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Anguilla, Part 4: Fancy Meeting You Here

The next morning, we awoke at Fountain to another cloudless sky.

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We decided to spend the day at one of my favorite spots, Ocean Echo on Mead's Bay.

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It was hard not to feel welcome here when Del somehow managed to remember both of our names, even though it had been nearly a year since we'd last seen him.

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Soon a round of Rumzies beckoned, so we headed up to the restaurant for drinks and some lunch.

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After lunch, we decided to walk down to the other end of Mead's to check out the beach in front of Malliouhana.

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As lovely as this part of Mead's is, I have to admit: At Malli prices, I would not expect to have to sand-luge my way down this cliff every day.

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Later that afternoon, on our way back to Shoal Bay East, we stopped at SeaSpray Boutique to say hello to our friend Pam.

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We might also have stopped by to pick up some of her killer rum punch mix, which comes with freshly-ground nutmeg.

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Pam's boutique is chock-full of beachy jewelry, scented soaps, original artwork, and postcards.

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Oh, and the cutest selection of tropical Christmas ornaments you're likely to find anywhere, plus delicious jams and sauces from Anguilla's Jammin', which are made from locally grown ingredients.

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Back at Fountain, we enjoyed a round of rum punches, with a sunset colored to match.

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Having loved our dinner at Falcon Nest the night before, we decided to take another one of Hal and Donna's recommendations tonight. And so we set off for Ben's Pit Stop in Island Harbour.

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Formerly of Big Spring and Cafe de Paris, Ben knows his way around a baguette . . . and, apparently, a killer pizza crust.

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Much of the pizza on island is what I'd call "good for Anguilla," but it's certainly nothing to write home about -- especially if your home is in New York. But at Pit Stop, the pizza is so good that I found myself fantasizing about a "Pit Stop NYC" spinoff, which would be located across the street from my apartment and stay open 24 hours a day.

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Besides their fantastic pizza, Pit Stop offers a small menu of French classics, including what Angel described as the best escargot he's ever had . . . including all the ones he's sucked down in Paris.

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On this night, Ben's was a riot of local sights and sounds -- dogs barking, kids crying, parents yelling, engines revving, and two sloshed guys at the bar loudly debating American politics -- but that was just another reason to love it.

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The next morning was July 4.

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And what better way to celebrate 'Murica than by waking up with a food hangover, then spending the morning lazing around like a slug?

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After our swim, we decided on a return visit to Trattoria Tramonto for lunch. So far on this trip I'd had the lobster pasta at Dolce Vita, the penne arrabbiata at Tramonto, and a pepperoni pizza the night before, so I decided to do my patriotic duty and get to work on my carbs quota.

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We settled in at a table for two and ordered up a bottle of Clos Beylesse.

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But that chilled bottle of rosé was no match for the day's heat, so I left Angel at the table and headed down to the water for a quick dip while we waited for our food to arrive. As I walked by the dining pavilion, I heard someone call my name. To my complete surprise and delight, it was Nicolee and Pierre -- owners of one of our favorite villas on the island, Sweet Return.

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Nicolee and Pierre graciously invited us to join them, so we grabbed our wine and headed over to their table.

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Where they even more graciously stood by as I photographed not only my food, but theirs, too.

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We enjoyed a fabulous lunch, catching up with Nicolee since our last meet-up in New York and getting to know a bit more about Pierre. In fact, we'd probably have spent the whole afternoon chatting away, if we hadn't been suddenly and unceremoniously rained out. We said our good-byes as we dashed for our cars, and while Pierre and Nicolee headed back to the villa, Angel and I decided to check out one of Anguilla's newest resorts, The Reef by CuisinArt.

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The two-story lobby are of The Reef resembles a luxury yacht, with sleek lines, multiple "decks," and lots of polished wood.

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The hideous black box that towers over the sleek lobby, however, looks exactly like the kind of soulless office complex that you go on vacation to get away from. Just one glance at it made us both suddenly crave an alcoholic beverage, so we headed down to The Reef's beach bar, Breezes.

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There, we enjoyed a Painkiller topped with rum and nutmeg and a frothy B.B.C.

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The weather hadn't improved by that evening, so we didn't feel much like going out. Instead, we picked up a couple of rotis from the Roti Hut . . .

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Along with another one of those fabulous pizzas from Pit Stop.

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Just trying to make my quota, you know.
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Click here to read Part 5 . . . and then check back for another pre-Irma post from last May. I'm obviously way behind, so my New Year's resolution is to put down that cheeseburger and type with both hands.

Posted by TraceyG 08:28 Archived in Anguilla Tagged anguilla sweet_return trattoria_tramonto shoal_bay_east bens_pit_stop Comments (8)

A Sweet Return to Anguilla, Pt 4: Cast Away on Sandy Island

Of course, there are worse places to be stranded. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

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Our plan for the day was to have lunch at Roy's, then hop aboard "Happiness" for the short ride over to Sandy Island for an afternoon of rest, relaxation, and rum, though obviously not in that order.

We hadn't been to Roy's since they moved from Crocus Bay, so we were excited to check out their new digs on Sandy Ground.

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It didn't take long to peruse the short menu, and we ordered up a couple of tasty fish dishes -- the fish 'n' chips for me, and the mahi-mahi Creole for my spicy counterpart.

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We finished our lunch just in time for the next departure on "Happiness" and were soon on our way.

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We were then informed that the cost for the ride would be $20 per person, which is not expensive but is nevertheless a significant jump in price since our last visit to Sandy Island, which was free. (It also happened to be double the published price, which is $10 per person.) No matter. We were already under way, and I certainly wasn't going to walk the plank over a lousy $40, so we anted up.

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Unfortunately, the day was a bit too windy to fully enjoy the water, so after disembarking we headed up the beach to a scattering of sunbeds. Delighted to find all but one unoccupied, we picked the shadiest of the bunch and sat down, discussing what we should order from the bar. However, before our behinds could even warm the cushions, a Sandy Island employee was upon us, requesting yet another $25 for the privilege of sharing a sunbed (which I suppose explains the occupancy rate). We stared dumbly at him, as it slowly sunk in that we were about to be $65 in the hole, and Mama hadn't even had a drink yet.

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Of course, back home we're lucky if $65 is enough to buy breakfast, so the price wasn't really the issue. And between living in NYC and spending weekends in the Hamptons, we are used to having our pockets unmercifully picked all day, every day, by everyone from our local dry cleaner to the mercenaries who run our parking garage. (Only in New York can you leave the house in the morning with $100 in your wallet, and by lunchtime be down to your last $3. "All I did was walk to work!" is the phrase Angel and I most often text to each other, followed closely by, "I'm hungry. What's for dinner?") Still, I was galled, since what used to be "free" (if you don't count the couple hundred bucks you'll drop on food and drink here) was now starting to feel like a tourist-trappy shakedown.

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And so, before they could levy a sand tax on us or require a credit card to use the restrooms, we asked to return to Sandy Ground, figuring we could spend the remainder of the afternoon there instead. Only . . . they wouldn't take us back. "Next boat 3:30," we were told. When we asked someone else, the time was pushed back another half hour. We asked a third person, and now the boat wasn't departing until 4:30. Stranded and broke, we did the only thing we could do.

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I don't know, maybe we look like easy marks. It wouldn't be the first time we've been mistaken for people with money.

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Finally, the boat was ready to depart, and you can bet whatever's left in your wallet after an afternoon at Sandy Island that I was the first one on it.

Back at Roy's, we were treated like returning royalty, and at least half of that statement is true. And so we nabbed a couple of (free!) loungers and dug our toes into the (free!) sand and even used the (free!) rest room.

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The enjoyable afternoon melted into early evening, and we walked the beach one last time before heading back to Sweet Return.

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After cleaning up for dinner, I forced Angel to pose for a few pictures with me, which is his very favorite thing right after root canals.

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I, of course, am always a model subject.

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We then headed off to the one place on Anguilla where you're almost sure to get some bang for your buck: Picante.

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And if not, you'd never know it after a few of their potent margaritas anyway. We perused the various offerings, ultimately settling on a couple of local passion fruit margaritas. Although this thing is pulpier and seedier than an issue of the National Enquirer with a blurry photo of Sasquatch on the front, do not be put off. It's actually quite delicious.

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Naturally, I ordered the one dish that you should never leave Picante (or even Anguilla) without having: The seafood enchiladas with crab, prawn, and lobster in a creamy seafood bisque, topped with a blanket of melted cheese.

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I'm sure Angel had some food, too -- the grilled chipotle prawn burrito? -- but who can focus when there's that much cheese on those enchiladas?

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For dessert, our waiter convinced Angel to try to the flan, while I stuck with the classic Mexican chocolate pudding, accompanied by a tiny shaker of cayenne to add some heat.

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The flan and pudding may have been dessert, but in true Caribbean style, the real finale to the meal was a couple of boxes of Chiclets.

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Back at Sweet Return, we enjoyed a languid night swim before heading to bed.

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And if we happened to need some swimmies to keep us afloat after those passion fruit margaritas, well, that'll be just between us.
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Not tired of food, drink, sand, and sun yet? Click here to read Part 5!

Posted by TraceyG 05:17 Archived in Anguilla Tagged sandy_island roy's picante sweet_return feb_26 Comments (6)

A Sweet Return to Anguilla, Pt. 7: It's Like an Oven in Here

The first time we ever visited Anguilla's Little Bay, the ride was short and the boat was small, but the leap of faith was huge.

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Based on an early, primitive version of TripAdvisor called "word of mouth," we'd managed to find a man identifying himself as Calvin (last name unknown, but Gumbs or Hodge is always a good bet) hanging out under a big tree near Crocus Bay. After a short discussion, he agreed to drop us off at Little Bay and pick us up three hours later. It sounded simple, but in ye olden times, before the internet, cell phones, and instant background checks, it was akin to accepting a ride from a stranger in a rusted-out van with the windows blacked out. And so it wasn't until we watched this Calvin Gumbs-Hodge motor away, his boat getting smaller and smaller and our sense of dread looming larger and larger, that the thought occurred to us: No one else on the planet knows where we are. If Calvin should get drunk with his buddies under "de big tree," spring a leak in his boat, end up in the doghouse with his wife, or develop a sudden case of amnesia . . . not a living soul in the world would have any idea what had happened to the two of us, except that the little one had tried to eat the big one before both of their skeletons were found.

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Now, of course, Little Bay has been discovered by every private yacht, catamaran, and party boat from here to St. Martin, and you have a better chance of being marooned on Sandy Island than at Little Bay. The only saving grace is that most people like to sleep in when they're on vacation, and so we dragged ourselves out of bed as early as possible to beat the crowds.

We stepped outside and were greeted by this eight-legged leaf? flying snow pea? on the front porch steps, which is reason #1,642 why you should never, ever get up early.

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After I climbed out a window to avoid exiting via the porch, we headed over to Crocus Bay and waited for Calvin to arrive.

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I'm no Navy Seal, but even I know that it is never a good sign when your boat driver shows up armed with a roll of duct tape.

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Apparently the canoe Calvin uses to access his "real" boat had sprung a leak, and so we watched as he nonchalantly duct-taped it back together. Then, trying not to think about the spit, glue, and wadded-up Kleenex that might be holding the real boat together, we went ahead and climbed aboard.

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Calvin immediately recognized Angel's "Little Bay Boat Service" shirt, which has held up surprisingly well over the years, especially considering that Calvin admitted to giving them away to his friends once he discovered that all the lettering kept peeling off. (Ah - yet another use for duct tape.)

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Soon we rounded the bend into Little Bay, which was just as stunning as we remembered.

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We spent the better part of the morning blissfully alone, exploring the rock formations and snorkeling just offshore.

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Well, mostly alone.

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There is an old episode of "Seinfeld" where George Costanza's boss accuses him of having advance knowledge of a bomb threat called in to the office. "You know what I think?" the boss asks. "I think you knew about that bomb ahead of time, George. You climbed under that desk because you have E.S.P. What am I thinking right now? MMMEATBALLS!!!"

You may not have E.S.P., but I'm pretty sure you already know that we didn't drive all the way to the east end just to spend a few hours at Little Bay.

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Located just above Crocus Bay, CeBlue is a small complex of just eight villas carved into the mountainside, each topped with a pale blue roof to mirror the crystalline waters of Crocus Bay below.

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The Blue Bar is bright and airy, with a bird's-eye view of Crocus Bay and beyond.

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We snagged a cliffside table and a couple of Coconut Mamas, which came topped with a floater of dark rum and a dusting of freshly-grated nutmeg.

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They were like piña coladas . . . sans piña.

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Then it was on to the main event: A baking dish filled with MMMEATBALLS!, then topped with Neapolitan-style tomato sauce, ricotta cheese, fresh mozzarella, and baked to bubbly perfection in CeBlue's brick oven.

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Of course, you can't just have meatballs for lunch, so we ordered a couple of pizzas to go with them.

Angel decided on the Romana, topped with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, chicken, roasted peppers, and caramelized onions, while I stuck with a classic pepperoni.

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And the remaining meatball sauce made the perfect dipping sauce for our pizza crust.

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During my junior year of college, some friends and I decided to stay at school over Thanksgiving break and prepare our own turkey dinner. The guys next door decided to stay over break as well, so we offered to cook dinner for them, too. (We were no dummies -- they were old enough to buy booze.) And to add to the festivities, we included a Secret Santa gift exchange. As something of a joke, the person who drew my name got me a foot-long submarine sandwich, just to see if I'd actually eat it after our enormous Thanksgiving feast.

All of this is a long way of saying, if you were sure that I couldn't possibly have finished an entire pizza after those meatballs, you wouldn't be the first one to lose money on that bet.

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After lunch, we took a drive over to Shoal Bay East.

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We were already in the neighborhood, so we stopped by Serenity for some rum punch and a quick swim.

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Serenity has a lovely open-air restaurant overlooking the water, along with a funky little beach bar right on the sand.

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We spent a lazy afternoon alternating dips in the sea with sips of rum.

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Later we took yet another dip -- this one in the pool back at Sweet Return -- before cleaning up for dinner at E's Oven.

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E's is one of the unsung heroes of Anguilla's restaurant scene: Warm and friendly, with a cozy dining room, gentle prices, and food to rival some of the best restaurants on the island.

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On this night, we started with an amuse bouche of tuna crostini, followed by E's smooth, velvety pumpkin soup.

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Then it was on to the real stars of the show: E's sweet-and-spicy coconut-crusted grouper over white bean ragout for Angel, and tender chicken in a creamy mushroom sauce for me, ordered up with a side of E's cheesy potato gratin.

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We finished the meal by candlelight, sipping our wine and reflecting on what we both agreed was one of our favorite meals of the trip.

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Which is saying a lot, considering there weren't any meatballs.
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Posted by TraceyG 05:52 Archived in Anguilla Tagged serenity sweet_return e's_oven little_bay ceblue crocus_bay march_10 Comments (3)

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