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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Open mouth, insert entire leg.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Obviously, I won.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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1. Prepare Accordingly

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

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2. Plan a Diversion

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

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

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3. Take Extra Precautions

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

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4. Dress Appropriately

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

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Appropriate footwear is also recommended.

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5. Patience is a Virtue

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

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6. Assume the Position

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

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

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

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7. Rebuff All Attempts at Interruption

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

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

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8. Safety First

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

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9. Postpone the Inevitable

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

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10. Declare Victory

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

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Even Angie was happy. Look at that smile!

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

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Or two.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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At least they smiled pretty for the camera.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Not that he has any ulterior motives, of course.

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Click here for Part 7!

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

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

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

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The beach was deserted, and the water was glorious.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Oh look, my ride is here.

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

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

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But really loved the new place, too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Truly, it was like the blind leading the blind.

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

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

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

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

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Or, at least one of us did.

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

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

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

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But really, I was just thinking about cheeseburgers.

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

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

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