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Anguilla

Anguilla, Part 1: Let's Make Some Waves

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of good luck, it was the age of bad luck, it was the epoch of human kindness, it was the epoch of utter stupidity, it was the season of juicy cheeseburgers, it was the season of tough ribs, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had beaches and blue skies before us, we had metal detectors and grid searches before us.

But let's start with the best of times, shall we?

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We arrived on a picture-perfect August day, collected our rental car, and made a beeline for Coconut Palm Villa on Mead's Bay.

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The larger of two separate villas comprising Twin Palms Villas, Coconut Palm has three full ensuite bathrooms, one half bath, two outdoor showers, and a private pool, and if all of that is not enough to keep you sand-free, then I don't know what is.

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The living areas were accented with colorful pops of lime and turquoise, and lots of doors, windows, and skylights to let in air and light.

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And did I mention the roof deck with the panoramic view of Meads Bay, and the umbrella and lounger setup on Meads?

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But all of that paled in comparison to having three bedrooms: One to sleep in, one to store my clothes and shoes in . . . and one for ironing in.

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I decided that the upstairs bedroom, in its own pod across from the main house, would be my hair and makeup prep area. Angel loved the idea, figuring that if I was tucked away in a separate building, I wouldn't be able to yell out every five minutes for him to bring me something I'd left in the main house or downstairs. And he was right; I didn't yell. I texted him instead.

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After depositing our things in their designated bedrooms, we quickly changed into swimsuits, then popped down the road to the island's cutest little beach bar, Waves.

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I mean, even the bathrooms are cute.

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These squishy, oversized beanbags are perfect for napping, or for passing out after a few of Waves' colorful rum punches. Po-tay-to, po-tah-to.

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You should always match your drink to your dress . . . and to that pillow you will need after a few rounds.

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We sipped our way to sunset, then finally headed back to Coconut Palm to take in the view and get ready for dinner.

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I'd made dinner reservations at Picante, our go-to choice for a warm, welcoming first night on island.

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We'd decided to keep our reservation even though the owner, Chloe, had messaged me beforehand to let me know that, because it was their last night of the season, they would not have my beloved seafood enchiladas. We compensated accordingly.

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You've gotta love a place that sends you a Code Red when they're out of your favorite dish.

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And you have to love it even more when the chef magically whips up a batch for you anyway.

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Toward the end of our meal we met the lovely Stacie from Maine, who can vouch for the fact that I was grinning like a loon after finishing those margaritas enchiladas.

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I awoke the next morning at the crack of dawn, an annoying, only-on-vacation habit if ever there was one. Just ask Angel.

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I used the time to do some unpacking, then rewarded myself with a leisurely walk through the gardens behind the house.

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It was shaping up to be a beautiful day, so we decided to take a drive up to Zemi Beach House for lunch.

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If you can think of a view more spectacular than the one that awaits you on the patio at 20 Knots, you are taking way better vacations than I am.

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We snagged a table in the sand and ordered up a round of cocktails, the excellent Tiki Old Fashioned with Mount Gay XO for Angel, and a caipirinha for me, made to order with vodka instead of cachaça.

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The bread at Zemi is toasted to a crisp and comes with an addictive roasted garlic spread and, if you gobble it up the way I did, will also come 1,000 tiny cuts to the roof of your mouth.

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After lunch, we splurged on a second round of cocktails -- for digestion, of course -- which we enjoyed on a couple of loungers on the beach.

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The day was really windy, so we finished the afternoon Zemi's spectacular aquarium pool.

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That evening we had plans to meet up at Roy's with Renee and Mike, two online friends whom we'd had yet to meet in person.

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Anybody can lose a shoe when it's a flip-flop. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

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Have you ever had the potent rum punches at Roy's? It took just one for me to decide I liked Renee and Mike enough to invite them to join us for dinner at E's Oven, and another half of one to accidentally walk into the house next door to E's when we arrived . . . and compliment their living room decor. I'm not a complete animal, you know.

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There, we feasted on the famous coconut-crusted grouper and a pile of cheesy au gratin potatoes. At E's, that is. Though I'm sure my new friends would have whipped something up after I raved about their fancy vases.

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I even managed to get into the right car at the end of the night.
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Posted by TraceyG 04:58 Archived in Anguilla Comments (9)

Anguilla, Part 2: Ain't Nothin' But a Bling Ting

The next morning I again woke at the crack of dawn, but this time it was on purpose: Sleeping in on FBI Monday would be like sleeping in on Christmas morning when you're sure Santa is bringing you a new bike.

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I slipped on a beach coverup, threw on a hat to hide my bed head, and burned rubber over to FBI for the Happiest Day of the Year.

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Though the burgers are always the main attraction, we were also excited to sample the AXA Ale from AXA Brewing Company.

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Christian had lots of AXA Brewing gear, so we bought one of almost everything to bring back to New York. There's nothing like sending your husband to the gym wearing a brewery t-shirt to advertise exactly what he's doing there.

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After lunch we hung around to chat a bit and take some photos. Though I wasn't quite expecting this when Marjorie asked Angie to smile for the camera.

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Indeed, we were enjoying the company at FBI so much that we almost didn't make it to Rendezvous Bay for a swim. And in hindsight, I really wish we hadn't. It started off innocently enough:

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The afternoon had gotten away from us a bit, so rather than drag our beach bag, rafts, and other stuff down the beach, we just grabbed two towels and bounded down to the beach for a quick swim.

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We plopped our towels down onto the sand, then stripped down to our swimsuits and deposited our rings, Angel's watch, and our phones into Angel's baseball cap for safekeeping. Afterwards, we put everything back on in order to take a walk down to Rendezvous Bay Hotel to check out the rebuilt version of The Place.

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As we made our way back down the beach, I decided to take one last dip before heading back to the car. Angel begged off, since his trunks were already dry from our walk and he didn't want to get the driver's seat wet.

I'd only waded in up to my waist when I realized I'd left my engagment ring on. I asked Angel to come get it; since he was already dressed, he waded in roughly up to his ankles and I met him near the water line to hand the ring off to him. Angel put it in his pocket, and I paddled around for a bit until it was time to leave.

It wasn't until we were halfway back to Coconut Palm that we discovered that the ring was no longer in his pocket.

I'll spare you the gory details of what happened when we pulled the car over and turned Angel's pockets inside out, but as our disbelief turned to horror, it looked something like this:

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Retracing our steps, we immediately began racking our brains as to what might have happened: Perhaps Angel had missed the pocket? (He hadn't.) Maybe the pocket of his trunks had a hole in it? (It didn't.) Had the ring slid out of his pocket in the car? (It hadn't.) Or perhaps fallen out of his pocket when he'd reached in for the car keys? (It didn't.)

But none of those things could be ruled out right away . . . at least not until we'd spent three days combing the beach, the parking lot, the car, and even the roadside with a battalion of generous friends, kind strangers, and every metal detector on the island.

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Two of those strangers-turned-new-friends, Rob and Julie Willsher, met us at the beach each day at 5:30 a.m. Rob spent the first part of his career as the British equivalent of a Green Beret and is an officer in the Royal Anguilla Police Force Marine Unit and the owner of Vigilant Divers, and Julie is a former Baltimore police detective, and between the two of them, they managed to calm us down enough to develop a working theory of where the ring might be, as well as a workable plan -- including grid searches, synchronized snorkeling, and a search of our car to put even the most thorough DEA agent to shame -- to find it.

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That evening we understandably needed alcohol, and a hell of a lot of it. And so we set off for Dolce Vita, where we could be assured of delicious food, great wine, and a sympathetic ear.

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We were thrilled to see that the restaurant had been lovingly restored after Irma, all the way down to the familiar white curtains tied with red ribbons and our beloved corner table.

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We settled on a bottle of Cab, then took Abbi's suggestion of the evening's special, an excellent tuna and salmon tartare.

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It was the first time I'd gone to dinner without my ring in almost 20 years, but wielding one fork in each hand for the shrimp pasta and mix-and-match gnocchi certainly kept my naked left hand occupied.

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The next morning we began what was to become our new morning routine: Wake before dawn, stumble around bleary-eyed, throw on some clothes, and meet Rob and Julie at the beach to search for the ring. After several unsuccessful hours of searching, we headed over to Elodia's for some hydrotherapy.

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After a long float, we shared an order of Elodia's crunchy fish bits, along with a nutmeg-topped rum punch for Angel, a creamy pina colada for me, and our usual lunch orders.

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That evening we had reservations at Veya, which included walking out not with a doggie bag, but with yet another loaned metal detector. We're nothing if not classy.

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As usual, we bargained hard to influence each other's appetizer and entrée choices to maximize which of Veya's fabulous menu items we'd get to try this time around.

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I decided on the local leafy greens with marinated goat cheese, candied papaya, and pumpkin vinaigrette, and then talked Angel into the Vietnamese style deep-fried calamari because I have a reputation to uphold here.

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For our entrées, I chose the roast chicken because it came with three of my favorite things: rice, chicken skin, and a bunch of chicken meat that can usually be traded for whatever carbs Angel happens to have on his plate.

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Angel decided on the grilled shrimp with sweet corn hush puppies and coconut curry sauce.

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He even got to keep one of those hush puppies for himself.
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For those of you still wondering, the prevailing theory in the Great Ring Debacle is that one of the ring's prongs caught on the fine mesh of Angel's swim trunks when he deposited it into his pocket, so the ring hung there for a bit before coming loose either while he was in the water, or on his way to the car. Happily, it was insured, and new bling is on the way!

CLICK HERE to read Part 3!

Posted by TraceyG 05:18 Archived in Anguilla Comments (6)

Anguilla, Part 3: A Sauvignon Blanc-Out

By Day 4 of the Case of the Disappearing Diamond, we were emotionally drained from getting our hopes up each day, only to have them dashed, and physically exhausted from the 4:30 a.m. wake-up calls. Confident that we'd done everything humanly possible to find the ring, we reluctantly called off the search and vowed (heh-heh) to enjoy the rest of the trip.

We started with a morning swim, followed by a leisurely stroll through Coconut Palm's lush garden.

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And although we ultimately did not find my ring, we actually wound up finding a lot more: The kindness of strangers. An outpouring of similar "lost ring" stories. Concern and well wishes from nearly every Anguillian we encountered for the rest of the trip (apparently word travels fast, especially when you're a Cheeseburglar). And the knowledge that even though the ring held immeasurable sentimental value, in the end it is just a thing, the loss of which could never change how we feel about each other.

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And we finally found out where the police station is.

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It was shaping up to be a gorgeous day, so we headed over to Ocean Echo for a little R&R.

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And maybe a couple of cocktails.

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Soon the smell of curry began to waft our way, so we headed up to our usual corner table for lunch.

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The smell of regression might have drifted our way as well. Don't judge.

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The rest of the afternoon passed in a happy haze of sun, sand, and sea.

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That night we drove up to Island Harbour to stuff our faces full of (pre-ordered) lobster.

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And we weren't the only ones.

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Full of lobster, $5 rum punch, and Falcon dip, we enjoyed a midnight swim before turning in for the night.

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The next morning was another beauty.

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After coordinating our schedules, we'd arranged to take Rob and Julie to lunch to thank them for helping us with the ring search. We agreed to meet at Straw Hat, with Rob warning us that it was going to be a "Five-Bottle Lunch."

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That's right: Although Rob may look like the kind of guy who pounds Budweiser and then smashes the empty cans on his forehead, he actually favors a delicate Petit Clos Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.

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We snagged a large table by the water's edge, ordered an endless succession of icy bottles of wine, and enjoyed an afternoon of food, fun, and fantastic new friends.

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It was hard to part ways -- Rob and Julie have more crazy adventures than I have hairs on my head -- so we made plans to meet up later in the week before Angel and I drifted down to the beach for a late afternoon soak.

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That night it was back to Ferryboat Inn, since I had a hot date with a lobster Thermidor.

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To answer some of your questions: Yes, I'd just had lobster the night before at Falcon Nest. No, you can never have too much lobster. Yes, Marjorie's Thermidor should be on your bucket list of things to eat before you die. Yes, you have to call ahead for it. No, they won't give you extra of that creamed spinach thing that I've raved about before, even though I have suggested that, like Wing Night Wednesday and FBI Monday, it be designated its own special day ("Spinach Saturday").

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I didn't give the dogs anything to eat, and I think these photos prove it.

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I mean, when the Thermidor is as good as Marjorie's, they'd be lucky to even get a shell.

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Click here to read Part 4!

Posted by TraceyG 05:21 Archived in Anguilla Comments (8)

Anguilla, Part 4: You Come at the King, You Best Not Miss

The next morning we spent a few hours in the pool at Coconut Palm to start the day.

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We decided on lunch at Tropical Sunset, if by "decided" you mean "planned months in advance according to a color-coded agenda." We arrived early to claim our spot and enjoy a swim before lunch.

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I'd tried Tropical Sunset's sticky, fall-off-the-bone ribs on our last visit and couldn't wait to have them again.

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But like so many things I've looked forward to that have turned out to be disappointing -- bottled coconut water; the series finale of The Sopranos; every jumpsuit I've ever purchased -- the ribs this time around were underwhelming. But anybody can have an off day, and when the manager messaged me later to apologize and invite us to return, I gladly accepted (and will of course report back).

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We whiled away the rest of the afternoon in that brilliant blue water.

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We'd worked up quite a thirst from all that floating, so we took a walk down the beach to Zemi for a round of their expertly crafted cocktails.

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For dinner that night, it was back to Dolce Vita for some garlic bread with a side of Caesar salad, a decadently cheesy lasagna, and a mound of seafood fra diavolo.

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As usual, I was feeling so full after all that pasta that I really wished my belly button functioned like the plug on a beach ball so I could deflate it at will. Also as usual, Abbi ignored my pleas for mercy and brought over a slab of chocolate cake, which I insisted I could not eat . . . and then proceeded to devour.

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The next day was our last lunch at FBI.

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We'd just been to FBI two days before, so Angel committed the ultimate heresy by announcing that he was in the mood for something else besides the burger. (At that moment, I was actually glad I wasn't wearing my wedding ring, lest anyone think I was actually married to this dolt.) I, of course, remained in full possession of my faculties and ordered accordingly.

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After perusing the menu -- something neither of us had done at FBI since the late 90s -- Angel decided to try the chicken sandwich with FBI's homemade BBQ sauce. Sure, I figured it woud be good, but it certainly never occurred to me that a simple chicken sandwich could actually compete with the best cheeseburger known to man.

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How wrong I was. Ferryboat came for the king, all right . . . and now I have to eat two sandwiches every time I come here.

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Of course, I hadn't forgotten about Angie and Basil. But I did keep forgetting to stop at Best Buy, so we popped in to Ashley & Sons on our way to lunch to get some dog treats. Unfortunately, Ashley's didn't have any, but they did have these, which would have to do.

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Obviously I had to spoon-feed them . . . because they could get hurt with a fork.

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After everyone was well-fed, we headed over to Meads Bay to float the afternoon away.

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The loungers belonging to Coconut Palm villa are on a pristine, private stretch of sand between Carimar and Malliouhana.

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That evening we decided to relax at the house with a night swim, followed by some wine on the roof deck.

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It was the perfect way to reconnect, seeing as how I almost had to divorce him over that FBI burger betrayal.

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----------------------------------------
Check out what we're eating, drinking, and doing when we're not in Anguilla at @escape.from.new.york, or stick to flip flops, floppy hats, and fab frocks @the.beach.blonde.

CLICK HERE to read Part 5!

Posted by TraceyG 05:02 Archived in Anguilla Comments (5)

Anguilla, Part 5: The Circle of Life

We only had two days left, and though we'd fallen in love with Coconut Palm, enjoyed hours of blissful beach time, and made lots of new friends (all of whom conveniently own metal detectors), the loss of my ring had admittedly cast a pall over an otherwise perfect trip. And so we decided to finish strong with a last lunch at Ocean Echo, because if a round of Rumzies cannot cure what ails you, then probably nothing can.

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I love Ocean Echo for its great food, friendly service, fun drink list, and of course that stunning view.

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They'll even "reserve" your favorite table while you lounge at the beach.

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But most of all I love that they will make you a big bowl of Kraft mac & cheese if you beg ask nicely.

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It was our last night on island, so we headed back to the villa to get ready for another dinner at E's, this time with Christian from FBI.

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After managing to make it into the correct building this time, we feasted on the lobster spring rolls, mushroom chicken, coconut-crusted grouper, and lamb shank.

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And, of course, a side of E's cheesy au gratin potatoes for me. That bowl of mac & cheese at lunch was just an appetizer.

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The next day was departure day, but we'd lucked out with a late afternoon flight and had time for a last dip in the pool.

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And a quick breakfast at Straw Hat, where Angel fueled up for travel day with the seafood frittata stuffed with lobster, shrimp, and local fish.

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Have you had the Straw Hat egg sandwich? It comes on a Portuguese roll with two eggs; bacon, sausage, or ham; and the choice of with or without cheese, which is no choice at all unless you have a life-threatening cheese allergy (and even then I'd suck it up just this once).

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Angel settled the bill while I took one last soak in the warm, clear water.

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Too soon, it was time to get cleaned up for the flight home. We arrived at the ferry dock duly prepared: Luggage, passports . . . rum punch.

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As Calypso sped off toward St. Martin, I thought ahead to the double-cheese pizza I planned to order for the plane ride home. (Yes, still more cheese -- might as well, er, double down on your way out.)

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More importanly, Angel and I made peace with the fact that my ring had actually come full circle, finally resting where it had always wanted to be after making a break for it on Shoal Bay during our honeymoon. Naturally, we'll always have to return to visit it.

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One of those visits will be this summer, when we plan to introduce my newbie sister and her husband to the island. And that's when it occurred to me that I've been to almost every government building in Anguilla: The post office, the hospital (three times!), Inland Revenue, and now even the police station.

That just leaves one.

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Hmmm. That summer trip is gonna be an interesting one. Stay tuned.
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Check back soon or subscribe here for yours truly roughing it in the bush in South Africa (sans ironing board!!); drinking homemade hooch in the Hudson Valley; enjoying a birthday blowout with my sissy in Brooklyn; and frozen-drinking my way around Delray Beach. Cheers!

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Posted by TraceyG 06:10 Archived in Anguilla Comments (8)

Anguilla, Part 1: The Fountain of Youth

Before we get into this five-part fiesta of cheeseburgers, lobster, and rum, there's something I'd like to say: Thank you.

Thank you for taking time out of your busy work day or lazy weekend to read this blog, to comment on it, to commiserate with me, or just to offer a kind note or message. What started off seven years ago as a way to pressure myself into honing my photography skills by posting them for public ridicule has blossomed into a wonderful way to meet like-minded people who at least pretend to understand why I travel with my own nutmeg and my own ironing board.

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One of those like-minded folks, a gentleman named Hal, had gotten in touch with me earlier this year, and it was a very pleasant surprise when he suggested that Angel and I stay at one of his condos at the Fountain Residences on Shoal Bay for our next trip to Anguilla. Hal and his wife Donna would be on island during part of our stay, so we could finally meet and get to know each other “IRL,” as the kids say.

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Of course, I saw through that pretext immediately: What Hal really wanted was to see if I could eat more in one sitting than he and his wife combined. To which I might say, LOL, LMAO, and ROFL.

But no matter: I'm certainly not too proud to perform like a trained monkey when the circumstances call for it. And so we set off for Anguilla, bound for blue water and sunny skies.

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Our visit coincided with the 50th anniversary of Anguilla's revolution, during which 600 British paratroopers invaded Anguilla when the islanders rebelled against independence from Great Britain. It was hard not to see the parallels -- I, too, was invading Anguilla and the islanders were almost certain to rebel against me eating all their food -- so I decided I should drape myself in the Anguillian color scheme for the occasion.

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This visit also marked the 50th anniversary of Angel's birth, and I had some secret plans up my sleeve to make sure we celebrated in style. Or at least with enough rum punch for him not to notice the lack thereof.

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But first things first: We unpacked just the essentials -- deodorant and a toothbrush for Angel; 18 pairs of sandals for me -- and then bounded down the short little path from Fountain to the beach for a swim.

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Fountain shares a small stretch of Shoal Bay East with Zemi Beach House, just a stone's throw from Gwen's and Tropical Sunset.

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The dramatic rocks and varying shades of turquoise make it a perfect spot for photos.

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Even bad photos.

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Among the rocks, I found this little throne. Angel agrees that I am at least slightly more benevolent than King Joffrey.

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After our swim, we decided to check out the grounds at Fountain before heading back to the condo to clean up for dinner.

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The property at Fountain consists of twelve 2-bedroom units -- six poolside and six oceanside -- with full kitchens, spacious living areas, and roomy bathrooms with oversized showers.

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Each unit can be rented as a one-bedroom or studio if you don't need both bedrooms.

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Of course, we needed both bedrooms -- one to sleep in, and one to house my flip-flops.

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Fountain may not be as chi-chi (or as cha-ching) as Zemi Beach next door, but it's got charm in spades, with shady paths lined with conch shells, cushy loungers at the pool (equipped with built-in drink trays!), outdoor showers, and even a bin full of beach and pool toys for the kids.

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And, of course, Fountain enjoys the same gorgeous sunsets, made even better -- as most things are -- with wine.

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Arrival day also happened to be Angel Eve, and we had decided in advance to celebrate at our beloved Dolce Vita.

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After some red wine and deliberations, Angel decided to try something new: The grilled black Angus ribeye served on a hot stone and accompanied by an assortment of salts: peachy-pink Himalayan, fragrant rosemary salt, and a fiery salt studded with crushed Tellicherry peppercorns.

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There was no way I was eating any kind of meat in advance of FBI Monday (see Rule #1), so I stuck with the classic lobster pasta in pink sauce instead.

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We were much too full for dessert, but couldn't resist when Abbi surprised Angel with a slab of chocolatey tiramisu, topped with a towering birthday sparkler.

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The next day started off cloudy, but luckily it wasn’t cutting into my beach time: My plan for the morning was to drop Angel off at Elodia's, head over to Village BakeHouse to pick up the birthday cake I'd secretly ordered, then deliver it to Ferryboat Inn for Angel’s birthday dinner . . . all without calling Angel for directions or roadside assistance, lest that give away the surprise.

There were, of course, a couple of roadblocks. First, the literal ones:

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And second, although I've driven on island before -- who could forget all those pharmacy runs during CoffeeGate? -- this was the first time I was driving from one end to the other alone. I'm not great with directions as it is -- I'm generally looking out for new restaurants and baby goats, not memorizing turns -- and this trip involved multiple stops. And so, just to be on the safe side, I brought along the mobile phone that was provided for us at the condo.

An actual. mobile. phone.

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I told you I wasn't good with directions. Apparently that's how I drove myself right back to 1989.

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On top of that, because it was drizzling by the time I set off, I'd left my sunglasses back at the condo. My prescription sunglasses . . . which I need for driving.

But the worst part was the phone. That godforsaken, E.T.-phone-home contraption would not stay on the hook no matter how or where I positioned it or how securely (or violently) I stuffed it into the glove box. The incessant dial tone was mocking me, I was sure; I could almost hear its taunts about my bad driving and poor eyesight and non-existent sense of direction in that endless, high-pitched drone.

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Despite these obstacles, I managed to find the Village BakeHouse, though I did not find the nearby parking lot. Instead, heeding Angel's advice to stay on the left no matter what, I maneuvered the car into a nearby ditch and stumbled out like a blind mole . . . who’s also gone deaf from a maddening dial tone.

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Of course, I wasn't willing to settle for just any birthday cake for my little viejito. And so I'd arranged for Pascal to make an authentic bizcocho, or Dominican cake, which is just like regular birthday cake . . . except that about one-third of the cake is pure fat. The result is an extra-springy, extra-moist cake, which is then topped with suspiro, a soft, fluffy meringue icing. (There's also usually a layer of pineapple jam, guava jam, or dulce de leche in between the sinful layers, but I'd asked Pascal for coconut cream instead.)

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Miraculously, I managed to get the cake all the way down the stairs and into the car without dropping it. Which is not to say that I did not have some wobbly moments navigating myself and the cake into that ditch, then gunning the car like I was at a monster truck rally in an attempt to catapult it back onto the road.

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All of which goes to explains why, if you saw me behind the wheel that day, you saw a wild-eyed maniac -- with one hand on the wheel, one hand on a lopsided birthday cake, and one eye squeezed shut in an attempt to squint down to 20/40 vision -- doing battle with a Soviet-era telephone that absolutely refused stay on the $#@&% hook.

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Meanwhile, back at Elodia's, the weather had not improved, so Angel contented himself with guzzling rum punch and checking his futuristic iPhone for Amber Alerts involving yours truly.

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I dropped off the cake without further incident and joined Angel for lunch, where we had "the usual" -- grilled fish for Angel and a turkey club for me.

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Plus a side of chicken nuggets, 'cause I like to party like it's my birthday . . . even when it's Angel's.

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Happily, by mid-afternoon, the day had brightened enough for us to take a swim.

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We returned to Fountain just in time for another fabulous sunset.

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Soon it was time to clean up for Angel's birthday dinner.

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He'd chosen Ferryboat Inn, which might not be the first place that comes to mind for a milestone birthday celebration on an island brimming with gourmet restaurants, but is the only logical place if you've ever had the good sense to call ahead and order Marjorie's life-changing lobster Thermidor. Plus, FBI was the very first restaurant we ever visited on our first trip to Anguilla 20 years ago -- nearly to the day -- and it seemed only fitting that we celebrate Angel's 50th, Anguilla's 50th, and our 20th all on the same night.

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To our delight, Marjorie surprised us both by decorating our usual table with balloons, a candle centerpiece, and elegantly folded cloth napkins.

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It was a lovely gesture, particularly at a spot so casual that we looking forward to seeing our favorite dogs in the dining room.

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And so you could have knocked us over with a feather when Christian busted out a celebratory bottle of Champagne, and a fancy glowing ice bucket.

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Because it was Angel's birthday, he got to eat his buffalo wings at the table, instead of over at the bar where I didn't have to smell them.

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While Angel devoured his wings, I was holding my breath -- both literally and figuratively -- in anticipation of the main event: Marjorie's justly-famous lobster Thermidor.

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Were you so busy drooling over that Thermidor that you didn't even notice that thing that looks suspiciously like a green vegetable next to the lobster? I can't say I blame you, but trust me: That cheesy, creamy, crunchy-edged spinach casserole was so mind-blowingly delicious that I would have happily traded my entire lobster -- or at least half of it -- for just one more bite of that casserole. I can only assume that it's not on the regular menu because creamed spinach casserole + FBI cheeseburger would be so much cheesy stupendousness that the universe might implode.

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After dinner, Marjorie brought out the bizcocho, and the entire bar serenaded Angel with a rum-fueled rendition of "Happy Birthday."

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As the night wound down, we settled into a loose circle of Adirondack chairs in the yard and sipped the last of the Champagne, with the sound of the waves providing the soundtrack to raucous retellings of McClean family lore, countless belly laughs, and hugs and happy tears before we finally called it a night.

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At least at Ferryboat, that is. Because not even spinach casserole beats a slice of extra-sinful birthday cake in bed.
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Wondering why this post is pre-Irma? Read the "prologue" here...or, CLICK HERE to read Part 2!

Posted by TraceyG 06:04 Archived in Anguilla Tagged ferryboat_inn shoal_bay fountain_residences elodia's Comments (20)

Anguilla, Part 2: The Falcon Has Landed

The next morning we awoke to a glorious sunrise over Shoal Bay East.

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Like all the great mysteries of the world -- where do all the missing socks go? is there a big pile of eyelashes behind your eyeball? why do I always pick the bag of Doritos with a substandard amount of nacho cheese powder? -- I have no explanation for why I am up at the crack of dawn on vacation, but cannot get out of bed before 8am at home without hitting snooze for at least one solid hour, which begets yet another mystery (why on earth is Angel still married to me?).

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After the cloudy start the day before, we were thrilled to see that it was shaping up to be a beautiful day.

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We decided to spend it at Trattoria Tramonto on Shoal Bay West.

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There are many reasons to love Tramonto: The pasta, the watermelon-y rum punch, the pasta, the quiet beach, the pasta, the blue-bottle rosé that matches the restaurant just so, and, oh yeah . . . THE PASTA.

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And you thought I only matched my flip-flops to my bikini.

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After a morning of swimming in the warm sea and lounging under the shady palms, it was soon time for lunch. I was thinking maybe I'd have the pasta.

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We settled in at a table at the water's edge and split our attention between studying the menu and admiring the view.

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We started with the freshly-baked focaccia, followed by -- surprise! -- the penne pomodoro topped with a flurry of freshly-grated parmesan for me, and the grilled swordfish special for Angel.

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We spent the rest of the afternoon floating in the blue water, napping in our comfy loungers, and sipping those tasty rum punches.

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Oh, and hanging with my new buddy.

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Back at Fountain, we took a quick dip in the pool, then I poked around the property for a bit while Angel fixed us a round of rum punches.

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Later, we fixed ourselves up and set off for a spicy supper at Picante in the West End.

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We love Picante for the casual atmosphere, friendly service, and twinkling lanterns.

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But who am I kidding? I'd eat Picante's cheesy seafood enchiladas off a dirty tray in a prison mess hall if I had to.

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Generously stuffed with crab, prawns, and lobster swimming in a seafood bisque sauce, those enchiladas are the main reason to visit Picante, but they are certainly not the only reason.

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The next day was another beauty, so we decided to head over to Rendezvous Bay. Our plan was to make Anguilla Great House our home base for the day, with a stop at neighboring CuisinArt for lunch.

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Eventually we ambled down the beach for some lunch at CuisinArt. On our way, we happened upon the lovely Jeanene, ambassador for the Sunshine Shack and poster girl for infectious smiles who was, as usual, parked outside of SSS with a rum punch in her hand and one of those aforementioned smiles on her face.

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I was getting a complex being surrounded by that many dimples at once, but luckily it wasn't anything that a frozen mojito couldn't cure.

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Thanks to its stellar hydroponically-grown produce, CuisinArt is the only place on the island where you'll catch me eating raw vegetables. Scratch that -- it's the only place anywhere you'll catch me eating raw vegetables.

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We listened with amusement as the woman seated next to us ordered tuna salad and chicken salad for lunch -- neither of which (nor even the ingredients for which) are found anywhere on the menu. It made me feel a whole lot better about asking for the white bean dip instead of baba ghanoush with our mezzo platter.

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The platter also came with olives, roasted red peppers, naan bread, and a tug-of-war over those blocks of creamy feta drizzled with fresh basil pesto.

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The day was hot, and we knew we needed to save room for a couple of Great House's pina coladas, so we both ordered a hydroponic salad to keep things light.

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I ordered the little gem salad so I could get my hands on some more of that salty feta, while Angel decided to try the chopped salad with kale, currants, chickpeas, and basil balsamic vinaigrette, all topped with a mountain of fresh, tangy goat cheese.

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Afterwards, it was time to hang up my hat and take a nap.

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Back at the Great House, bartenders Jodi and Shanna hooked us up with a nice, strong rum punch for Angel, an overflowing Pina colada for me, and two beautiful smiles for anyone lucky enough to catch them posing.

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Later that afternoon, we had plans to meet up with Christian from Ferryboat Inn. We'd never actually seen him anywhere but behind the bar at FBI, so it was mostly just to see if he actually had legs.

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As you might guess, Christian started off a little apprehensive, so I agreed to shoot him roughly from the waist up so everyone would recognize him.

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He got a little more comfortable as I continued shooting . . .

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And by the time the rum and Cokes kicked in, we were treated to a full-on grin.

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That night, we had plans to take Hal and Donna out to dinner before they headed home. We left the choice of restaurant up to them, and they chose Falcon Nest in nearby Island Harbour. We agreed to meet by the pool at Fountain and ride together in one car.

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We'd never been to Falcon Nest before, but when Hal mentioned that he'd called ahead to order three lobsters -- one for me, one for Angel, and one for he and Donna to split -- I knew we'd like this place just fine. (I also liked that Hal knew it would start World War III if Angel and I had to split anything, least of all fresh grilled lobster).

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And once I discovered the $5(!!) rum punches and Falcon Dip, I knew we were going to love this place.

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I mean, they had all my favorite stuff: Cheap rum punches, ginormous grilled lobsters served with a mound of curry-spiced pasta salad, rice 'n peas, a big ol' pile of French fries, and an addictive "secret sauce" for dipping them in (or pouring on your lobster, or on your rice, or just directly down your gullet).

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Best of all, we got to spend time with Hal and Donna, a couple of adorable lovebirds who met in high school, then went their separate ways. They then proceeded to meet up every 5 or 10 years at their class reunion (each of which Hal attended for the sole purpose of finding out whether Donna was still married), and finally got together when Donna became available to marry her one true love, Hal -- who'd pined away for her for decades.

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Thank you, Hal and Donna, for introducing us to our new favorite restaurant, and for providing such sweet, entertaining company.

And for not making us split that lobster.
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CLICK HERE TO READ PART 3!

Posted by TraceyG 05:51 Archived in Anguilla Comments (15)

Anguilla, Part 3: The Ultimate Backstage Pass

The next morning, we stopped by the Village BakeHouse so I could thank Pascal in person for Angel's birthday cake. It seemed like as good an excuse as any for stuffing ourselves full of jelly donuts and apple tarts.

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Housed in the 1700s-era former Koal Keel restaurant, the building was originally constructed by slave labor for a Dutch family from St. Maarten, who used it as a sugar and cotton plantation.

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When things dried up -- the slaves were freed and years of drought took its toll -- the plantation owners abandoned the building. Eventually, however, descendants of the very slaves who had worked the plantation bought the building, and if that is not a fitting end to this story, I don't know what is.

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Today, Pascal and his wife Suzan use the charming space to whip up decadent French pastries, tasty sandwiches, and gorgeous cakes like the one Pascal made for Angel.

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I did my best to remove the thick layer of powdered sugar from my face, then rounded up the camera-shy Pascal for a quick photo.

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Looking to kill some time before our next meal, we decided to take a ride over to the former site of Oliver's on Long Bay, where we could reminisce about prior meals.

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We spent a few minutes poking around the abandoned restaurant, each of us lost in our own fond memories of Tracey's Seafood Compote.

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Soon it was time to eat again, and only one thing can cure a bad case of Compote Fever.

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And as far as I'm concerned, there's only one place to get one.

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Drinks in hand, Angel chatted with Christian and I snuggled up with Basil while we waited for our burgers. Or maybe Angel chatted with Basil and I snuggled up with Christian. Who can say when FBI's killer rum punch is involved?

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I came prepared with snacks, which made for one very smiley girl.

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And Christian surprised me with this fabulous "backstage pass," hand-crafted by the talented Daryl Thompson at Alloyd Enterprises, which made for another very smiley girl.

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You're probably noticing that most of these photos are a bit blurry. I'd like to chalk it up to the fact that it was about 1,000 degrees in that kitchen and I was on the verge of passing out, but I think we all know it could have been a comfortable 68 degrees in there and I'd still have been on the verge of passing out.

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You might think that seeing where the magic happens would satisfy me for a while, but the effect was just the opposite: Being in such deliciously close proximity to those burgers sizzling away on the grill only made me that much more anxious to dig into my own.

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Even Basil was anxious, knowing she might score some leftover scraps.

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Finally the mother of all burgers arrived and, as usual, it was spectacular.

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As my eyes rolled back in my head, Christian simply stood by with a justifiably arrogant look on his face that said, "That's right, b!tches! My burger smokes all you fools."

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Well-earned, Mr. McClean. Well-earned.

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As is our habit, we typically steal away to a less-populated section of beach after FBI Monday, in hopes of sparing innocent beachgoers the sight of two adults who look suspiciously like hippopotamuses -- large, somewhat grey, 3/4 submerged, with nothing but two tiny ears sticking out in case someone yells, "Last call!"

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There we bumped into Paul, whom you might know from the Facebook forum as the guy who spent his last trip to Anguilla on a quest to rank all of the island's fish sandwiches. (I don't have a photo of him because he bravely approached the two hippopotomii while they were submerged.) I really wanted to like this guy, especially given his hobby of ranking foods, but he was swimming in Rendezous Bay -- not idly bobbing, but actually exerting energy and moving his limbs and everything. Other than that, though, he seemed like a really nice guy.

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Toward the end of the afternoon, the sun dipped behind a cloud, creating vibrant turquoise stripes across the water.

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Later that evening, we decided to stop by the new Four Seasons (formerly Viceroy) for a round of cocktails before dinner.

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I usually refer to the Four Seasons as "FS," but after seeing these obscene drink prices, I've decided to change that to "FFS."

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As if the prices weren't off-putting enough, we were not permitted to sit in the lounge seats of our choice -- a table surrounded by 4 low-slung chairs close to the water -- because FFS wanted to keep those open for a theoretical party of four. Even though the place wasn't full . . . and the sun had already set.

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We watched as another couple -- guests of the hotel who, as it turns out, had just arrived after a long flight and were visiting Anguilla for the first time -- were told the same thing. As they stood there bewildered, we discreetly approached and asked if they'd like to join forces. They readily agreed, so we claimed the four seats and enjoyed a lovely conversation over a round of (overpriced and tiny) drinks.

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At least Larry was smart enough to just order a beer.

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Too soon, it was time for our dinner reservation at Jacala, so we exchanged contact information with our new friends before heading off. (If you're reading this, Anne, I know that 50-page annotated Excel spreadsheet of restaurants I gave you was probably a bit overwhelming, as was my detailed PowerPoint presentation of menus, recommended dishes, and reviews. Still, if you made it through the first two dozen or so restaurants on the list during your weeklong visit, I will consider my job here to be done.)

Over at Jacala, we cozied up at a candle-lit table and prepared for what we knew would be one of the best meals of our visit.

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We started with a couple of old favorites, the creamy cucumber gazpacho with tomato sorbet for me and the tuna tartare with wakame, olive oil, and ginger, also for me (and, fine, Angel too).

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For mains, we both decided to branch out a bit, foregoing our usual pile of grilled crayfish in favor of two new-to-us dishes. Angel decided to try the evening's special of grilled swordfish with ratatouille and roasted red pepper sauce, while I took a chance that the breaded chicken with lobster and shellfish sauce would not turn out to be a strange experiment gone awry.

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I needn't have worried. The chicken was incredible -- tender, juicy, and perfectly complemented (surprise!) by the shellfish sauce, with a creamy carrot purée to round things out.

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All in all, it was a perfect meal, as usual.

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And nary a beet in sight.
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Need more Anguilla right now? Click here to read Part 4, or check out our quickie stay at Cap Juluca, which we tacked on to the end of this trip, here.

Posted by TraceyG 07:56 Archived in Anguilla Tagged anguilla jacala ferryboat_inn cheeseburgers village_bakehouse Comments (7)

Anguilla, Part 4: Fancy Meeting You Here

The next morning, we awoke at Fountain to another cloudless sky.

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We decided to spend the day at one of my favorite spots, Ocean Echo on Mead's Bay.

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It was hard not to feel welcome here when Del somehow managed to remember both of our names, even though it had been nearly a year since we'd last seen him.

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Soon a round of Rumzies beckoned, so we headed up to the restaurant for drinks and some lunch.

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After lunch, we decided to walk down to the other end of Mead's to check out the beach in front of Malliouhana.

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As lovely as this part of Mead's is, I have to admit: At Malli prices, I would not expect to have to sand-luge my way down this cliff every day.

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Later that afternoon, on our way back to Shoal Bay East, we stopped at SeaSpray Boutique to say hello to our friend Pam.

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We might also have stopped by to pick up some of her killer rum punch mix, which comes with freshly-ground nutmeg.

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Pam's boutique is chock-full of beachy jewelry, scented soaps, original artwork, and postcards.

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Oh, and the cutest selection of tropical Christmas ornaments you're likely to find anywhere, plus delicious jams and sauces from Anguilla's Jammin', which are made from locally grown ingredients.

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Back at Fountain, we enjoyed a round of rum punches, with a sunset colored to match.

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Having loved our dinner at Falcon Nest the night before, we decided to take another one of Hal and Donna's recommendations tonight. And so we set off for Ben's Pit Stop in Island Harbour.

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Formerly of Big Spring and Cafe de Paris, Ben knows his way around a baguette . . . and, apparently, a killer pizza crust.

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Much of the pizza on island is what I'd call "good for Anguilla," but it's certainly nothing to write home about -- especially if your home is in New York. But at Pit Stop, the pizza is so good that I found myself fantasizing about a "Pit Stop NYC" spinoff, which would be located across the street from my apartment and stay open 24 hours a day.

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Besides their fantastic pizza, Pit Stop offers a small menu of French classics, including what Angel described as the best escargot he's ever had . . . including all the ones he's sucked down in Paris.

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On this night, Ben's was a riot of local sights and sounds -- dogs barking, kids crying, parents yelling, engines revving, and two sloshed guys at the bar loudly debating American politics -- but that was just another reason to love it.

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The next morning was July 4.

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And what better way to celebrate 'Murica than by waking up with a food hangover, then spending the morning lazing around like a slug?

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After our swim, we decided on a return visit to Trattoria Tramonto for lunch. So far on this trip I'd had the lobster pasta at Dolce Vita, the penne arrabbiata at Tramonto, and a pepperoni pizza the night before, so I decided to do my patriotic duty and get to work on my carbs quota.

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We settled in at a table for two and ordered up a bottle of Clos Beylesse.

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But that chilled bottle of rosé was no match for the day's heat, so I left Angel at the table and headed down to the water for a quick dip while we waited for our food to arrive. As I walked by the dining pavilion, I heard someone call my name. To my complete surprise and delight, it was Nicolee and Pierre -- owners of one of our favorite villas on the island, Sweet Return.

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Nicolee and Pierre graciously invited us to join them, so we grabbed our wine and headed over to their table.

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Where they even more graciously stood by as I photographed not only my food, but theirs, too.

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We enjoyed a fabulous lunch, catching up with Nicolee since our last meet-up in New York and getting to know a bit more about Pierre. In fact, we'd probably have spent the whole afternoon chatting away, if we hadn't been suddenly and unceremoniously rained out. We said our good-byes as we dashed for our cars, and while Pierre and Nicolee headed back to the villa, Angel and I decided to check out one of Anguilla's newest resorts, The Reef by CuisinArt.

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The two-story lobby are of The Reef resembles a luxury yacht, with sleek lines, multiple "decks," and lots of polished wood.

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The hideous black box that towers over the sleek lobby, however, looks exactly like the kind of soulless office complex that you go on vacation to get away from. Just one glance at it made us both suddenly crave an alcoholic beverage, so we headed down to The Reef's beach bar, Breezes.

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There, we enjoyed a Painkiller topped with rum and nutmeg and a frothy B.B.C.

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The weather hadn't improved by that evening, so we didn't feel much like going out. Instead, we picked up a couple of rotis from the Roti Hut . . .

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Along with another one of those fabulous pizzas from Pit Stop.

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Just trying to make my quota, you know.
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Click here to read Part 5 . . . and then check back for another pre-Irma post from last May. I'm obviously way behind, so my New Year's resolution is to put down that cheeseburger and type with both hands.

Posted by TraceyG 08:28 Archived in Anguilla Tagged anguilla sweet_return trattoria_tramonto shoal_bay_east bens_pit_stop Comments (8)

Anguilla, Part 5: Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner

The next morning we decided to have lunch at Straw Hat. We were hoping for a redo, as our last meal there had unceremoniously been cut short after I poisoned Angel.

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The day was hot, and we needed cold drinks, stat.

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After perusing the menu, we decided to share a couple of appetizers -- the tuna tartare and the plaintain chips with fresh salsa -- followed by the mahi sandwich with spicy jerk aioli for Angel and a fantastic Greek salad for me. (I know, I know: Another salad. But I'm a sucker for a favorable feta-to-greens ratio and really good dressing, and Straw Hat nails it on both counts.)

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We whiled away the rest of the afternoon floating in the blue water and sipping a succession of Ti punches.

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Later that afternoon we headed over to Island Harbour to see a friend's new home, and got caught in a quick pop-up shower on the way. We decided to pop up ourselves . . . at Tropical Sunset for a couple of guavaberry coladas.

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We fell in love with guavaberry coladas on our first trip to Anguilla 20 years ago, and over the years they've become harder and harder to find. Kudos to Tropical Sunset for going old-school, especially given that guavaberries do taste vaguely of Pepto-Bismol.

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That evening was our last night, and we'd saved one of the best for last: E's Oven.

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And we'd saved one of E's best dishes for last: The famous oven-roasted chicken.

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There are worse ways to spend your last night on Anguilla than with the coconut-crusted grouper and a plate full of chicken skin pilfered from your husband.

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As usual, we tried to squeeze in as much beach time as possible before departing. And so, on our last day, we decided that we had time for one last swim before heading out. And to make it worth it, we made a beeline for Ocean Echo on Meads Bay.

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There, Del hooked us up with our last Rumzies of the trip.

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But not our last drinks of the trip.

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We even managed to work in a quick lunch.

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And the very best bon voyage treat I could have asked for.

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(Yes, that's Kraft macaroni and cheese. Yes, I saw a little kid eating it and asked our waitress if I could get some too. Yes, I am a ravenous five-year-old girl trapped in the body of a ten-year-old boy.)

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We had time for one last soak before heading back to Fountain to pack up.

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Later, as the plane took off and the island grew smaller in the distance, I thought about what a perfect celebration of milestones it had been: Angel's 50th birthday, Anguilla's 50th birthday, and our 20th anniversary of visiting the island.

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That's a heck of a lot of cheeseburgers.
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You know what else I have a heck of a lot of? Blog posts! Coming soon: A mojito-borne illness in Havana; the wrath of grapes at the Key West Food & Wine Festival; yours truly roughing it in the bush in South Africa (sans ironing board!); homemade hooch in the Hudson Valley, a birthday blowout with my sissy in Brooklyn; and another pre-Irma trip to Anguilla (remember when Seaborne lost Angel's luggage? I sure do). Check back soon, or click here to subscribe and Travellerspoint will do the checking for you!

Posted by TraceyG 06:44 Archived in Anguilla Tagged anguilla straw_hat ocean_echo es_oven Comments (11)

Cap Juluca: The Best Day of the Week is Maunday

How do you wrap up a sublime stay on an idyllic island known for its breathtaking beaches, fantastic food, and stunning scenery?

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With a stay at Belmond Cap Juluca, that's how.

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But to call it a stay is really to sell it short. Cap Juluca isn't just a stay, it's an experience.

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That experience begins when you arrive and are led through a series of Moorish arches into the stunning open-air lobby.

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The soaring white dome dotted with touches of pale blue mimics the powder-white sand and turquoise sea just beyond.

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Then again, the pedestrian "turquoise" doesn't even begin to sum it up. Is the water azure? cerulean? teal? sapphire?

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Yes, it is.

A complimentary rum punch arrives during check-in, and soon you find yourself wondering: Is the rum is getting to you, or does every single staff member you've encountered thusfar really know your name already?

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Yes, they do.

In fact, no matter the question, the answer at Cap Juluca always seems to be "yes."

Fresh fruit and cheese awaiting us in our room? Yes.

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An icy bottle of Côtes-du-Rhône to accompany it? Yes.

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A beachfront villa with a view of a sea so blue that it doesn't look real? Yes.

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And a private solarium where one can sunbathe au naturel should the mood strike? Oh, yesssss.

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Indeed, the only down side to all this pampering is how easy it is to get used to. And so, when you return to the real world and your boss inexplicably fails to address you as "Mrs." and doesn't pull out your desk chair for you and neglects to bring you a rum punch while you draft that memo, you can start to feel rather slighted.

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We'd already been on island for nine days when I surprised Angel with a short stay at Cap Juluca to wrap up his birthday celebration. I wasn't sure he'd appreciate having to pack, unpack, and then re-pack in order to move hotels, but it turned out I had nothing to worry about: When we first arrived on the island, an immigration officer noticed the repeat visits on our passports and asked Angel what his favorite beach was. Expecting him to mull it over before answering, I was stunned when Angel responded, without even a split second's hesitation, "Maundays Bay."

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The man has good taste. Named the number-one best beach resort in the world by Andrew Harper’s luxury travel magazine The Hideaway Report in 2013 and again in 2016, and one of the ten best beach hotels in the world by Coastal Living magazine in 2015, Cap's claim to fame is a pristine, secluded stretch of white sand and crystal-clear water, punctuated only by loungers, umbrellas, and serenity.

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I mean, New Yorkers rarely smile as it is, let alone like this.

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We didn't have much time to spare, so after settling in at the room, we sunk our feet into that floury sand and took a swim before lunch.

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Eventually we tore ourselves away, but only because food was waiting.

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We snagged a front-row table at the beachfront Blue, where Angel perused the menu while I continued to nurse my rum punch from check-in. This, of course, did not go unnoticed by our server, who immediately inquired, "Would you like some more ice for your drink, Mrs. Gonzalez?"

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Why, yes. Yes I would.

And maybe a Junior Special with Bailey's, coconut, banana, and nutmeg to wash it down.

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I know that pita bread and bikinis make for bloaty bedfellows, but the lobster salad with lemon vinaigrette was calling my name, and who was I to ignore it?

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Angel ordered more sensibly, deciding on the "deconstructed" Caesar salad topped with a spicy Serrano chili frico.

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And we both kicked things off with the cool, refreshing honeydew cucumber gazpacho with shrimp salsa.

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The service at lunch had been impeccable -- warm and friendly, but also professional -- but that came as no surprise, since Belmond operates some of the world's poshest hotels (the five-star La Samanna in St. Martin), restaurants (the famous "21" Club in New York City), and even trains (the Orient-Express!), with Cap Juluca being the most recent addition to its collection.

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After lunch we ignored the advice of mothers everywhere and catapulted ourselves straight into the water for a swim.

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By late afternoon we were ready for another cocktail, but this is Cap Juluca: They certainly won't be stopping by your lounger every so often to see if you'd like anything (wouldn't want to disturb you), and you certainly won't be getting up to get it yourself (wouldn't want you to even have to stand up, let alone walk 10 paces to the beach bar).

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And so you simply reach up and send out a distress signal, and a server appears with a menu and a smile.

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We stopped by the pool on our way back from the beach.

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Though we both agreed that the pool is lovely, it is also about as useful as a screen door on a submarine when the world's largest swimming pool is just outside.

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That evening we had reservations at Pimms.

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My reputation apparently precedes me, as we were thrilled to learn that the resort had graciously arranged for us to enjoy a complimentary tasting menu.

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Widely regarded as one of the most romantic restaurants in the Caribbean, Pimms is set directly over the water at the west end of Maundays Bay, affording a front-row seat to the waves below as well as a panoramic view of the bay.

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The resort's new chef, Gabriel Kolofon, was born in Argentina and most recently cooked in Riviera Maya, Mexico, bringing a beachy vibe to Pimms and a little Latin flair to the lounge at Spice.

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We were over the moon when Chef Gabriel came out to consult with us on the tasting menu, offering recommendations and suggesting that we go off-menu for a course or two so that he could introduce us to a few of his favorite dishes from Spice as well. He even arranged for us to receive our own dish for each course so we could share our thoughts, but not our food. (Like I said . . . my reputation precedes me.)

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We settled in with a favorite bottle of wine -- the excellent Clos Beylesse "blue bottle" rosé -- and spent a few giddy minutes speculating as to what surprises might be on their way from the kitchen.

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The first was a conch fritter with spicy aioli, followed by cool, refreshing watermelon and feta salad with pickled onions, slivered almonds, arugula, and an anise-watermelon vinaigrette.

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Next, a creamy butternut squash risotto with calamari and aged parmesan appeared. If you're thinking that calamari and butternut squash make for an odd couple, let me assure you that they are actually having a hot, steamy affair.

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The next course took us off-menu: A fantastic, crispy-skinned pan-seared snapper atop a sweet potato-couscous mash, accompanied by a rich, creamy sweet potato puree that could have been an entrée all by itself.

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We'd devoured three courses plus an amuse-bouche thus far (leaving absolutely nothing, save for the carrot tops from the snapper dish) and apparently Chef Gabriel knows a couple of gourmands when he sees them. (As with most words, "glutton" sounds so much nicer in French, n'est pas?) And so, out came an Angus beef tenderloin with smoked truffle potato mash and tiny ceviche'd mushrooms . . . followed by a lemon-lime sorbet in Proscecco . . . followed by a plate of chocolatey baked goods . . . followed by dessert.

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The tenderloin was bathed in the most decadent sauce I think I've ever had -- a creamy truffle foie gras sauce so sinfully delicious that we could probably call off the war on drugs if they'd just bottle this stuff up and give it away.

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The desserts were magically tailor-made for our individual tastes: A velvety vanilla creme brûlée with blackberry and raspberry sauce, gelled raspberries, and a crunchy vanilla cookie crumble (for me) . . .

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. . . and a chocolate soufflé with vanilla bean ice cream, plus ginger biscotti and a tart sauce of strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries to balance the sweetness of the soufflé's warm, gooey center (for Angel).

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It had been the meal of a lifetime: Four courses of sheer perfection -- plus conch fritters, plus the sorbet and Prosecco, plus the tiny cakes, plus an icy bottle of our favorite rosé -- all tailored to our specific tastes by one of the most thoughtful and talented chefs we've ever had the pleasure of meeting.

Even if all of our chatting and photographing did mean that we lost a little bit of that vanilla-bean ice cream along the way.

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We made our way back to the villa, guided by a full moon illuminating the night sky.

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Back in our room, the small hurricane we'd left behind in our scramble to make our dinner reservation on time had miraculously disappeared: Our clothes were folded into neat little piles, our shoes were paired off and stowed away, the lights had been dimmed, yards of mosquito netting were draped over the perfectly-turned-down bed, and a citronella candle glowed softly in a corner.

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And as if the entire setup couldn't get any more romantic, we had just snuggled under the sheets when a light rain began to fall, pattering softly against the wooden hurricane shutters and lulling us into a deep, blissful slumber.

The next morning we bounded out of bed with one thing on our minds. No, not bacon . . . or, rather, not just bacon. We needed another swim in Maundays Bay.

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Breakfast is complimentary at Blue for guests of the resort, so we secured a beachfront table, then took at a peek at the offerings.

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In addition to baked goods, smoked salmon, and assorted yogurts and cereals, there's hot food (eggs, sausage, and the aforementioned bacon), along with an omelet station.

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Although I'd declined an iced tea from our server earlier, I changed my mind and went up to the buffet to grab one. I found the tea, along with glasses and straws, but didn't see any ice. I must have been wearing a confused expression because, literally within seconds, I heard someone stage-whisper, "So-and-so! HELP Mrs. Gonzalez, please!"

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As with the other pampering Cap offers its guests, this kind of treatment, too, has set unrealistic expectations at home, where I now expect to have every single thing I want at the exact second I want it . . . and Angel now expects that sooner or later, he is going to have to shoot me.

After breakfast, we made a beeline back to the beach for one last swim in that glorious water.

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That's when we noticed that a ground sea had rolled in while we were at breakfast, bringing with it a few tiny pieces of seaweed.

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I was tempted to ask the staff if someone could come out and pluck it out of the water by hand, but figured I'd better not.

I knew the answer would be "yes."
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Posted by TraceyG 07:34 Archived in Anguilla Tagged beaches maundays_bay cap_juluca pimms belmond british_west_indies Comments (11)

Anguilla, Stage 1: A Marvelous Night for a Swoondance

You have probably heard of the five stages of grief -- denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance -- which some psychologists believe can be used to describe the feelings you may experience when a loved one passes. On our most recent trip to Anguilla, we discovered that these same stages can also apply to your Anguilla vacation.

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1. Denial. The first stage of your Anguilla vacation often begins with denial, which is the brain's way of dealing with the unexpected. Denial typically begins as soon as you arrive at your hotel or villa. Common thoughts or exclamations may include, "I can't believe we're actually here!" "Check out that water -- it doesn't look real!" and "I don't believe that anyone could make a cheeseburger this good without crack."

2. Anger. During this stage, lashing out at your own stupidity is to be expected. "Why the hell don't I live here?!" "That guy on the beach cleans fish guts for a living -- some people have all the luck!" and "Why didn't I become a deckhand instead of going to law school?! Idiot!!"

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3. Bargaining. Bargaining may be done with the higher power of your choice, or with your spouse. "Please please PLEASE can't we move here???" "I promise I'll give up drinking/smoking/spending all our money on Lotto tickets/flossing my teeth in front of you if you just let me stay here forever." and "I will never nag you to clean the garage again if you just buy me this beach house (because it doesn't have one)."

4. Depression. This stage usually sets in on the morning of your last full day, with peak sadness reached when you arrive at the airport or ferry terminal. Symptoms include agitation, feelings of hopelessness, weight gain, and excessive drinking (the literature notes a marked preference for rum-based libations).

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5. Acceptance. The majority of people manage to put off entering this last stage for as long as possible. For most, acceptance is achieved with a defeated sigh when the plane door closes or the ferry departs, though in some cases acceptance may be delayed until disembarkment in St. Martin or San Juan. In rare cases, acceptance is achieved only when the grieving vacationers attempt to maneuver their car into their driveway, which is covered in three feet of snow.

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For our third visit in thirteen months (said the spoiled brat), the stages began as scheduled. We arrived on island and made the short drive from the airport to Moondance Villa, a stunning new property near Long Pond Bay, where we immediately entered the denial phase: We don't really get to stay here, do we?!

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That's because, when we weren't even looking, this gorgeous villa fell right into our laps. It was brand-new, had a view to die for . . . and was not yet on the rental market. Since no one had stayed in it before, the villa manager (the lovely Catherine at Anguilla Villa Company) asked if we'd mind reporting any issues or problems, no matter how insignificant, so they could be rectified before high season started. In other words, we were to be the Moondance guinea pigs.

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Well, it sure beats selling your plasma.

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We thought it might be hard to top that view, but the interior of the house was just as lovely. Wraparound sliders provided unobstructed views, lots of light, and let in a constant cool breeze. The furnishings were covered in luxurious fabrics in tropical shades of coral and turquoise. And there was so much space that we could have done cartwheels through the main living area, if we both weren't at the age where breaking a hip is our second-greatest fear. (Number one is that Ferryboat Inn will take out a restraining order against us.)

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Indeed, the house seemed to be tailor-made for two New Yorkers: It was private and remote, with huge closets, huge bathrooms, and a huge kitchen that we'd never, ever use.

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At the back of the house was TV room with cushy, oversized couches, which were perfect for relaxing after a long day of lying in a lounge chair.

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We don't usually watch TV on vacation, but one night after dinner we decided to start binge-watching "Making a Murderer." We made it through two episodes before Angel determined that me screaming at the screen so vehemently had only two possible outcomes -- me suffering death by heart attack, or the TV suffering death by flip-flop -- and put a stop to it.

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And did I mention the jewelry drawer in the master suite? Swoooon.

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After a quick tour of our digs, we dropped our luggage upstairs and immediately set out to stock the place, which meant a couple of cans of Pringles, a liter of rum punch mix from the smoothie shop at SeaSpray Boutique, and an oil drum full of rum to get us through the week.

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Most of the wares at SeaSpray are hand-made, and as usual, we spent an inordinate amount of time in the charming shop picking out an assortment of magnets, seashells, soaps, jewelry, and items depicting all manner of goats.

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Pam at SeaSpray took great care of us, even throwing in a few free limes and some nutmeg to go with our punch.

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On every trip we've made to Anguilla since 1997, we've dropped our luggage inside the front door as soon as we arrive, stripped off our clothes and changed into swimsuits, and raced headlong to the beach for an arrival day swim. But Moondance was already exerting its inexplicable hold on us, as we arrived back at the house to drop off our supplies . . . and decided not to leave.

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Instead, we noshed on the generous platter of cheese, crackers, nuts, and grapes that Catherine had kindly left for us, sipped our homemade rum punches, and simply gazed in silence at the wild sea crashing against the rocks at Long Pond Bay. (As the villa's designated guinea pigs, we also tried to come up with a single negative that we could report back to Catherine, but failed miserably.)

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That evening we realized that we'd have to leave the house if wanted anything more substantial than crackers for dinner, so we headed off for Picante in the West End.

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Picante is one of those feel-good places that isn't going to win any awards for its nouvelle cuisine, isn't going to fold your napkin into the shape of a swan while you're powdering your nose in the ladies' room, and isn't going to offer your handbag its own little stool for the evening.

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But they also aren't going to require you to auction off a kidney to pay the bill, make you feel guilty for polishing off an entire casserole dish full of melted cheese, or raise a not-so-subtle eyebrow when you order that third margarita, and those things count for more than any fancy-pants finger bowl ever could.

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One of the specials that night was a basil mojito, which our server promised he would take back if it wasn't to our liking.

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Eventually we did ask him to take it back . . . and refill the empty glass with another one. (Ditto for that strawberry margarita I had.)

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As usual, I ordered the seafood enchiladas, which are filled with tender chunks of crab, prawn, and lobster, and come smothered in so much melted cheese that there could be a rolled-up Mexican flag under there instead of an enchilada and I'd eat it anyway.

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Angel has always shied away from the enchiladas, presumably because he knows that when I can't stop raving about a particular dish, it is sure to be filled with enough fat and cholesterol to strike him dead on the spot. But on this night he came over to the dark side and ordered them, too.

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When we returned to Moondance after dinner, we discovered what hadn't been completely apparent in the daylight: The house stood virtually alone under blanket of stars. There didn't seem to be another soul around for as far as the eye could see; the only sound to be heard was the crashing of the surf in the distance. Although we found the isolation a bit unnerving that first night, we quickly fell in love with the seclusion of our own little slice of moonlit heaven.

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The next morning we packed up our beach bag and headed over to Rendezvous Bay. RBH has a special place in our hearts since it's the first place we ever stayed on island, and although we've spent many late afternoons lounging on one of the daybeds at The Place, it had never made our list for lunch.

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We dropped our things on "our" daybed, then settled in at a table on the deck for lunch.

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It only took Angel two days to realize that I'd been color-coordinating our attire. Tee-hee.

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For lunch, we kept things simple with a couple of blackened fish sandwiches and a round of frosty piña coladas swirled with fresh nutmeg.

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The rest of the afternoon was spent alternating between lounging in the shade on the couch, bobbing in the turquoise water, and playing coconut football on the beach.

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Of course, we didn't really toss around that coconut. That would be too much like exercise.

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Back at the house, we rinsed off the salt with a quick dip in the pool, then cleaned up for dinner at Sarjai's.

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Housed in the old Lucy's space, I was admittedly skeptical that anything at Sarjai's could top Lucy's deliciously crunchy fried snapper filets.

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Still, the steak au poivre with curry fries sounded delicious, so a Pinot Noir by the glass on the menu caught my eye and I asked for a little taste.

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A very little taste.

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We began our meal with the spicy tuna tartare drizzled with soy sauce and olive oil, followed by the aforementioned steak for me and the much-touted coconut shrimp with Malibu pineapple sauce for Angel.

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So many things in life don't live up to the hype -- New Coke, Y2K, 99.9% of storms called "Snowmaggedon" -- but happily, Sarjai's coconut shrimp is not one of them.

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Back at the villa, we took another dip in the moonlit pool before calling it a day.

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And that's when I knew we'd transitioned out of the denial phase. We really were back on our favorite little chunk of limestone, Moondance really was a little piece of paradise, and we really did have seven more days of eating, drinking, and lazing around in front of us. That's at least 33 more meals!
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Click here to read Part 2!

Posted by TraceyG 05:35 Archived in Anguilla Tagged seaspray picante rendezvous_bay moondance_villa the_place sarjais Comments (14)

Anguilla, Stage 2: There's a Sucker Born Every Minute

The next day, we awoke in the comfortable cloud of our king-sized bed, having slept more hours in the past night that we typically sleep in an entire week. We flung open the drapes and were greeted by another picture-perfect day.

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We listened to the waves crash on the beach. We watched the clouds settle on St. Martin's mountaintops in the distance. We luxuriated in the solitude of just a handful of neighbors. (In New York City, a place without neighbors is called Connecticut.)

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We showered -- in an open glass shower large enough to hold our NYC apartment in its entirety -- then floated downstairs to lounge by the pool while lazily batting ideas back and forth as to how to spend the day. (Okay, you know that's a little white lie. Our agenda had been planned, in daily 15-minute increments, for at least the past 8 months.)

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As we contemplated nothing more strenuous for the day than deciding who would get up to fetch the next round of rum punches, the next stage of Anguilla Vacation Grief, anger, began to worm its way in: What kind of suckers were we anyway, with our stupid jobs and our stupid mortgages and our stupid student loans? Why on earth have we tethered ourselves to those annoying iPhones and iPads? Who even needs material goods, when you could live in a shack on the beach and scavenge for your dinner every night? This is how we were meant to be living, dammit: Jobless, homeless, and almost certainly dinner-less. Where had we gone wrong?!?

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We pondered these unanswerable questions as we made the short drive over to Elodia's on Shoal Bay East.

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There, we sprinted for the loungers at the farthest end of the beach, away from the madding crowds.

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For lunch, I feasted on chicken nuggets, while Angel ordered off the adult menu.

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Some people like to bring their own salad dressing when they go out to eat. I like to bring my own nutmeg.

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We spent the rest of the afternoon in deep contemplation of our pathetic workaday existences.

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Back at the villa, we cleaned up for dinner, hoping to drown our sorrows with a round of sunset cocktails at the Viceroy (now the Four Seasons) beforehand.

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The Sunset Lounge is modern and sophisticated, with a cocktail list to match.

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Our bartender muddled the limes for Angel's ginger-vanilla mojito and my caipiroska with gusto, and when I admired her handiwork, she invited me behind the bar to hang out and take some pictures.

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Obviously I was too busy stuffing limes and liquor bottles into my pockets to really focus on the photos.

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For dinner, we had reservations at Veya, a sexy tropical treehouse perched among swaying palm fronds.

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We'd carefully planned the day and time of our reservation to finally catch Omari Banks' acoustic set. Earlier that week, however, we learned that Omari was going to be in Trinidad for a benefit concert, and so we would miss him yet again.

Upon arrival, we were led to a table at the front of the restaurant, overlooking the Mezze lounge and the empty stage.

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Accustomed to being tucked away at one of the tables at the back of the restaurant where I can snap photos with relative abandon, we quickly realized that if we remained up front, we weren't going to see Omari, but we likely were going to see the disapproving stares of the surrounding diners when I started shooting. Not wanting to annoy anyone with the camera, Angel found Jerry and discreetly asked if we could be moved to a more isolated table in the back instead.

Have you ever opened your mouth and stuck not only your foot in it, but most of your calf, too? It turns out that Jerry, who is familiar with this blog(!), knew we'd be taking lots of photos and gave us the best seats in the house on purpose so we'd have a front-row seat for Omari, who had unexpectedly arrived back on island just in time to perform that evening.

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Open mouth, insert entire leg.

And while it's open, you might as well also toss in Veya's mind-blowing banana bread and Johnny cakes.

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We devoured the bread basket in short order, which was a big mistake since we then had nothing to dunk in the extraordinary yellow-pepper soup that the chef presented as an amuse-bouche.

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We couldn't decide between the Vietnamese-style fried calamari with nuoc cham and the conch fritters with a chili-lime aioli . . . so we didn't.

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Angel picked an old favorite for his main course, the grilled jerk tuna with a rum-coffee glaze, caramelized pineapple, and fried plantains.

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I went with something more unusual, at least for me: The tagine mahi-mahi with mashed plantains and cilantro-almond pesto. That might not sound so unusual, but I am one of those people for whom cilantro tastes like soap. (Fun fact: Most cilantro-haters possess a shared group of olfactory receptor genes that pick up on the smell of aldehyde chemicals, which are found in both cilantro . . . and soap. Translation: We're not crazy!) But this is Veya, where the magician in the kitchen, Jerry's lovely wife Carrie, can make even an ingredient that I normally loathe taste so good that not only can I tolerate it . . . I will choose it and happily devour it. (God only knows what that woman could do with a beet.)

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The evening was absolutely perfect: Fantastic food, great company, and a front-row seat for Omari's performance.

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And just when we thought it couldn't get any better, Jerry stopped by our table to chat, and to deliver this:

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That is a dragon fruit, fresh from the garden of one of Veya's servers. Indigenous to Central America, dragon fruit comes from several cactus species, and its succulent stem provides the fruit with moisture in the arid climates where it grows -- like Anguilla.

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Despite its Technicolor flesh, the fruit is extremely mild and reminiscent of kiwi.

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There might also have been a bottle of Champagne for dessert. You know how those restaurant people roll.

The next morning we awoke feeling great, which is not normally the case after Champagne, but can be the case if you accompany that bottle with enough food to create a sizable stomach-sponge.

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It was another day of glorious weather, so we decided to spend it at Ocean Echo on Meads Bay.

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It was well before noon and we had the place to ourselves, so we dropped our things on the nearest loungers and jumped straight into the water.

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Eventually the smell of food wafted our way, so we dragged ourselves up the beach for lunch, which turned out to be the excellent coconut curry shrimp with pineapple, along with the Asian stir fry with jasmine rice.

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After lunch we decided to fight it out over who'd get the last sip of the Ocean Sand Lemonade.

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Obviously, I won.

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Back at the villa, I took a quick shower, threw my hair into a messy bun, sprinted to the car, and gunned it over to my favorite spot on the island, Ferryboat Inn. As you can see, I was just a tiny bit excited about the burger bacchanal to come.

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Now, I have raved about the FBI cheeseburger in numerous posts on this blog, have waxed poetic about it on various online forums, and have even published handy how-to instructions for newbies here. But what I have not done is compose a proper Ode to The Ferryboat Cheeseburger. I think it might be time.

Oh Ferryboat burger, how do I love thee
With a rum punch in hand and a view of the sea.

Other burgers abound, but you are The One
Ground beefy perfection on a sesame-seed bun.

You're juicy and cheesy and too good to share
Ask for a bite? Angel won't even dare.

Delightful Marjorie and Christian preside over the place
Just don't interrupt me while I'm stuffing my face.

Oh Ferryboat burger, nothing in this world is so fine
If you
still haven't had one, you're no friend of mine.

Obviously, this can be set to music as well. There's even an awkward happy dance.

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Ferryboat had undergone a mini-renovation since our last visit, with new tables and chairs and a fresh coat of cheery, lime-green paint.

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After admiring their freshened-up digs, we got caught up with Marjorie and Christian at the bar while waiting for our burgers to arrive.

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As soon as they did, it was like one of those raucous party scenes in a movie where the parents come home and, all of a sudden, everything comes to a screeching halt and the room goes totally silent except for one drunk guy burping just off-camera.

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We'd no sooner finished our burgers and were heading home when -- irony of ironies -- we happened upon these two.

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I would have sworn it was just a coincidence . . . until I heard the big one say, "Hey, lady! Stop looking at my kid like that."
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Click here to read Part 3!

Posted by TraceyG 06:03 Archived in Anguilla Tagged viceroy ferryboat_inn elodias ocean_echo moondance veya omari_banks Comments (14)

Anguilla, Stage 3: Pick Your Poison

The next morning I bounded out of bed at 5:20 a.m., a feat that I could accomplish back home only if the house was on fire (and even then it is doubtful). Naturally, Angel was still asleep, so I tiptoed to the other bedroom to take in the glorious sunrise.

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5:30 a.m.: Maybe I'll head outside to poke around in the gardens for a bit.

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5:45 a.m.: Time to lift up Angel's eyelids to see if he's awake yet. No dice.

5:50 a.m.: Back to the balcony to soak up the sea breeze.

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5:58 a.m.: Doing nothing is boring. Happily, it suddenly occurred to me that the balcony would be the perfect spot for Angel to enjoy a cup of coffee when he woke up. And so I headed downstairs to do battle with that coffee-making contraption I'd seen earlier.

I don't drink coffee, so I don't really know how to work a coffee maker. But how hard could it be? I confirmed that I had coffee, sugar, and cream, then added the grounds to the filter, filled the chamber with water, and flipped the switch.

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After a few short minutes, success! The machine began to gurgle, and out came what looked and smelled like coffee. I triumphantly patted myself on the back as I poured a cup for Angel and delivered it to him in bed.

He was delighted by the coffee (though less so by the 6:15 a.m. wake-up call), and spent the rest of the morning sipping his coffee poolside as we discussed our plans for the day.

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We decided to do a little shopping that morning, with stops at Irie Life and a new favorite, Limin' Boutique.

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Ken and his cute-as-a-button wife Renee run Limin', while Renee pulls double duty by also modeling the bright, beachy wares that line the walls.

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After our spree, we drove up to Island Harbour to have lunch at Elite, which is not new but was new to us. We'd heard good things, and even if we hadn't, you know I'd drive to the ends of the earth for some gnocchi.

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It turns out that Elite is sweet and secluded and makes a mean focaccia, too.

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If that isn't enough to get you up to Island Harbour, then maybe the view is.

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We began the meal by sharing the shrimp panzanella salad, which came with croutons made from more of that fabulous focaccia, then moved on to the penne arrabiata in a spicy red pepper sauce for Angel (with just a smidgen of cheese), and the gnocchi for me.

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After lunch we lazed around for a bit, then decided to head over to Scilly Cay, since it had been 19 years since we'd last been there.

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Nineteen years, and I am pretty sure we are still nursing a hangover from that visit, courtesy of Eudoxie's deadly rum punch.

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Nineteen years, and we discovered that we've actually grown up a bit since then. What used to be great fun -- drunk folks lolling about in the water, awkwardly attempting to slap each other five and yelling, "WOOOO!" -- was now annoying to our old-folks sensibilities. And so we stole away to a couple of hidden loungers, sipped our rum punches, took a quick dip in the water, and caught the next boat back to Island Harbour, all before you could drunkenly holler, "Dude . . . watch this!"

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When we returned to Moondance that evening, Angel wasn't feeling well, and we racked our brains to see if he'd eaten something that I hadn't. (Not that it would have mattered much -- my stomach is made of cast iron.) But we'd shared an appetizer and tried each other's entrees at lunch, had ordered all the same drinks at both Elite and Scilly Cay, so we were stumped as to the cause.

That's because by that time, I'd forgotten all about that coffee I'd made for Angel earlier that morning, and of course so had he. In fact, it wasn't until his insides revolted with such vehemence that they couldn't even pick just one orifice from which to expel that coffee (and everything else in his stomach) that I realized what I'd done: Without even thinking, I'd filled the coffee pot that morning with tap water. And not just your run-of-the-mill Caribbean tap water, but tap water that had been languishing in the pipes of a house that had been unoccupied for weeks prior to our stay.

Looking back, I guess I should have known that something was amiss . . .

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At least he knew I didn't do it on purpose. There's no way I'd poison him in Anguilla and ruin my vacation.

By the time our dinner reservation at Straw Hat rolled around, Angel was in full-blown digestive distress, and it was clear that he was in no shape to go out. I picked up the phone to cancel, but before I could get through, Angel hauled himself off the sofa and insisted that he could make it. (I didn't believe him, of course, and when he actually volunteered to pose for some photos, I knew he'd gone plum delirious.)

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If you are new to the island and wondering if you should add Straw Hat to your list of dinner reservations, consider this: If you are suffering from all five symptoms in a Pepto-Bismol commercial at the same time and still want to go out to dinner because "It's Straw Hat!!," that's a pretty good sign that this place is worth your while.

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He staggered into the place like a man on his last legs and slumped into his seat at the table, where he looked like this . . .

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. . . but probably felt like this.

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Our table was ridiculously romantic: Right on the edge of the sea, illuminated by string lights and candles, with the sound of the surf and some reggae music floating on the light breeze.

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I didn't think Angel would be able to eat much, but that didn't mean his half would go to waste. And so we ordered up the lobster spring rolls to "share," followed by the lobster mac & cheese with gruyere and parmesan sauce for me, along with a mild-sounding melon-mojito snapper for Patient Zero.

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Angel took approximately two bites of that snapper before he turned green, and so we explained to our server, as politely and discreetly as we could, that we'd be taking the meal to go (though not before I inhaled that entire order of spring rolls as an act of good faith).

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The lovely Doris quickly noticed that we were leaving early and inquired as to whether everything was okay. We assured her that both the food and the setting were perfect, but unfortunately Angel hadn't been feeling well. At that she sprang into action, filling a to-go container with bitters and seeing us off with the utmost care and concern.

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For his part, Angel was the consummate professional, still shouting out photography tips as he crawled to the car gripping his belly.

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We got him home, tucked him into bed, and made sure he was on the side closest to the bathroom. And that's when I realized I'd entered Stage 3 of Anguilla Vacation Grief: Bargaining.

Dear Lord, please let him feel better so I can work in a second cheeseburger.
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Click here to read Part 4!

Posted by TraceyG 05:21 Archived in Anguilla Tagged elite irie_life straw_hat moondance scilly_cay limin_boutique Comments (13)

Anguilla, Stage 4: Doing a Little Moonlighting

Another day, another spectacular sunrise. Angel was still sick, so I let him sleep until 6:30 this time.

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We spent most of the morning at the pool, not wanting to head off to the beach until we could judge Angel's condition.

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Here he is praying for one more cheeseburger.

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We had to share the pool with a visitor, but he didn't drink much, so we didn't mind.

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Unfortunately Angel still wasn't feeling well as the morning progressed, and neither Pepto-Bismol, nor ginger-ale, nor bitters, nor even rum had done the trick. We figured we had nothing to lose by getting him a big bowl of rice to soak up the remaining poison, so we set off for Ocean Echo for some stir-fry.

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There, Angel managed to smile his way through a swim at Mead's, but when the water looks like this, you'd probably find yourself beaming even if the grim reaper was standing on shore just waiting for you to get pruney.

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Our man Delacroix took great care of us, making sure my glass of boozy lemonade remained filled and chilled.

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The rice helped settle Angel's stomach a bit, and we both managed a short but sublime period of pure, unadulterated joy.

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By that evening, however, Angel was back to feeling pretty awful, and Stage 4 of Anguilla Vacation Grief, depression, was starting to set in. Not only did we have just three days left, but at the rate we were going, we were going to spend all three of them not at the beach, but in bed (Angel) or at the pharmacy (me). Worse still, we were going to spend all three of them cheeseburger-less. (You know things are bad when the person who is dying of dysentery is actually less upset than the one who didn't get her second cheeseburger.)

That night we stayed in for dinner, since Angel wasn't eating much anyway and resting up would do him some good.

We agreed that I would set the table and prepare the wine while Angel made a quick run over to CeBlue to pick up a couple of pizzas. (Yes, we sent poor, sick Angel out instead of me. Do you really think that pizza would actually make it back to the house if I picked it up?)

We'd had lunch at CeBlue on our previous trip, and the brick-oven pizzas had been divine -- charred, chewy dough with bubbly, blistered edges and a variety of fresh toppings.

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This time, however, we were disappointed: Instead of brick-oven pizza, we ended up with two rounds of cardboard topped with some sauce. Luckily we still had enough lobster from that Straw Hat mac & cheese to salvage them.

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The pizza might have a been a letdown, but the evening itself was positively magical: A full moon danced off the nearby waves, bathing the pool and patio in shimmering moonlight. We soaked up the spectacular surroundings, trying to imprint them on our memories forever, as we sipped our wine, dangled our feet in the pool, gazed at the glowing moon, and counted our many blessings.

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By the next morning, I was getting desperate to make sure Angel enjoyed his last few days of our vacation, despite the fact that he probably should have been enjoying a stay at Princess Alexandra. And so we set off for a morning swim at his favorite beach, Maundays Bay.

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I continued my campaign ("Make Angel Great Again") by then whisking him off to CuisinArt, where I figured that if his favorite drink on the island couldn't cure him, nothing could.

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We kept our lunches on the light side to avoid riling up Angel's insides any more than necessary.

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We spent the rest of the day back at the villa, Angel alternating between napping in the cool AC and joining me at the pool.

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Happily, by that evening Angel felt well enough to go out again, and so we got dressed and popped over one of our favorite spots on the island, E's Oven.

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Have you been to Anguilla more than a few times, but still haven't been to E's? Look, I know you love dining on the water. It's breezy and beachy and romantic. But you can't see the waves at night anyway, and even if you could, there is no sight -- day or night -- more glorious than E's coconut-crusted grouper with banana-rum sauce atop a bed of curried beans.

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The grilled red hind amuse-bouche and spiny lobster spring rolls with orange-chili sauce are no slouches, either.

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And because Angel wasn't feeling well enough to finish his grouper, somebody got to have the leftovers.

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We still have 36 hours left, and that's plenty of time for meatballs, BBQ, lobster pasta, chicken roti, and even some old-school guavaberry coladas. Click here to read Part 5!

Posted by TraceyG 04:44 Archived in Anguilla Tagged cuisinart cap_juluca e's_oven moondance_villa ocean_echo Comments (8)

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