A Travellerspoint blog

Anguilla Part 4: Make Beer, Not Bombs

32 °F

During our visit we got to chatting with a new friend on the island, photographer Susan Croft, who mentioned that her friend Karen owns a villa called La Petite Maison D’Amour, and that it might be a nice place for us to stay next time we are on island. The housekeeper, Pam, should be there, and she will let us in.

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So Susan emails us directions, and they are excellent . . . except that we are directionally challenged and still can’t find the house. As we bump along, we spy a man outside doing some gardening, dripping sweat in the mid-morning heat. He is wearing a soaked-through Chocolat t-shirt, and I recognize that he is the beloved Captain Rollins.

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I wait in the passenger seat while Angel gets out of the car to see if Rollins might be able to help us with directions. Mangling the pronunciation of the villa name beyond nearly all recognition, we ask Rollins if he knows where La Petite Maison d’Amour is. Never heard of it, he says.

We try pronouncing it again, this time with a little more, er, je ne sais quoi. Still nothing. We recite the directions we’ve been given and Rollins ponders for a moment.

Peering down the road, Rollins points and asks, “See that road down there, to the left?” Yes, we respond excitedly, thinking we're finally about to be directed to the house. “Ain’t a goddamn thing down there!” he laughs heartily. “You got a map?” Again we respond yes, and Angel hands it over for Rollins’ inspection. Rollins unfolds it and starts chuckling. “A friend of mine made this map,” he says. That’s great, we respond. “Not really,” he laughs. “It’s all bullshit!” He threatens to have a few beers one day and tell the map-maker how he really feels.

“What’s the name of the house again?” he asks, studying the apparently useless map. La Petite Maison d’Amour, we respond in an accent that sounds more like Pepe LePew every time we attempt it. “Ain’t never heard of that,” he says. “Maybe it’s down near Karen’s house?” Karen! That’s it! That’s the owner of the house, I explain.

Rollins peers into the car at me for a long moment. “Hmph. She got all the information, but she keepin’ silent. Be careful, my man!" he chuckles to Angel. He begins to direct us to Karen’s house, then stops midsentence and disappears. A few seconds later, he’s back – in a truck. “Follow me,” he hollers out the window. “We're going to KAREN’S house!”

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With Rollins leading the way, we finally find the house, and it’s adorable.

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A car is parked in the lot; it must be Pam the housekeeper’s. So we knock on a few doors and call her name. Nothing. We call her name some more, but still nothing. We see some laundry hanging outside to dry, and hear someone inside, so we knock on the door once more.

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Finally, the front door opens.

It’s not Pam.

Instead, a dead ringer for the actor Ron Livingston steps outside, rubbing his eyes. He is barefoot and unshaven and wearing a slept-in t-shirt that reads, “Make Beer, Not Bombs.” Clearly this is one bomb he was not expecting.

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“You’re not Pam,” I observe shrewdly. Um, no, he responds. “Pam’s your housekeeper,” I offer helpfully, as though that might explain what the hell we are doing there. He nods. We stare stupidly at each other for a moment, Angel and I tripping over ourselves to explain why we are pounding on the door of his villa at 10:30 in the morning, and him desperately trying to understand how his vacation has suddenly taken such a wrong turn. Amid a flurry of apologies, Angel and I slink away, and our Ron Livingston-look-alike presumably goes home and tells everyone about the crazy couple who tried to break into his villa one morning.

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Obviously this day needed to end with some tequila, so for dinner we headed over to a restaurant called Picante, A Caribbean Taquiera, which is also a Caribbean Overachiever. This restaurant could probably get by with serving just passable food, given that it is bright, cheerful, friendly, and not terribly expensive -- and the only Mexican place on the island. But Picante is more than just passable. It is fantastic.

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These are their seafood enchiladas. They are rich, creamy, delicious, and extremely filling. Anyone who can eat both enchiladas and the rice & beans is a better, and probably rounder, woman than I.

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We finished off the meal with something called "frozen lemon-lime pudding," which was served with a little shaker of cayenne pepper. It was cold, creamy, sweet, and tart, like a cross between sherbet and creme brulee. Hello, lover.

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Posted by TraceyG 09:40 Archived in Anguilla Comments (3)

Anguilla Part 3: Prickly Heat and Anacondas

32 °F

On Wednesday we decided to take Shoal Bay Scuba's snorkeling trip to Prickly Pear island and Little Bay. We arrived at Shoal Bay East a bit early for some, uh, provisions at Gwen's.

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Because we were having lunch later at Prickly Pear, we did our best to ignore this guy, but eventually the smell proved too much and Angel distracted him while I stuffed my pockets full of ribs.

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Then it was on to Shoal Bay, a pretty nice little strip of sand.

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Taking our rum punches to go, we headed over to Shoal Bay Scuba, which is where things started to go downhill for me, heat-wise. I generally love hot, humid weather, but I knew from an earlier check of Accuweather that, between the actual temperature and the humidity, it is about 185 degrees outside, and the air is dead calm. So I’m quickly reaching Situation Critical, and gratefully step into the shade of Shoal Bay Scuba’s little hut. THEIR EVIL LITTLE HELL HUT. That @#$% hut has managed to trap all of the heat and all of the humidity and intensify it about a million times over.

As you can see, I am not being dramatic at all.

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I am dying to jump in the water to cool off, but we have to fill out the paperwork for the trip, so I scrawl my name on the form and leave a sweaty handprint on it for good measure. Angel urges me to drink something, so I chug the remaining rum punch and focus on not passing out, since I don't want to not be allowed on the boat, and I really don't want to be cut off from any future rum punches.

Luckily, I hear that splotchy cheeks brought on by heat exhaustion are all the rage this season.

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Thankfully I was able to make a speedy recovery, and the boat set off. Ta-ta, Hell Hut.

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The highlight of the day was the snorkeling, which was like something out of an undersea documentary. At Little Bay we saw enormous schools of tiny blue and silver fish, as well as several big guys like this one:

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Oh, you had a hard time seeing him there? Exactly. It's all part of his people-eating plan.

When we asked what these large fish might be, our boat captain replied that they were probably tarpon. Later in the week we saw another large fish (off the GB Express boat to St. Maarten), asked what it was, and received the same reply: "Probably tarpon." I am starting to suspect that this is a catch-all term for any large, unidentifiable fish. The big fish that tried to eat Richard Dreyfus in that Steven Spielberg movie? Tarpon. What's really in a fish stick? Also tarpon.

After a full day of snorkeling, it was time to refuel with some carbs. I can’t go more than a few days without pasta before developing an unsightly twitch, and we hadn’t been to Luna Rosa in a few years, so when I started to get a little twitchy, we decided to give them a try. A number of memorable firsts occurred at this meal.

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It was, for instance, the first time anyone ever served me more Parmigiano-Reggiano than I could actually eat. Well played, Luna Rosa. Well played.

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It was also the first time I ever had gnocchi as both an appetizer (with gorgonzola cream sauce) and as an entrée (with bolognese sauce) at the same meal. If these were ordinary gnocchi, I might agree that a belly full of sinkers is not such a great idea. But these gnocchi were floaty little pillows of light and air and happiness. And perhaps just a smidge of ricotta.

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It was also the first time that I ever thought I might not be able to finish a meal because I was just too damn hot. Me, not finish a meal? Never fear. This thing saved my life. Thank you, high-powered AC.

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The next day we headed over to La Sirena for lunch. Or rather, Sirena Resort, as it is now called. Or Anacaona, as it will soon be called in print but not on the lips of anyone with pronunciation issues. Renaming a resort on a tropical island with a moniker that looks suspiciously like “anaconda” is one gutsy move.

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This little guy joined us for lunch.

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And no, I did not step on his tail to get him to make that face.

We like L'Anaconda for lunch because it's peaceful, the food is good, and that cat will eat whatever you can't finish.

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Plus, he is perfectly accessorized to match my hat and bag.

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The next day we had lunch at Blue, at the stunning Cap Juluca.

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As this photo might indicate, I couldn’t believe they took the Greek salad off the menu. It's been replaced with a tomato and mozzarella salad, which I ordered instead. It was good -- as is everything at Cap -- but be prepared for a whole lotta mozzarella sweat when it's this hot outside.

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Luckily the rest of the food was made with either rum or frying oil, which means that we liked it very much.

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Earlier our bartender had mentioned that the resort was packed. She wasn't kidding: Again with the crowds!

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On our way out, we saw this guy making himself rather, er, comfortable. I got the hell out of there before he could prop his foot up on the table and start clipping his toenails.

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Speaking of random strangers, later in the week we saw this guy having breakfast at Kuyah. Don’t worry, I kept a close eye on him to make sure he didn’t try to use his pen as a laser gun or turn his cell phone into a getaway car.

Do not underestimate him, Mr. Bond.
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Posted by TraceyG 18:12 Archived in Anguilla Comments (0)

Anguilla Part 2: Lucy's Sleep-It-Off Special

32 °F

The day started off cloudy with some rain showers, so we decided to spend the morning stocking up on snacks. The hunt for three particular items took us to three different grocery stores, which might lead you to believe that the grocery stores in Anguilla are not very well-stocked. But stocked they are, with all sorts of interesting things.

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I know what you're thinking: Just how popular are soy chunks to warrant their own aisle? Why have I never tried a tropical soy chunk smoothie, or the island grilled soy chunks? I must be eating at all the wrong places.

One of the right places to eat is at Lucy's, where, despite the lack of soy chunks on the menu, the food is quite delicious.

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At Lucy’s we shared a crab fritter appetizer, followed by two orders of the snapper from the dinner menu, which is a salty, garlicky, fried fillet so good that apparently I couldn't even pause to take a photo before digging in.

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Right as the appetizer came, Ronnie Bryan showed up -- we’d called earlier to let him know that the trunk on our rental car wasn’t closing properly. (You know it's a small island when someone can track you down at lunch in the space of about two hours.) While Angel chatted with Ronnie in the parking lot, I of course ate the entire crab fritter appetizer. Later, when Lucy brought out our entrees and noticed that Angel was still out talking to Ronnie, she swiftly took his plate back into the kitchen “so you don’t eat it all!” As if I would do that . . . twice.

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Lucy has been working on a new special drink, which is approximately 1 oz. of lime juice, 1 oz. of mango puree, 1 oz. of amaretto, and 48 oz. of rum. Either that or our eyes are this squinty all the time.

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After passing out napping for the entire afternoon, we were still too exhausted from the Lucy’s Foodapalooza to do much for dinner, so we drove over to Corner Bar for some pizza. As you know, the laws of physics dictate that no matter how stuffed you are, you can always eat a slice of pizza.

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The next day was bright and sunny, which could only mean one thing: Rendezvous Bay.

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Later that evening was Blanchard's for dinner, which is where the rich and famous hang out when they visit Anguilla, and the poor and infamous get to wait 20 minutes for a table . . . even with a reservation. Not that I am bitter or anything.

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Blanchard's is known for its "Cracked Coconut" dessert, which is a chocolate shell dusted with toasted coconut and filled with coconut ice cream. It was very tasty, but not even a giant ball of coconut-shaped chocolate can make up for the good-but-not-great food and $200 tab. Boo.

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The next day we drove across the island to Shoal Bay East, with a quick stop in Island Harbour.

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Remember when you were a kid and you thought a watermelon would grow in your stomach if you swallowed a watermelon seed? Caribbean kids must be terrified of coconuts.

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Shoal Bay is gorgeous, but do not be fooled.

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First of all, there are tiny, curious tropical fish here, which will swim around your calves when you enter the water. I personally find this sweet and charming, and could watch them dart around my feet all day. But Angel, who is a powerful magnet for sand fleas, gnats, mosquitos, rabid dogs, and virtually every other loathsome creature in existence, does not agree. “Those legless bastards are trying to get me,” he explained, exiting the water. I laughed and asked why a fish the size of an anchovy might want to get him. “Because I am tender and tasty,” he answered. Of course.

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The second reason to be on your guard at Shoal Bay is that a large stingray lives here. That in itself is not so terrifying, until you realize that he is cleverly disguised to look exactly like a part of the reef. God help us all.

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Posted by TraceyG 05:59 Archived in Anguilla Comments (1)

Anguilla Part 1: Bored to Tears (of Joy)

It Is Good To Do Nothing, and Then To Rest

32 °F

So . . . Anguilla. Trying to explain to someone why we love this scrubby little chunk of limestone is sort of like trying to convince someone that it might be really fun to sit around and watch paint dry. On paper, it doesn't exactly sound like a barrel of laughs:

No nightclubs.

No casinos.

No jet-skis.

No quaint villages to explore or lush mountains to gaze at.

No duty-free shopping.

No fun.

Well, but Anguilla does have this:

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And this:

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And this:

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This was our sixth trip to Anguilla in the last 12 years, and this time more than ever, we were struck by the number of changes on the island. More hotels. More villas. Road signs, for God's sake. Call me a purist, but I remember the old signs working out just fine:

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Also, the crowds were overwhelming. I mean, just look at them all:

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Frankly, I don't know how we stood it, but I'm pretty sure these helped.

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Our first order of business was to attend "Sunshine Saturday" at Smokey's at the Cove. Sunshine Saturday consists of enjoying a delicious lunch of fresh-caught seafood, sipping tropical drinks, listening to some live reggae, and swimming in the incredible blue-green waters of Cove Bay. I know: Bor-ing!

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On each visit to the island we've stayed somewhere new, and this time it was Carimar, a small resort on Mead's Bay where you can read a book, soak up some sun, take a swim, or just do nothing at all. Yawn.

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Dinner on our first night was at SandBar, a lovely new addition to Sandy Ground.

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We had the panko-crusted shrimp with sweet chili and Anguillian tamarind; the lemongrass chicken satay with coconut-peanut sauce; and the tuna tartare with cucumber. Doesn’t that all sound delicious? Wouldn’t you like to see photos?

Well, so would I . . . but miniature bites of food disappear faster than a shutter click around me and Angel, so how about some nice photos of Sandy Ground instead?

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The next day we had lunch at CuisinArt, a lovely resort named after a handy kitchen appliance.

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I hate to be ungrateful, but if you're going to offer me a smoothie shot before my meal, let's be civil and add some vodka, shall we?

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Although they have a full lunch menu, we always stick with the salad offerings, given that all of their vegetables are grown on the premises in their automatic, systematic, hyyyyydromatic, hydroponic garden.

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More importantly, we always have the frozen mojitos, which are very tiny, but very, very delicious. So imagine our surprise and delight when this adult-sized version showed up instead.

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Sadly, these mojitos were different from the usual blend. Angel thought they’d added too much mint, but I suspected they were adding a different herb (no, not that herb) . . . basil, maybe? Look, I appreciate culinary experimentation as much as the next guy, but please: Don't mess with the mojitos, man.

Dinner that night was E’s Oven, one of our favorites despite the double entendre that the name had for many years before they installed the air conditioner. This time I branched out from my usual fish dish and ordered a steak, which came with a gigantic serving of creamy, cheesy au gratin potatoes.

All Hail the Great Potato Brick!

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Angel had the coconut-crusted grouper with banana sauce and curried potatoes. It, too, was delicious, and large enough for two normal people, or one Angel.

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Angel also ordered the pea soup, which was a cross between a traditional split pea soup and some sort of bisque. It was so good that I immediately made plans to order it for dessert, though those plans were unfortunately foiled by my own gluttony. Damn Potato Brick.

The following day we drove over to Crocus Bay to check out Da’Vida, whose motto is “Celebrate Life.”

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A couple of Type-A New Yorkers, smiling and relaxed? Maybe Da'Vida needs to change its motto to Celebrate Miracles.

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On top of the cool decor and incredible views, Da'Vida's food is a knockout, too, served by a sweet staff whose pride in the place really shines through. And whose restraint in not gobbling up every delicious thing they serve before it can make it to the table is commendable.

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That night we decided on a low-key dinner at Ferryboat Inn. I will have more to say about their much-talked-about burger in an upcoming section of this report, but for now this maniacal grin will have to suffice to explain how good it was.

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Posted by TraceyG 05:40 Archived in Anguilla Comments (5)

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