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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, 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. 8: Sunset at the Shack

The next morning we took a leisurely ride up to Shoal Bay for a morning swim before the day got too busy.

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The local sights along the way seemed color-coordinated to match the Shoal Bay's ethereal blues.

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We continued along until the stunning bay came into view.

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As is our custom, we dropped our beach bag in the sand without breaking stride, shedding shoes and clothes as we dashed headlong into the crystal-clear water.

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When our fingertips became pruney, we dragged ourselves to shore, then made a quick pit stop back at Sweet Return to rinse the salt off.

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We then popped across the street for lunch at Café Med at CuisinArt.

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We love many things about CuisinArt, including the elegant open-air lobby, the tropical blue-and-yellow color scheme, and the large, sunny pool.

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But we really love the frozen mojitos.

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Some of us, a little too much.

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We chose a table near the pool, sipping our minty concoctions as we perused the menu.

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CuisinArt grows its own vegetables in its hydroponic garden, so crisp greens were the way to go. I decided on the Greek salad with Little Gem lettuces, tomatoes, cucumbers, and tangy feta cheese, all dressed with a house-made red wine vinaigrette.

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CuisinArt grows its own herbs, too, so Angel went with the grilled skirt steak topped with a fresh, flavorful chimichurri, served alongside a roasted half tomato and some charred asparagus.

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As we were finishing our lunch, we were lucky enough to bump into Peter and his lovely wife Anne from Straw Hat, who recognized me from this blog. I was just happy they saw me after that dainty salad had been cleared. I have a reputation to uphold, you know.

We were already at Rendezvous Bay, so we spent the afternoon floating in the warm sea and enjoying a sneak preview of the upcoming boat races.

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When we'd had our fill of sun, we cooled down with a couple of the best piña coladas on the island at Anguilla Great House.

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That evening, I'd planned an early anniversary surprise for Angel -- a private sunset dinner at the Sunshine Shack. With the help of some folks on the travel forums, I learned that Garvey had arranged a private dinner for a large group in the past, and it looked absolutely beautiful:

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And so, a few months before our arrival on island, I began an online correspondence with Garvey to lock down the day, the time, details about the menu, and, most importantly, the table setup shown in the photo. Attempting to project a laid-back, easygoing island vibe, I casually noted that if pineapples weren't available, conch shells, starfish, or other beachy decorations would do. (But you know I really wanted those little pineapples.)

Finally, the big night arrived. As we made our way down the deserted beach, I smiled to myself as Angel, unaware that anything was amiss, asked me if I was sure if Sunshine Shack was actually open.

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Based on the photo I'd sent Garvey, I could barely contain my excitement as we approached the Shack, picturing a rustic wooden table draped with a linen cloth and ringed by tiki torches in the sand. I envisioned flickering lanterns and decorative pineapples, or conch shells, or even starfish. (But hopefully those little pineapples.)

Unfortunately, we did not get pineapples, or conch shells, or starfish. We did not get tiki torches. We did not even get a table cloth.

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I was disappointed, but not for long. That's because while Garvey may not be the next Martha Stewart, he just might be the next Top Chef, or so it will seem when you get an eyeful -- and mouthful -- of the gargantuan 4 lb. lobster he serves for dinner.

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And not only was this lobster so big that it didn't even fit on our plates, but it was so perfectly marinated and grilled that we scarcely needed the melted butter it came with . . . but scarfed it down anyway, along with the rice n' peas, carroty slaw, and fresh green salad that accompanied this massive sea beast.

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And of course, because Angel had no idea what I'd been expecting, he was thrilled with the setup: A private table in the sand! A ginormous lobster! Someone else paying the bill!

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As the sun began to set, we reveled in the romantic solitude.

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By the time our plates were cleared and the bill was settled, it still wasn't much past 8pm. Not quite ready to call it a night, we decided on a whim to stop by CuisinArt for a bottle of rosé.

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After we'd each enjoyed a glass, we brought the rest of the bottle back to Sweet Return. There, we dangled our feet in the pool, basked in the warm evening breeze, and tilted our faces skyward, contemplating a vast, dark universe decorated with tiny glowing stars.

It wasn't exactly the anniversary night I had planned, but sometimes, the best-laid plans are none at all.
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There's only one more Anguilla post -- CLICK HERE -- but don't despair: There is still lots of fun to be had as we sample fritas in Key West, funnel-cake French toast in Philadelphia, a most famous meatloaf in East Hampton, mojitos in Miami, a cocktail named for you-know-who in the Hudson Valley, and more stone crab than you can shake a stick at on Anna Maria Island. And did I mention not one but TWO more trips to Anguilla??? Subscribe here to follow along!

Posted by TraceyG 05:24 Archived in Anguilla Tagged cuisinart sunshine_shack rendezvous_bay shoal_bay march_23 Comments (8)

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