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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, Stage 5: Accept the Things You Cannot Change

The next day Angel was feeling even better than the night before -- well enough, in fact, to re-heat the last of his E's Oven leftovers and swat me away when I volunteered to act as his royal taster to make sure he wasn't being poisoned (again).

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It was our last full day on island, so we set a brisk pace to make sure we could include everything we wanted to do.

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As you can see.

As lunchtime drew near, we set off for Tropical Sunsets, where we knew they'd make us an off-the-menu guavaberry colada. Both the color and the taste of a guavaberry colada are a bit reminiscent of Pepto-Bismol, and Tropical Sunsets has comfy loungers, so we decided that this visit was actually part of Angel's treatment plan: He would take his "medicine" and spend the day resting.

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Angel ordered a simple turkey club, while I decided that if I wasn't going to get another Ferryboat cheeseburger on this trip, then I was going to drown my sorrows in BBQ sauce.

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Incredibly, even though Angel was feeling better than he had in days, he still managed to have a near brush with death, this time thanks to a stealthy toothpick hidden in his sandwich, which he almost swallowed.

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The rest of the day passed much as the ones before it: Swim, rest, repeat.

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I even managed to get some exercise, walking all the way down to Gwen's for one of her super-sized rum punches.

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It was our final night on island, and we were going to Dolce Vita, come hell or high water or hospitalization.

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It was Dolce Vita's last night before closing for the season, and while Angel had warned me that they would probably be out of many of their regular menu items, I was secretly hoping that in an effort to get rid of every single thing in the kitchen, we'd be asked to "pitch in" and devour plate after plate of gnocchi and lasagna and risotto until it was all gone.

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We settled in at our usual table (is there any bigger thrill than being able to say you have a "regular" table at Dolce Vita?!), then put in an order for two glasses of wine and the tuna tartare.

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Angel was feeling better, but still not 100%, so he ordered a side of meatballs as his entrée. I've taught him well, y'all.

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As it turns out, Angel was right about the menu, so I had to settle for the lobster pasta in pink sauce being served with shrimp instead. Oh, the sacrifices.

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Our flight wasn't scheduled to leave until early afternoon, so the next morning we found time for one last swim at Shoal Bay before packing our bags.

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As we bobbed in the water and buried our feet in the powdery sand, I felt the evil tentacles of Stage 5 of Anguilla Vacation Grief, acceptance, begin to wrap themselves around me. The clock was ticking, and soon -- whether we accepted it or not -- we'd have to board the plane and head home. And so we made the most of our last few minutes.

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(Did you know there is actually a word for this? We can thank our German friends for torschlusspanik, which refers to that panicky sensation of time running out.)

When we arrived at the airport, we learned that our flight was delayed by an hour, giving us time for a quick lunch and postponing the acceptance process by another 60 minutes. The Roti Hut is just down the road, so it seemed like the perfect spot to grab a bite and still make it back to the airport in time for our flight.

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Now, I don't know if it's because I am dressed in street clothes, or because the breeze inexplicably dies down, or because the temperature somehow shoots up by 25 degrees, but every time we head to the airport after a trip to the tropics, it is always the hottest day of the entire trip, unbearably hot, and I invariably develop a bad case of THTDH ("The Heat is Too Damn Hot"). (Angel suspects that I fake overheating just to avoid carrying my own luggage. I don't, but I will keep that idea in my back pocket for when it's time to do laundry or take out the trash.) And so it was at the Roti Hut -- a place with less air circulation than a hermetically sealed space capsule -- that a most severe case of THTDH set in and I nearly passed out in a pool of my own sweat.

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I fanned myself with the menu. Angel pursed his lips and blew cool air on me. Finally I gave up and chugged a bottle of Heineken, then ordered a second one to serve as a cold compress for my sweaty forehead.

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Right as I was on the verge of heatstroke, the roti arrived and I managed to perk back up. That's because what Roti Hut lacks in ambiance and AC, it makes up for with the roti: They were soft, pillowy, just-spicy-enough, and loaded with perfectly fork-tender chicken and veggies.

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Too soon, it was time to head back to the airport. As we unloaded our bags from the trunk and bid farewell to our sand-covered rental car, I began to accept my fate and allowed Angel to drag me to the gate.

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It wasn't easy, but chugging that Heinie at the Roti Hut definitely helped.

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Angel recovered from his stomach bug; I recovered from my heatstroke right after Angel carried my luggage into the airport; and soon it was on to the next trip! Come along for a butterball turkey bomb in the Hudson Valley, a "best of" tour of the City of Gluttony Love, a freaky-tiki good time on Anna Maria Island, a fritter-eating contest in the Conch Republic (the smart money's on yours truly!), and one very hoppin' hula hut in the Hamptons. Oh, and that luggage-less trip to Anguilla! Click here to subscribe and you'll receive an email from Travellerspoint when a new post goes up.

Can't wait that long? Follow me on Instagram @escape.from.new.york to see what we're eating and drinking in the meantime!

Posted by TraceyG 07:08 Archived in Anguilla Tagged dolce_vita shoal_bay roti-hut tropical_sunsets Comments (8)

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

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

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

It wasn't.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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And you know Abbi checks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The food ain't too shabby, either.

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

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You can even get your daily serving of fruit here.

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

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And, as it turned out, hordes of people.

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Just look at them all!

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

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Oh, the humanity!

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

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The noise was deafening.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Circa 1999

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

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

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Okay, fine, there was a sunset, too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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