01 July 2011

Anguilla: A wrap-up and some sundry information


Weather:  We loved the weather and actually would have preferred more rain since nothing feels as decadent to us as sitting out on our huge balcony during  a storm, with a book in one hand and an adult beverage in the other.  Neither my husband nor I take very much direct sun (with sunscreen on, I still get sunburned in the shade in Anguilla), especially not between the hours of 11:00-3:00, so unless I'm in a photo-taking mood, it doesn't matter much to us whether it's sunny, hazy, or cloudy.  As it turned out, after our day of arrival, which was so stormy as to cause power outages around the island, we had mostly sunny & hazy days until the last few days of our trip, which turned out to be largely overcast but breezier.  Of the five trips we've made to Anguilla, three have been in June and this trip was by far the hottest--when we drove by the new thermometer at the airport roundabout, it never registered below 88 (and in many cases was at least 90) except for the overcast day near the end.   Some days on the north shore beaches the air felt very still.  We felt it more on Meads Bay and at Sandy Ground than on Barnes, and of course Upper Shoal Bay felt like the breeziest point on the island, but even our days at Elodia's occasionally felt a little uncomfortable.
Barnes Bay with Caribella in the background
Mosquitos: These were awful for about the first week of our trip, which I attribute to a rainier-than-average  season in the weeks prior to our arrival.  They're tiny and pernicious and for some reason, much harder to swat than their New England counterparts.  I had a few dozen bites after the first couple of days and even had to resort to a DEET product instead of my preferred environmentally friendly brand.  After that, though, I didn't acquire very many new bites. 

Water: Speaking of environmentally friendly, it makes me cringe every time we have to order bottled water with our meals, knowing there is no way to recycle the plastic bottles on the island.  So you either drink the water and maintain healthy hydration or skip it and develop "cankles" due to your body's water retention.  Or maybe that's just me?!  We finally wised up to the fact that fizzy water almost always comes in glass bottles, not plastic ones, so when ordering dinner out, we nearly always opted for fizzy, despite the fact that it's usually more expensive than still water.  Because of the plastic bottle issue, we found ourselves drinking a good bit more soda than usual (aluminum cans being preferable to plastic bottles)--Ting as often as not, but also various diet sodas.  At home I'll go months without drinking a soda, so I probably drank nearly a year's worth of soda on this trip. 
Palm grove on Upper Shoal Bay
 Money: This is the first trip where we did not change any money out for EC$ before our arrival and simply gave in to convention.  It still bothers me that my country's currency seems to be in wider use than the local currency, but that's that.  On most islands, if you pay with US$, you get change back in EC$.  Anguilla is the *only* island I've visited where when paying with EC$, I received US dollars back in change.  A few places on the island are cash only, which for us meant gas stations, Gwen's, and the roadside fruit stands--and any store where the credit card machine isn't working, which for us on this trip meant the pharmacy & t-shirt store. 
Sign near Irie Life
 Travel: Getting more & more expensive, that's for sure!  With American Eagle no longer flying into AXA, we opted to fly American to SXM.  Prices were so high that  with factoring in the transfers between St. Maarten & Anguilla, it would have been comparable for us to fly into SJU and take one of the expensive commuter airlines instead.  Factor in the unpleasantness of the airport staff at SXM and the utter nightmare that immigration & customs presents in MIA, and in retrospect we would have been better off the other way.  I know a lot of people complain about transferring in SJU, but among our experiences, we highly prefer that point of entrance into the US.  In Miami, the immigration lines are convoluted and complicated and LONG.  The wait for our checked bag was an additional 20 minutes, even after having stood in line for immigration, but at least it didn't take long to clear customs.  However, that's when the nightmarish scenario started--once you leave the customs hall, you can no longer pay attention to the overhead signs, which are out-dated--since that's the case, you'd think MIA officials would cover up the signs to help eliminate the confusion, but no. That would make too much sense.   Instead, you have to know which set of colored dots on the floor to follow to re-check your bags and find your way back to security.  There was such mass confusion and not many airport personnel on hand to point the way.  (FWIW, follow the green dots out of customs to the yellow dots.  Follow the yellow dots to re-check your baggage.  Then follow the blue dots to find your way back to security. There were also red dots but I have no idea what they were for!). Let me put it this way: if our flight hadn't landed in MIA nearly 30 minutes ahead of schedule, we would have seriously run the risk of missing our connecting flight, and that was with a layover that was originally a full two hours long.  We really needed those extra 30 minutes!

And not incidentally, this was the first trip in a number of years where we didn't overnight in San Juan and I really missed it--both for its own sake and for the way it helps ease the transition back to home life.  Today I've been the victim of ennui, that peculiar blend of feeling both restless and listless.  Unlike while on vacation, I actually poured myself a rum this morning at around 10:30 am because it felt almost literally unbelievable that we were no longer in Anguilla.  I poured myself a second one for lunch and then took a three hour nap.  Then I experimented making frozen mojitos for our dinner, since my darling and long-suffering husband went to the store to purchase fresh mint and limes for me. 

My  homemade attempt at frozen mojito--not bad!

This Anguilla flag hangs from our indoor balcony
 Caribella -- We have traveled to Anguilla 5x now but this was the first time we have repeated our accommodations and now my husband and I are dedicated fans of Caribella, not least because they were willing to accommodate our budget for a 2-week vacation this year.  I won't say how much we paid (you wouldn't believe me, anyway) here in a public forum, but suffice it to say that it was at a generous discount.  We paid full price last year for one week, and early this past spring I was playing with our vacation budget and thought what the heck--I can email them and ask them how long they'd let us stay for X amount of money since we were return customers.  They gave us the full two weeks, on my proposed budget, which has earned them our gratitude AND loyalty.  You can't beat the location, that's for sure.  I love Caribella's situation on Barnes Bay, it's always quiet enough to suit even us, and we love knowing how much we've paid for our accommodation versus the Viceroy villas next door, only about 50 feet away.  It's enough to make us gloat. 
Gorgeous Barnes Bay
But beyond the brilliant location and the advantage of having a beachfront villa with full cooking facilities and a fabulous balcony that's perfect for eating breakfast and drinking cocktails and watching sunsets, we really, really like the staff at Caribella.  Vandra in particular is such a hoot and we'll definitely miss her until we see her next year (and now that we know she loves action shoot-em-up movies, we'll bring a few that she'll enjoy watching, too). 
Casual but comfortable furniture at Caribella
 And once again, my husband and I are not blind to the imperfections of Caribella, but they're not the sorts of things that interfere with our vacation at all, and for the price we're paying, we're not expecting luxury, except the luxury of space.  So one of the sliding doors sticks a little when you open & shut it, and the balcony ceiling has a little paint peeling, and there was that little incident with the locked bedroom door (we were later provided with a brand-new key, btw), and there's a tile in the shower that sticks up just a little bit over the rest of the tiles.  The walls are on the bare side, though this year they did add some new curtains, although finials were missing off of a couple of the curtain rod ends.  You know what?  None of that affected our vacation, with the exception of the locked bedroom door, and even that we were laughing about the next day.  What Caribella does provide is unparalleled beachfront value, a spacious and casual living space with a huge balcony, optional a/c in the bedroom, a comfortable bed, plenty of hot water and good pressure in the shower, really soft towels, a functional kitchen, and three wonderful and lovely women who will take care of you and help you out when you need it: Gloria, Vandra, and Rose-El.  It certainly isn't perfect, but it's perfect for us, and that's all that matters.  For someone who treasures space, privacy, and quiet , who wants a beachfront location and is on a moderate budget, I'm convinced there's no better value on the entire island. And besides all that, it's Anguillian-owned, so proportionally more of our money goes back into the local economy than if we were staying elsewhere.  

Local building

I admire the fun colors of this local home
 Regrets: There were a handful of new-to-us restaurants that I wanted to try, including Oliver's, Barrel Stay, Hibernia, Dolce Vita, Hungry's van,  and Fat Cat, but we never made it to them, and I was shocked at the end of my trip to discover that we hadn't gone to Jacala for lunch, Lucy's for dinner, or Elvis's for cocktails, since that had been our intention.  Guess that's one of the downfalls of staying two weeks--you think you have all the time in the world so you don't want to obsess too much ahead of time about your dining schedule.  Unfortunately, though, it meant that some places were inadvertently overlooked.  Guess that means we'll try to make it down for three weeks on our next visit!  Other than our trip to Ferryboat Inn, our only other lackluster dining experience that disappointed us after many great meals was our bbq at B&D's.  Maybe we arrived at the wrong time and the ribs and chicken had been sitting out for a while, maybe it was seeing the bottle of Kraft sauce behind the table, but my husband and I were both disappointed compared with the fresh-off-the grill bbq we had at both Elodia's and Gwen's.  Everything else ranged from very good to stellar, though.
 Highlights: Picante, Veya, Veya Cafe, Gwen's hammocks, Cote Mer for lunch, discovering the Sea Spray smoothie shack, the Anguilla Heritage museum, and Shoal Bay East.  Meeting new folks, visiting with old friends.  Realizing that we have started to create our very own Anguilla traditions.  Geraud's pastries and any meal eaten on our balcony.
Looking up...

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful pictures. We used to vacation at a cabin in NC and I loved when it rained. We would sit on the balcony and watch the storms go by. I find it really relaxing.


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