under no circumstances should you consent to be seen in the nude by anyone other than your spouse, and even that is iffy unless his or her eyesight is as bad as Angel's.

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Appropriate footwear is also recommended.

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5. Patience is a Virtue

Most restaurants in Anguilla operate on island time, and Ferryboat is no exception. Luckily FBI has the island's best rum punches to keep you occupied while you wait patiently for your burger to arrive, along with a fantastic French onion soup to grease the skids.

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6. Assume the Position

Chances are good that once you start in on that burger, your dining companion, and possibly even other patrons, may start to get some ideas. It is therefore advisable to look as threatening as possible to avoid beggars, thieves, and those dreaded food-sharers who needle you for "just a bite" until the whole damn thing is gone. Not that I would ever do that, of course.

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In the event that you do not look tough enough to ward off the aforementioned cast of unsavory characters, sharp elbows will have to suffice.

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If, however, your bony elbows do not double as miniature harpoons the way mine do, a bodyguard may be necessary. If he happens to have a distracting set of dimples, consider it a bonus.

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7. Rebuff All Attempts at Interruption

Attempting to engage someone in conversation while they are eating a Ferryboat Inn cheeseburger is like calling the biggest football fan you know during the final minutes of a tied Super Bowl while his team is on the one-yard line: You just don't do it. Emergencies are no exception, though apologies may be offered: "I'm very sorry that alligator just amputated your foot; we can work on a tourniquet as soon as I'm done with this cheeseburger."

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Depending on your priorities, this advice also applies to consumption of rum punches.

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8. Safety First

A burger this good is bound to get messy (see #4, above). Extra protection, including safety goggles, beekeeper suits, and shower caps are recommended, but not required.

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9. Postpone the Inevitable

They cut pizzas into slices for a reason -- so people like me don't eat the whole thing in three bites. Consider applying this same logic to your burger to prolong your eating enjoyment.

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10. Declare Victory

Did you finish your burger without (1) ending up covered in a large Anguilla-shaped grease stain, (2) grudgingly sharing half of it with a sad-eyed dog, (3) stabbing your spouse in the hand with a fork, or (4) being hauled off by ambulance to the nearest cardiology center? Then congratulations, you've successfully celebrated Anguilla's newest holiday, FBI Monday!

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Even Angie was happy. Look at that smile!

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Having snatched victory from the jaws of Angie Angel defeat, we hung around for a bit to chat with Marjorie and Christian and our sweet waitress Rhona, which provided the perfect excuse to have another rum punch.

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Or two.

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Although conventional wisdom states that you should never go swimming after a large meal, I find that the benefits of submerging myself in water after FBI Monday are twofold: I am able to feel somewhat weightless (or at least as weightless as one can feel after consuming the equivalent of a week's worth of beef), and the general public is spared the terrifying sight of a 100-lb. woman who looks like she swallowed a hippopotamus.

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It had been a busy day at FBI -- you know how hectic the holidays can be -- so we decided to pick up dinner instead of going out. And so we set off for B&D BBQ for, well, more meat.

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We couldn't decide between the ribs and the chicken, so we ordered both, which come with rice 'n' peas, coleslaw, French fries, an enormous, pillowy Johnny cake, and a fight with your spouse over who gets the last rib.

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After all that, there was only one thing left to do.

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How else to cure a case of the meat sweats?
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Click here to read Part 3!

Posted by TraceyG 04:43 Archived in Anguilla Tagged ferryboat_inn feb_19 Comments (12)

A Sweet Return to Anguilla, Pt. 3: To Beet or Not to Beet

We awoke to another gorgeous day, with blue skies and warm breezes. Angel had inexplicably brought along a series of workout videos on his iPad, so we quickly settled into a morning routine: He cranked up the air conditioning and did his workout, while I lounged on the couch with a bowl of potato chips and shouted encouragements like, "Pick up those knees!" and "Move, maggot, move!"

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As for me, I descended the few steps into the pool, took a quick dip, got back out of the pool, and counted it as stair-climbing.

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We decided to head over to Smokey's for lunch because Cove Bay is usually calm and crystal-clear, and that cornhole game keeps everyone occupied at the west end of the beach, while we enjoy the peace and quiet at the east end.

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A friend once told me that the drunkest she'd ever been was not at a frat party, or on her 21st birthday, or when George Clooney announced that he would be marrying someone else. It was at Smokey's, and from the looks of this drink menu, you can understand why.

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We kicked things off with a tall, frosty pina colada topped with freshly-grated nutmeg, along with Smokey's "special" rum punch, which is exactly the same as their regular rum punch, except that you will need fewer of them before ending up face-first in the cornhole.

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We decided to share an order of the melt-in-your-mouth tuna tartare garnished with citrus, then wrapped things up (heh-heh) with a couple of savory chicken rotis, which were fragrant with yellow curry and loaded with tender chicken, potatoes, and carrots.

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Those roti had two vegetables in them, which is at least two too many for a vacation, so we ended up sharing some with our dining companion.

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The day was shaping up to be somewhat cloudy, leaving Cove Bay an otherworldly shade of green, and leaving us blissfully alone for the entire afternoon.

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Well, just us and Captain Morgan.

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Back at Sweet Return, we took a late afternoon swim before cleaning up for dinner.

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That evening, we had reservations at the lovely Jacala for dinner.

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Yes, we have heard the occasional rumblings about Jacala's host, Jacques, being somewhat brusque. (Someone recently asked what came with the hamburger and he responded, "Bread.") But just as Mango Dave wasn't really a jerk, he was just from New Jersey, Jacques isn't actually brusque . . . he's just from France. And in our experience, the French aren't gruff or snobby; they just appreciate politeness, succinctness, and good manners. And so we return here again and again, knowing that as long as we keep our elbows off the table, our napkins in our laps, and Freedom Fries, Napoleon, and Gerard Depardieu out of the conversation, we will not be tossed out like yesterday's poisson.

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With all of this in mind, we had just settled in at our candlelit waterside table and were expertly swirling and sniffing our glasses of Sancerre and congratulating ourselves on our impeccable table manners when the unthinkable happened.

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An amuse-bouche arrived, two small shot glasses filled to the brim . . . with the vilest substance known to man. No, not Mountain Dew. It was my bête noire . . . BEETS! Beet soup, to be exact, not that the form mattered: Those tiny shot glasses might as well have been oil tankers, such were my chances of actually being able to choke one down.

I stole a desperate glance at Angel, who looked as though Jacques had set a very large tarantula in front of him and asked him to eat that instead. He bravely took the tiniest of sips, then winced and forced down a gag. So much for my plans to pawn my shot glass off on him.

We knew that we were probably on shaky ground at this most Francophile of restaurants already, being both American and fat, the latter thanks to yesterday's cheeseburger and rum punch-a-palooza. But both of us absolutely détestons les beets. So there we sat, frozen by fear, smiling uneasily as we frantically racked our brains for ideas on how to politely dispose of the beet soup without offending Jacques or, worse, actually having to eat it.

And so we did the only thing we could do. We waited until the coast was clear, then I pretended to fiddle with the strap on my sandal, while discreetly returning the beets to the sandy soil from whence they came. Just like it says in the Bible.

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I'm sorry, Jacques. My apologies, Alain. Everything else you served us was absolutely delicious, and gloriously beet-free. That includes this beautiful timbale of tuna tartare with wakame, olive oil, and ginger . . .

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. . . and the cool, refreshing cucumber gazpacho topped with a perfect little scoop of spicy tomato sorbet, which I maintain should be sold by the half-gallon and come with a spoon so you can get started right away.

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On this visit, however, I think I may have found something even better than the justly-famous tomato sorbet: A massive pile of succulent grilled crayfish, served with a tiny seafood fork for picking the little suckers clean.

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And, finally, two complimentary shot glasses full of Jacala's sweet, smooth vanilla-bean vodka.

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Which sure beats beets.
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Suddenly have the urge for a trip to France now? Click here! Just want more Anguilla? Click here for Part 4!

Posted by TraceyG 05:43 Archived in Anguilla Tagged anguilla jacala smokey's cove_bay feb_22 Comments (10)

A Sweet Return to Anguilla, Pt 4: Cast Away on Sandy Island

Of course, there are worse places to be stranded. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

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Our plan for the day was to have lunch at Roy's, then hop aboard "Happiness" for the short ride over to Sandy Island for an afternoon of rest, relaxation, and rum, though obviously not in that order.

We hadn't been to Roy's since they moved from Crocus Bay, so we were excited to check out their new digs on Sandy Ground.

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It didn't take long to peruse the short menu, and we ordered up a couple of tasty fish dishes -- the fish 'n' chips for me, and the mahi-mahi Creole for my spicy counterpart.

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We finished our lunch just in time for the next departure on "Happiness" and were soon on our way.

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We were then informed that the cost for the ride would be $20 per person, which is not expensive but is nevertheless a significant jump in price since our last visit to Sandy Island, which was free. (It also happened to be double the published price, which is $10 per person.) No matter. We were already under way, and I certainly wasn't going to walk the plank over a lousy $40, so we anted up.

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Unfortunately, the day was a bit too windy to fully enjoy the water, so after disembarking we headed up the beach to a scattering of sunbeds. Delighted to find all but one unoccupied, we picked the shadiest of the bunch and sat down, discussing what we should order from the bar. However, before our behinds could even warm the cushions, a Sandy Island employee was upon us, requesting yet another $25 for the privilege of sharing a sunbed (which I suppose explains the occupancy rate). We stared dumbly at him, as it slowly sunk in that we were about to be $65 in the hole, and Mama hadn't even had a drink yet.

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Of course, back home we're lucky if $65 is enough to buy breakfast, so the price wasn't really the issue. And between living in NYC and spending weekends in the Hamptons, we are used to having our pockets unmercifully picked all day, every day, by everyone from our local dry cleaner to the mercenaries who run our parking garage. (Only in New York can you leave the house in the morning with $100 in your wallet, and by lunchtime be down to your last $3. "All I did was walk to work!" is the phrase Angel and I most often text to each other, followed closely by, "I'm hungry. What's for dinner?") Still, I was galled, since what used to be "free" (if you don't count the couple hundred bucks you'll drop on food and drink here) was now starting to feel like a tourist-trappy shakedown.

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And so, before they could levy a sand tax on us or require a credit card to use the restrooms, we asked to return to Sandy Ground, figuring we could spend the remainder of the afternoon there instead. Only . . . they wouldn't take us back. "Next boat 3:30," we were told. When we asked someone else, the time was pushed back another half hour. We asked a third person, and now the boat wasn't departing until 4:30. Stranded and broke, we did the only thing we could do.

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I don't know, maybe we look like easy marks. It wouldn't be the first time we've been mistaken for people with money.

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Finally, the boat was ready to depart, and you can bet whatever's left in your wallet after an afternoon at Sandy Island that I was the first one on it.

Back at Roy's, we were treated like returning royalty, and at least half of that statement is true. And so we nabbed a couple of (free!) loungers and dug our toes into the (free!) sand and even used the (free!) rest room.

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The enjoyable afternoon melted into early evening, and we walked the beach one last time before heading back to Sweet Return.

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After cleaning up for dinner, I forced Angel to pose for a few pictures with me, which is his very favorite thing right after root canals.

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I, of course, am always a model subject.

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We then headed off to the one place on Anguilla where you're almost sure to get some bang for your buck: Picante.

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And if not, you'd never know it after a few of their potent margaritas anyway. We perused the various offerings, ultimately settling on a couple of local passion fruit margaritas. Although this thing is pulpier and seedier than an issue of the National Enquirer with a blurry photo of Sasquatch on the front, do not be put off. It's actually quite delicious.

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Naturally, I ordered the one dish that you should never leave Picante (or even Anguilla) without having: The seafood enchiladas with crab, prawn, and lobster in a creamy seafood bisque, topped with a blanket of melted cheese.

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I'm sure Angel had some food, too -- the grilled chipotle prawn burrito? -- but who can focus when there's that much cheese on those enchiladas?

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For dessert, our waiter convinced Angel to try to the flan, while I stuck with the classic Mexican chocolate pudding, accompanied by a tiny shaker of cayenne to add some heat.

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The flan and pudding may have been dessert, but in true Caribbean style, the real finale to the meal was a couple of boxes of Chiclets.

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Back at Sweet Return, we enjoyed a languid night swim before heading to bed.

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And if we happened to need some swimmies to keep us afloat after those passion fruit margaritas, well, that'll be just between us.
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Not tired of food, drink, sand, and sun yet? Click here to read Part 5!

Posted by TraceyG 05:17 Archived in Anguilla Tagged sandy_island roy's picante sweet_return feb_26 Comments (6)

A Sweet Return to Anguilla, Pt. 5: Revenge of the Herds

After a quick morning dip in the pool, it was off to Maunday's Bay for lunch at Cap Juluca.

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One of the island's oldest and most beloved resorts, Cap greets visitors with simple Mexican-tiled paths and spare white Moorish architecture, offering little hint of the stunning beach just beyond.

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Lunch at Cap's beachfront restaurant, Blue, is an elegant affair, with cobalt stemware, turquoise chairs, sapphire vases, and a view of the sea in all those shades and more.

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The food ain't too shabby, either.

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The sandwich above is lobster salad on a Johnny cake. Which is to say, the only way to improve upon it is to serve it with a side of cheeseburger.

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You can even get your daily serving of fruit here.

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Although Cap's beach is technically public, the cushy chaises are for hotel guests only (in past years, Angel's smile -- or a crisp $50 bill if the beach attendant wasn't female -- was enough to secure two loungers and an umbrella, but sadly not anymore). So we headed off to Mead's Bay for piña coladas and some shade at Blanchard's Beach Shack.

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And, as it turned out, hordes of people.

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Just look at them all!

Now, I live in New York City, and I know a crowd when I see one. And that day on Mead's, there was a crowd. We tried to enter the water, and there she was: A lady with the audacity to be floating almost within shouting distance on a noodle. We immediately made a break for the beach, but at that same moment, an older couple had the gall to pass by hand-in-hand. Practically close enough to say hello to us! What was this, Grand Central Station at rush hour?

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Oh, the humanity!

Exasperated, we retreated to our loungers, only to find that someone had parked themselves on the lounger next to ours. Right beside! I'm telling you, it was like Times Square up in there.

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The noise was deafening.

And so, we made a beeline for the bar at Blanchard's Beach Shack to order some frozen drinks . . .

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. . . only to find that there was a line.

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Sure, back home there's a waiting list for everything from delivery rooms to burial plots, but in Anguilla? It was just too much.

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I've seen shorter lines at the post office on tax day!

We grabbed our drinks, left our stuff to the mercy of the multitudes on the beach, and sprinted away, down the beach to the little cove at Malliouhana.

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There, we delighted in the tiny fish nipping at our ankles and reminisced about the Mead's Bay of yore.

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Circa 1999

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Finally, as the day wound to a close, we were left in peace at long last.

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That evening, we set off for the Viceroy's Sunset Lounge for you-know-what.

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Okay, fine, there was a sunset, too.

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Can you believe this was our first visit to Viceroy? Well, except for a little stalking when they first opened.

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We'd of course heard that the Viceroy vibe was more Miami than Mead's, and that the crowd could be a little New York-y (which ranks just behind sun poisoning and shark bite as the last thing we want to deal with on vacation). But we found that the Viceroy struck a sophisticated, elegant tone, and though we'd probably never choose it over the privacy of a villa or smaller resort, it was the perfect spot for a tasty pre-dinner cocktail.

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Though some of the interior décor seems a little dark (both literally and figuratively) given the surroundings, overall we loved the inventive use and rich textures of the wood, marble, granite, and other natural materials.

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Though I have to draw the line at these creepy chairs.

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One of several restaurants on the property, Cobà is perched on a bluff with views of both Meads and Barnes Bays.

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Though the Viceroy is known for its sunsets, it's an even better spot for a Sunrise, which I ordered specifically because the menu said it came with "grapefruit cubes." As soon as I saw that, I immediately began pondering all the different ways molecular gastronomy could convert a grapefruit segment into a cube. Did they vaporize it? Anti-griddle it? Emulsify and then gelify it? My mind ran wild with the possibilities.

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Regrettably they did none of the above, though for $18, I think they should have at least attempted it. (Perhaps there'd been an unfortunate incident with a sous-vide machine?) But, cubes or no cubes, this was hands-down one of the best cocktails I've ever had, in Anguilla or anywhere else, and I'd happily fork over the dough for another Sunrise next time we are on island. (I won't pay $25 to rent a sunbed for the day, but I will happily spend that same amount for a single cocktail. Priorities!!)

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When the sun finally dipped below the horizon, we headed off, once again, to the only place we deem worthy of a repeat dinner: Dolce Vita.

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It was to be our last visit to DV on this trip, so we doubled up on the pastas to carry us through until next time.

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Sadly, however, one thing was missing: Abbi was not there, which meant we wouldn't get a chance to say a proper good-bye.

But about halfway through dinner our beloved Pastafarian finally appeared, looking exhausted but nevertheless happy to see us. He later confided that he hadn't planned to come in at all that evening, but changed his mind when he saw our names on the reservations list.

I'll bet he says that to all the gluttons.

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Click here to read Part 6!

Posted by TraceyG 09:35 Archived in Anguilla Tagged viceroy meads_bay dolce_vita cap_juluca march_1 blanchards_beach_shack Comments (3)

A Sweet Return to Anguilla, Pt. 6: Little Bit O' Sweet Love

The next day we decided to do a little sightseeing on our way to Shoal Bay East.

Translation: I'm going to chase around a bunch of goats and buy $300 worth of Anguilla magnets on our way to Shoal Bay East.

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Raise your hand if you thought it was the goat...

Our first stop was at Irie Life, a brightly-colored shop overlooking Sandy Ground.

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Here, we loaded up on t-shirts, key chains, license plates, bumper stickers, magnets, and baseball caps. I get the feeling that if Irie Life sold used gum wrappers with the letters "AXA" stamped on them, we'd probably buy them, too.

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Then it was off to the Sandy Ground roundabout for a combination rodeo/episode of "When Animals Attack."

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At least they smiled pretty for the camera.

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We passed through The Valley, then headed north toward Shoal Bay Village.

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Only in Anguilla would we pull off to the side of the road in order to admire a chain-link fence studded with old license plates.

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Our journey took us past Wallblake House, a former plantation whose sad history includes the use of slave labor to harvest sugar and cotton.

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We also passed a few local churches, whose sad history includes keeping people from sleeping in on Sundays.

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We decided on lunch at Elodia's, a colorful spot at the end of Shoal Bay near "the point."

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The day was hot and humid, so we stuck to a quick lunch of turkey sandwiches at Elodia's, allowing us to maximize our soak time.

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Of course, there are other ways to cool off, too.

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Elodia's rum punches are quite tasty, and while ordering a second round Angel said as much to the bartender and asked what was in it. Her brown eyes sparkled and she smiled. "Oh, just a little bit o' sweet love!" she chuckled.

We hung around as the beach emptied, enjoying a last rum punch before Elodia's closed up shop.

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If we'd had a little bit o' sweet love at Elodia's, we were in for a whole lot o' sweet love that evening for dinner.

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Though I'm not sure "love" is a strong enough word to convey my feelings for the FBI cheeseburger.

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It was Wing Night, but because I hate the smell of Tobasco, Angel is always kind enough to order his wings for dessert, so the smell won't interfere with my celebration of FBI Monday.

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He even eats them at the bar so I can bask in the burger after-glow.

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Not that he has any ulterior motives, of course.

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Click here for Part 7!

Posted by TraceyG 05:51 Archived in Anguilla Tagged goats ferryboat_inn irie_life elodias march_4 sandy_ground Comments (9)

A Sweet Return to Anguilla, Pt. 7: It's Like an Oven in Here

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.

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1997

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.

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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.

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After I climbed out a window to avoid exiting via the porch, we headed over to Crocus Bay and waited for Calvin to arrive.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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Soon we rounded the bend into Little Bay, which was just as stunning as we remembered.

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We spent the better part of the morning blissfully alone, exploring the rock formations and snorkeling just offshore.

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Well, mostly alone.

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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.

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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.

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The Blue Bar is bright and airy, with a bird's-eye view of Crocus Bay and beyond.

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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.

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They were like piña coladas . . . sans piña.

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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.

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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.

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And the remaining meatball sauce made the perfect dipping sauce for our pizza crust.

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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.

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After lunch, we took a drive over to Shoal Bay East.

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We were already in the neighborhood, so we stopped by Serenity for some rum punch and a quick swim.

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Serenity has a lovely open-air restaurant overlooking the water, along with a funky little beach bar right on the sand.

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We spent a lazy afternoon alternating dips in the sea with sips of rum.

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Later we took yet another dip -- this one in the pool back at Sweet Return -- before cleaning up for dinner at E's Oven.

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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.

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On this night, we started with an amuse bouche of tuna crostini, followed by E's smooth, velvety pumpkin soup.

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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.

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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.

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Which is saying a lot, considering there weren't any meatballs.
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Posted by TraceyG 05:52 Archived in Anguilla Tagged serenity sweet_return e's_oven little_bay ceblue crocus_bay march_10 Comments (3)

A Sweet Return to Anguilla, Pt. 8: Sunset at the Shack

The next morning we took a leisurely ride up to Shoal Bay for a morning swim before the day got too busy.

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The local sights along the way seemed color-coordinated to match the Shoal Bay's ethereal blues.

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We continued along until the stunning bay came into view.

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As is our custom, we dropped our beach bag in the sand without breaking stride, shedding shoes and clothes as we dashed headlong into the crystal-clear water.

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When our fingertips became pruney, we dragged ourselves to shore, then made a quick pit stop back at Sweet Return to rinse the salt off.

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We then popped across the street for lunch at Café Med at CuisinArt.

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We love many things about CuisinArt, including the elegant open-air lobby, the tropical blue-and-yellow color scheme, and the large, sunny pool.

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But we really love the frozen mojitos.

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Some of us, a little too much.

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We chose a table near the pool, sipping our minty concoctions as we perused the menu.

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CuisinArt grows its own vegetables in its hydroponic garden, so crisp greens were the way to go. I decided on the Greek salad with Little Gem lettuces, tomatoes, cucumbers, and tangy feta cheese, all dressed with a house-made red wine vinaigrette.

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CuisinArt grows its own herbs, too, so Angel went with the grilled skirt steak topped with a fresh, flavorful chimichurri, served alongside a roasted half tomato and some charred asparagus.

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As we were finishing our lunch, we were lucky enough to bump into Peter and his lovely wife Anne from Straw Hat, who recognized me from this blog. I was just happy they saw me after that dainty salad had been cleared. I have a reputation to uphold, you know.

We were already at Rendezvous Bay, so we spent the afternoon floating in the warm sea and enjoying a sneak preview of the upcoming boat races.

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When we'd had our fill of sun, we cooled down with a couple of the best piña coladas on the island at Anguilla Great House.

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That evening, I'd planned an early anniversary surprise for Angel -- a private sunset dinner at the Sunshine Shack. With the help of some folks on the travel forums, I learned that Garvey had arranged a private dinner for a large group in the past, and it looked absolutely beautiful:

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And so, a few months before our arrival on island, I began an online correspondence with Garvey to lock down the day, the time, details about the menu, and, most importantly, the table setup shown in the photo. Attempting to project a laid-back, easygoing island vibe, I casually noted that if pineapples weren't available, conch shells, starfish, or other beachy decorations would do. (But you know I really wanted those little pineapples.)

Finally, the big night arrived. As we made our way down the deserted beach, I smiled to myself as Angel, unaware that anything was amiss, asked me if I was sure if Sunshine Shack was actually open.

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Based on the photo I'd sent Garvey, I could barely contain my excitement as we approached the Shack, picturing a rustic wooden table draped with a linen cloth and ringed by tiki torches in the sand. I envisioned flickering lanterns and decorative pineapples, or conch shells, or even starfish. (But hopefully those little pineapples.)

Unfortunately, we did not get pineapples, or conch shells, or starfish. We did not get tiki torches. We did not even get a table cloth.

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I was disappointed, but not for long. That's because while Garvey may not be the next Martha Stewart, he just might be the next Top Chef, or so it will seem when you get an eyeful -- and mouthful -- of the gargantuan 4 lb. lobster he serves for dinner.

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And not only was this lobster so big that it didn't even fit on our plates, but it was so perfectly marinated and grilled that we scarcely needed the melted butter it came with . . . but scarfed it down anyway, along with the rice n' peas, carroty slaw, and fresh green salad that accompanied this massive sea beast.

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And of course, because Angel had no idea what I'd been expecting, he was thrilled with the setup: A private table in the sand! A ginormous lobster! Someone else paying the bill!

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As the sun began to set, we reveled in the romantic solitude.

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By the time our plates were cleared and the bill was settled, it still wasn't much past 8pm. Not quite ready to call it a night, we decided on a whim to stop by CuisinArt for a bottle of rosé.

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After we'd each enjoyed a glass, we brought the rest of the bottle back to Sweet Return. There, we dangled our feet in the pool, basked in the warm evening breeze, and tilted our faces skyward, contemplating a vast, dark universe decorated with tiny glowing stars.

It wasn't exactly the anniversary night I had planned, but sometimes, the best-laid plans are none at all.
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There's only one more Anguilla post -- CLICK HERE -- but don't despair: There is still lots of fun to be had as we sample fritas in Key West, funnel-cake French toast in Philadelphia, a most famous meatloaf in East Hampton, mojitos in Miami, a cocktail named for you-know-who in the Hudson Valley, and more stone crab than you can shake a stick at on Anna Maria Island. And did I mention not one but TWO more trips to Anguilla??? Subscribe here to follow along!

Posted by TraceyG 05:24 Archived in Anguilla Tagged cuisinart sunshine_shack rendezvous_bay shoal_bay march_23 Comments (8)

A Sweet Return to Anguilla, Pt. 9: Giving Me the Rum Around

It was our last full day on island, so a morning swim was in order. We jumped in the car, bumped down the path to the main road, and made the short drive over to Angel's favorite beach, Maunday's Bay.

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The beach was deserted, and the water was glorious.

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And thanks to the early hour, we were spared the pitying eyes and pointing fingers of the resort guests, whose sixth sense for an interloper like myself is stronger than that kid who sees dead people.

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Soon it was time to clean up for lunch at Straw Hat.

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Do you know what's better than the lobster mac & cheese at Straw Hat?

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That's a trick question -- nothing is better than the lobster mac & cheese at Straw Hat. But it wasn't on the menu, so we were left to order soup and sandwiches containing cheese instead.

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We later learned that Straw Hat's new chef took the mac & cheese off the menu, which I find highly suspect. I mean, what kind of chef doesn't want to make mac & cheese?!? It's like a race car driver who finds driving around in circles kind of boring.

Luckily, hardly anything is boring when accompanied by passion fruit coladas and ti punch.

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After an extended visit to the Petals boutique at Frangipani -- where I spent an ungodly amount of money on a bunch of dresses that even I have to admit look exactly like a bunch of dresses I already have -- we spent the rest of the afternoon swimming and sunning at Mead's Bay.

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Oh look, my ride is here.

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Back at Sweet Return, we enjoyed one last afternoon swim before cleaning up for sunset cocktails and dinner at Malliouhana.

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Built in 1984 as one of Anguilla's flagship luxury resorts, Malliouhana was reborn last year after an 18-month, $80 million renovation. And as is usually the case, we kind of missed the old place . . .

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But really loved the new place, too.

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Indeed, our only quibble with the new design is that it's like the Odessa Steps up in there, with people tripping, slipping, and tumbling about on what seems like dozens of steps, most of which are steep, dimly lit, and downright dangerous for anyone old, infirm, wearing heels, sipping rum, or (ahem) all of the above.

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I'd arranged for Angel to enjoy a surprise rum tasting before dinner, which I hoped would distract him while I took 3,000 photos of the sunset. And I'd timed it perfectly: Rum tasting at 5:30, dinner at 6:30; sunset at 6:50.

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My plans were almost foiled, however, when Malliouhana tried to delay our rum tasting by half an hour in order to accommodate another couple who'd also reserved the 5:30 tasting, but decided at the last minute to first get massages instead.

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That's right: There are at least two people on this planet who would rather spend an hour getting rubbed down than liquored up. Like I always say: There's no accounting for taste.

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Luckily, the manager noticed our confusion and quickly stepped in, and after we explained in the nicest way possible that we didn't give a flying fig about anyone else's last-minute change of plans, we carried on without them at the appointed time.

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After the rum tasting, we successfully completed the obstacle course from the bar to our table, rewarding ourselves with a round of cocktails, including this vibrant Caribbean Hibiscus made with Mount Gay dark rum, hibiscus nectar, slivers of fresh ginger, and lime.

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We sipped our cocktails and studied the menu as the sun began its slow descent into the sea.

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The offerings at Malli are unusual and delicious, including the white garlic gazpacho with Guadaloupe melon and almonds that I ordered, and the curried goat sausage with whipped bananas and sweet potatoes that Angel was allowed to have some of.

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That was followed with Angel's choice of the yellowfin tuna paillard, a carpaccio-style presentation that served as the base for artichoke, pickled fennel, roasted garlic, arugula, tonnato sauce, and crispy veal sweatbreads.

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I decided on the gnocchi cacio e pepe, which was studded with caramelized cauliflower and brightened with a bit of lemon.

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As the sky deepened to an inky blue, I was forced to contemplate how I was going to make it up 28 flights of stairs in heels, in the dark, after a rum tasting followed by, well, more rum.

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Truly, it was like the blind leading the blind.

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The next morning was our last before departure, so we lounged around the pool for a bit, then took a final walk along the beach that first captured our hearts almost twenty years ago, Rendezvous Bay.

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We had time for one last lunch before departing, and if you think I was leaving the island without one last visit to Ferryboat Inn, I've got some Flat Earth Society literature that may be of interest to you.

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Plus, is there any better sound in the whole wide world than your car tires rumbling over that little bridge?

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As we sipped our rum punches -- more slowly than usual to make them last -- reality slowly crept back in as we confirmed our flights and checked our email and carried on other important work, such as posting photos of French onion soup on Facebook.

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Or, at least one of us did.

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Soon our food arrived, and it was time to get down to some real work.

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We'd dragged out lunch as long as possible, but eventually it was time to depart. We said our good-byes to Marjorie and Christian and made the short hop over to the dock.

As our boat sped away toward St. Martin and Anguilla grew smaller and smaller in the distance, I would like to tell you that my thoughts turned to the island's peacefulness and tranquility, or the kindness and generosity of its residents, or the talcum-powder sands and crystalline waters of its incomparable beaches.

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But really, I was just thinking about cheeseburgers.

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Are you tempted to share these Anguilla blog posts with your sister-in-law, best friend, next-door-neighbor, or mailman so they, too, can discover what's so magical about our favorite island? If so, step away from the keyboard and contemplate this:

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And remember, if anyone asks . . . you were in ANTIGUA.
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Posted by TraceyG 07:43 Archived in Anguilla Tagged anguilla ferryboat_inn cap_juluca malliouhana may_13 straw_hat Comments (5)

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