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Anguilla

Anguilla, Pt. 1: Like Peas In a Pod

If you have to undertake a recon mission, Anguilla is a pretty good place to do it.

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So when I finally convinced my sister and her husband to join us for their first-ever trip to Anguilla (after what we both agree was 20+ years of non-stop nagging), I knew a recon mission was in order. It had been 6 long months since our last visit, but it was only 6 short months until theirs. And so someone had to come down ahead of time to make sure the resorts were still open and the beaches were still there and the cheeseburgers still tasted the same . . . right???

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And as luck would have it, generous friends stepped in to make our unexpected trip less of a burden, offering up not just free places to stay, but places with warm hospitality and spectacular views and private swimming pools. And so Mission: Newbies was born.

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We made our way to the west end of the island, where a friend had invited us to stay at her beloved home, Octagon Villa, in her absence -- a bold move if ever there was one. I mean, knowing that I've walked into others' homes uninvited and critiqued their decor, what might I do with an actual invitation: Commandeer an entire bedroom just for my shoe collection? Bolt ironing boards to the floor in every room? Not just raid the fridge, but strap the thing to my back and carry it home?

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It turns out I did none of those things, but only because it took the entire duration of our stay for me to learn the layout of the house. That's because, true to its name, Octagon Villa is a gated compound of eight individual pods surrounding a large, private swimming pool, with each free-standing pod containing one room of the house.

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This unique layout is absolutely perfect for those travelling with kids or with another couple, since the amount of privacy is unsurpassed. It's also perfect for folks like me who love indoor-outdoor living, as even moving from the kitchen to the living room affords a quick trip outside. (And the walkways are covered, for folks like me who are allergic to rain.) If, however, also like me, you hear the phrase, "Your other left" with alarming frequency, it may take a little getting used to, as my days were spent something like this:

Me: Think I'll go to the kitchen for a diet Coke.
Me (opening door to Pod 1): Whoops. Living room.
Me (opening door to Pod 2): Shoot. Master bedroom.
Me (opening door to Pod 3 and giving the washing machine the side-eye): Dammit! You know, I'm not really thirsty after all.

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Angel, whose sense of direction is superb, of course had a field day with this, calling out "In the bedroom!" every time I yelled for him, then giggling as I made my rounds of every room in the house before finally finding (and vowing to strangle) him.

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Having settled in after an early-morning arrival, we set off for the one thing I actually can find: Ferryboat Inn.

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There, we planned to meet up with Rob and Julie, who had become fast friends after they spent nearly a week helping us look for my ring on our last trip; now, they'd agreed to spend an afternoon admiring my new bling and watching me gobble down cheeseburgers. Gluttons for punishment, I tell you.

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They even played hide-and-seek with us.

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By the time lunch was over, I was a little tipsy, a lot stuffed, and my face hurt from laughing so hard, so we decided to spend the balance of the afternoon doing nothing more than hanging around the villa. There, we discovered a bunch of other features to love, including a pool so private you could go au naturel in it (not that I would do such a thing -- ahem), a panoramic view of Shoal Bay West from the roof deck, and one of the lushest gardens I've ever seen in Anguilla.

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It even had a chicken. In a tree.

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I know it's hard to top a chicken in a tree, but Octagon also has three ginormous bedrooms, each of which is roughly the size of an airplane hangar.

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Indeed, the rooms were so large and comfortable that eventually I gave up trying to find the other pods, since each bedroom already had everything I needed: A huge attached bathroom, a flat-screen TV, and a color-coordinated mini fridge and coffee maker.

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In fact, Octagon is stocked as though the Zombie Apocalypse -- or my Boy Scout husband -- is coming any minute: Virtually everything in the house comes in triplicate, quadruplicate, and more, from coolers to candles, blenders to bottled water, dinnerware to dry goods . . . you could be happily holed up here for years and never run out of anything.

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But the outside world beckoned, and so we set off for a late afternoon visit to the Dune Preserve.

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Dune Preserve reminds me of the tree houses and pirate ships we used to play on as kids, with the welcome addition of alcohol.

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Before we knew it, we were enjoying a spectacular sunset at Rendezvous.

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The day had gotten away from us, so we raced back to the villa for a quick change of clothes, then set off for dinner at E's Oven.

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Back at Octagon, we took a quick dip in the pool, then headed off to bed.

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And it only took me two tries to find my bedroom.

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CLICK HERE to read Part 2!

Posted by TraceyG 05:44 Archived in Anguilla Tagged ferryboat_inn e's_oven octagon dune_preserve Comments (8)

Anguilla, Pt. 2: A Fashion Emergency

We decided to spend the next day at Ocean Echo.

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The day was windy and the waves were bigger than we are used to, but it was too cold for these big babies anyway (March . . . brr!), so we spent most of the day occupying ourselves with other pursuits.

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This poor guy. He never knew how close I came to grabbing that pizza and making a run for it.

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That evening our friends Diana and Carl had invited us over for cocktails and snacks at their place on Barnes Bay.

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Diana is always impeccably dressed like a chic Parisian woman and Carl looks roughly 20 years younger than his actual age, but for some reason we really like them anyway.

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In addition, they were fabulous hosts, even kindly arranging to cap off our visit with this spectacular sunset.

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We had already made separate dinner plans, so Angel and I headed over to nearby Picante to get our faces melted off.

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We tried a few new things on this trip -- Theron's spicy chili, the grilled chipotle prawn burrito, a basil mojito -- as well as Old Faithful, the seafood enchiladas.

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The next morning, a disaster of unprecedented proportions befell us: Due to a fender-bender near Four Seasons, the power went out.

No power meant no iron, and no iron meant that I had to scare up an outfit that didn't look like it had been balled up and shoved into the bottom of a hamper (or, you know, into a suitcase too small by half). By some miracle I'd hung up the dress I'd worn to Ferryboat, and so I suffered through the ultimate indignity -- not only did I have to be seen in public in a dress that hadn't been freshly ironed, but I had to be seen in public in a dress I'd just worn two days earlier.

Decked out in my vêtements vulgaires, we headed over to Cap Juluca, where I hoped that my messy bun and artfully rumpled dress gave off an air of "too rich to care," rather than "I just showered in a swimming pool and am wearing yesterday's clothes . . . again."

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Oh, did I not mention that no power also meant no water pump for showers? Thank heavens for that very private swimming pool.

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Luckily most folks at Cap are too busy looking at the stunning beach and stylish renovation to notice a fashion faux pas.

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Or they just dismissed me as some weird picture-taking blogger . . .

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Or that nitwit who went for a swim in the decorative pool. Whichever.

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Renovated Cap has several new restaurants, including an updated Pimms, a poolside cafe, the casual, waterfront Cip's, and the Cap Shack beach bar.

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Eventually we headed back to the villa to see if the power had been restored, and sweet baby Jesus, I was saved! I happily headed out to lunch in a clean, freshly-ironed dress.

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Clad, at long last, in clean pressed clothes, we made the short trip across the salt pond for lunch at a longtime favorite, Tratttoria Tramonto.

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At our usual corner table, we tucked into penne with basil pesto; a wild boar prosciutto panini with parmigiano, arugula, and white truffle oil; and the most gorgeous tomatoes I think I've ever seen (or tasted).

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After lunch, we alternated among reading, napping, swimming, and sipping.

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And, you know, ironing everything left in my suitcase . . . just in case.

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CLICK HERE to read Part 3!

Posted by TraceyG 06:15 Archived in Anguilla Tagged anguilla picante cap_juluca ocean_echo trattoria_tramonto Comments (7)

Anguilla, Pt. 3: Duck, Duck, Truce

That evening, it was time to clean up for happy hour with friends at the new Quintessence.

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Q is lovely, with a private, tropical mansion feel and stunning artwork at every turn.

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Indeed, Q's web site states, "Built stone by stone over a 10-year period, this fortress includes priceless Haitian art and antiques, all selected by famed owner Geoffrey Fieger." One can only hope to be so rich as to need to build a fortress, er, resort to house one's priceless art collection.

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But all of that paled in comparison to the FREE MEATBALLS at happy hour, which gives FREE BACON happy hour a run for its money.

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With meatballs on the brain, there was only one place to go for dinner: Dolce Vita.

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We decided on our "usuals" -- the spicy seafood pasta and the pillowy gnocchi -- but when the dishes arrived, I was disappointed to see that they looked a bit smaller than usual.

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That's because, unbeknownst to me, Abbi had planned a veritable feast for us . . . and the pasta dishes were just the appetizer.

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That's right, an entire duck. Roasted to crispy-skinned perfection and served with an a l'orange sauce prepared tableside that was so good I was tempted to chug it right out of the gravy boat.

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We tried to finish two bowls of pasta and an entire duck and the tiramisu, but even I knew when it was finally time to surrender. And so a smiling JoJo enjoyed the leftovers.

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Also smiling? This handsome little guy at the next table, Luciano, who charmed all of us with those big eyes and sweet smile.

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The next morning was moving day (or, more accurately after our indulgences at Dolce Vita, moving slowly day). We took in a final sunrise before departing Octagon.

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We were eastbound for Periwinkle Villa by the Sea, a lovely villa tucked away in Island Harbour. Because the friends who own this villa are sweet and charming and generous, I think the less I say about them the better, lest they discover that way lower-maintenance and less-gluttonous guests than the likes of me and Angel would also love to arrive on island to views like these . . .

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. . . and to homemade biscotti on their pillow.

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Periwinkle is cleverly designed with three levels, each of which houses, well, an entire house. We stayed on the middle level, which kept us close to our hosts but also afforded each couple plenty of privacy.

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We enjoyed a gorgeous sunset together before setting off for dinner.

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Have you eaten at Ben's yet? If not, then not only are you missing out on the island's best pizza, but you're also missing the chance to completely carb out by adding a side of cheesy au gratin potatoes.

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Plus there's the fun you'll have trying to wrap your head around the fact that Ben's food rivals that found in any Michelin-starred restaurant in Paris . . . but in a no-walls shack with an outhouse.

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After dinner we popped over to Lime Keel for a nightcap.

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Lime Keel may be tiny, but with a whopping four shots of rum per glass, their drinks are not.

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Maybe they should have named this place Lime Keel Over?

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CLICK HERE to read Part 4!

Posted by TraceyG 06:05 Archived in Anguilla Tagged dolce_vita bens_pitstop lime_keel quintessence Comments (8)

Anguilla Pt. 4: Let's Flamingle

We awoke the next morning at Periwinkle to the sound of the sea.

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It didn't take long to settle into a routine: Angel would join our hosts upstairs for coffee and that heavenly biscotti, while I was left to get ready in peace with my own walk-in closet and ironing board and full-length mirror, the latter two having been procured just for me. I told you our hosts were sweet and charming and generous.

Once Angel had eaten his own body weight in biscotti, we set off for Elodia's to enjoy the day.

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At lunch, we were joined by this sweet boy, who clearly wasn't trying at all to make us buy him a steak.

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Despite those puppy-dog eyes, I didn't buy him a steak. Though I did make him up a little doggie bag. Heh-heh.

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That evening we had plans to meet up with our local friend Catherine, along with another local, Jacqueline, who knows me from this blog, as well as Jacqueline's sister Patricia, who was visiting from the States. Having never met Jacqueline or Patricia, I chose the outdoor lounge at Zemi, thinking that if my bubbly personality was not enough to entertain them, some actual bubbly might be.

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Catherine was the first to arrive, giving us a chance to talk real estate -- she manages the excellent Anguilla Villa Company -- before the others showed up.

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Catherine, Jacqueline, and myself share a love of all things flamingo, and the two generously gifted me with flamingo-themed bags AND let me borrow these fabulous flamingo sunglasses, which I am STILL kicking myself for not pilfering -- especially since they would have so easily fit into one of my new bags.

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Eventually, though, we got the gong, and it was time to go.

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We were already on the east end, so we took advantage by having dinner at Artisan Pizza Napoletana.

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Baked to perfection in Artisan's authentic Neapolitan oven, the pizzas were light and chewy and delicious.

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But the highlight of our meal was the fabulous gelato, in mouthwatering flavors like Parmesan, Snickers and cream, and my personal favorite, charcoal coconut, which was like a nutty toasted marshmallow.

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The next day we hung around the house for a bit before heading over to Mead's Bay, stopping to make some friends along the way.

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We decided on lunch at Ocean Echo, which I love as much for its stellar location as its willingness to make me a bowl of Kraft macaroni and cheese.

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We stopped at Pam's for a rum punch on the way home, where we realized that this is probably where Lime Keel got the idea to make a rum punch that is 80% rum and 100% punch.

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That evening we had plans to meet up with an old friend, Paula, who'd brought a bunch of newbies along for a girls trip. We kicked things off with cocktails and cats at CuisinArt.

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We've always loved CuisinArt for its stylish blue and white decor with those bright pops of yellow, so the renovation was a huge disappointment -- the dark jewel tones are out of place in a tropical climate, and the cheesy colored lights would be out of place anywhere.

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It turns out both Paula and I had planned to have dinner at FBI that night -- meat-obsessed minds think alike -- and so it made sense for all of us to dine together.

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The next day we took a leisurely drive through Island Harbour and the Valley on our way to the west end.

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We were headed back to Trattoria Tramonto for lunch, but (gasp!) not for pasta. Or, rather, not just pasta.

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We arrived a little early, so we enjoyed a rum punch on the beach before lunch.

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We'd returned to Tramonto to try the famous burger, generously topped with a big, beautiful blob of mozzarella and parmesan cheese, and it certainly didn't disappoint.

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That evening we had dinner plans with friends Hal and Donna at Veya.

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As always, the food was incredible, particularly the butter-poached lobster with spinach risotto and crispy parsnips, which is possibly the only dish you'll ever order where the vegetables can compete with a lobster.

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Stuffed as we were, we somehow made room for dessert -- a buttery bananas Foster that Donna whipped up in about 10 minutes flat, filling the house with the smell of vanilla and flambéed rum and caramelized bananas, and filling our bellies with a little spoonful of heaven.

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The next day, another treat: Two of the island's best rum punches for the road.

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Or, you know, the water. Blue, blue water.

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Where to next? Roughing it in the bush in South Africa (sans ironing board!); celebrating a birthday in Brooklyn with my sissy (at a food festival -- where else!?); running down an off-the-menu cast iron butter burger in the Hudson Valley; and a return trip to Anguilla, this time with newbies in tow. Subscribe here and you'll be notified when a new post goes up!

Just want to know what we're eating and drinking in the meantime? Follow this blog on Instagram here: @escape.from.new.york

Posted by TraceyG 06:09 Archived in Anguilla Tagged cuisinart artisan elodias ocean_echo Comments (4)

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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Click here to read Part 2, or click here to subscribe and you'll receive an email whenever a new post goes up.

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)

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