22 June 2012

Anguilla 2012: No Crayfish Left Behind

The whimsically-painted fence at Arawak
After another perfect beginning of waking with the dawn, reading on the balcony, breakfasting in the morning splendor, and watching the children arrive at school (did I mention that there's a primary school just up from the hotel?),  we packed up our beach bags and went to Gwen's.  We started a tab with a couple of bottled waters and went straight for two hammocks--the shadiest ones, of course.

The first peek at the waters of Upper Shoal Bay
I'm not sure there are any combined conditions more conducive to napping in the world than what exists at Gwen's: hammocks shaded by palm trees, in constant gentle motion from the stiff breeze, and lulled by the combined sounds of the surf and the gentle rain that the rustling palm fronds mimic.

Palm grove + hammocks = perfection!

Looking towards the point that separates SBE from Upper Shoal Bay
It's a good thing, then, that Gwen's doesn't charge for the use of said hammocks (or other chairs) because the prices are now about 25% higher than they used to be, and that would price them out of regular use for us, if that were the case.  Around 1:00 we wandered up to the pavilion for lunch, where we shared a grilled rib & chicken combo platter ($22), with fewer ribs than when we ordered it last year (only 3).  It also didn't seem like it had been cooked that day, but reheated from a previous day.  Now don't get me wrong: I love the setting for Gwen's, I understand that her prices are necessarily higher after the fire, and I will continue to give her my custom for that unparalleled setting.  But my expectations will need to be adjusted downward from here on out.


The obligatory feet-in-hammock shot

The severe erosion

Cf: this photo with the one of him in the hospital!
We stayed there for the next few hours, swaying & reading, and walking the little bit of beach between Gwen's and Serenity.  Walking in the other direction toward Shoal Bay East would prove difficult for my husband, as the erosion is so bad the the large rocks are exposed and the water swirls up among them, making it tricky to navigate among them with the surf pulling at his ankles.

Gussied up for dinner
Walked beach again and went "home" to read on the balcony before getting ready for dinner-- Hibernia!  One of the reasons we chose to begin our stay in the east end on this trip was so that we could try dinner there without the long drive back to the west end.  The air was much more still at Hibernia--not quite what I would call stifling, but not at all what we had grown accustomed to at Arawak.  Mary Pat welcomed us and bade us look around if we wished before being seated. 

The menu is incredibly interesting and not at all like what you find at most of Anguilla's fine dining restaurants.  It ended up being quite difficult to decide on a dish, but in the end I settled on the basil-coconut casserole with crayfish tails, served over rice noodles and DH started with a simple green salad before moving on to Tom Yum Pla, a very spicy, broth soup with fish.  Unfortunately, his dish was so laden with cilantro that occasionally when its scent wafted over to me, it made me slightly nauseous.  How unfortunate!  I am now always in the habit of inquiring about undisclosed cilantro in any dish that I order, especially in restaurants that specialize in regional cuisines that celebrate that foul herb.  But it never occurred to us before that it would ever be necessary to inquire about the cilantro content in a dish my husband ordered--just chalk it up to one more life lesson!

An alcove in the restaurant
Something comes over my husband and me when we're in warmer climes--we eat much less, and despite arriving in restaurants feeling quite famished, it takes very little to fill us up--thus, we always leave large portions of our entrees left on the plate that are not reflections of how we feel about any given dish.  Only a quarter of the way through my "casserole" (most decidedly unlike anything we would call a casserole at home), I was dangerously close to giving up, but I couldn't bear the thought of sending any of that succulent crustacean back to the kitchens and thus began my campaign of No Crayfish Left Behind. 

With that campaign fulfilled, we were free to concentrate on the very interesting dessert menu that Hibernia offers.  Now, I'm a dessert girl from way back, and in my younger days I was even known to order two desserts--one as an app and one for the usual placement in the meal progression.  Twenty years and we won't mention how many pounds later, I don't (usually) do that any more, but I still appreciate a good dessert menu.  In other words, don't give me the options of a brownie a la mode (or worse, some rendition of death-by-chocolate), a cheesecake, and some creme brulee and then congratulate yourself about your fabulous dessert offerings. Seriously, those are boring.  Bor-ing.  Those are desserts offered by restaurants who don't *really* want to be bothered with desserts.

This is where Hibernia shines, I'm glad to say.  I seemed to recall that people raved about the rum raisin ice cream, and as the evening was so hot, something served cold had tremendous appeal.  Oh, but wait!  Then I saw what was, perhaps, the most intriguing-sounding sorbet on their extensive list: tamarind & salted plum.  The rum raisin ice cream was rendered ill in my opinion by the pouring on of rum.  Now don't get me wrong: I love rum in its many forms: in cakes, balls, marinades, cocktails, and especially neat.  But pouring good rum over good ice cream enhances neither and diminishes both, in my opinion.  Luckily for both of us, my husband loved the rum raisin and I was sorely tempted to run my tongue down into the glass to get the last of that outstanding sorbet.  Something magical happens when you add the right amount of salt to an ordinarily sweet dessert and that's exactly what happened here. 

So, one salad, two entrees, two desserts, one bottle of sparkling water, and one bottle of a nice little Pouilly Fume brought our bill to $198.  The service charge was clearly marked on the bill and we added a bit more on top of it.
Old-fashioned chattel house
 Our last night at Arawak was extremely restful.  I even managed to sleep past sunrise this time, so by the time I dragged myself out of bed, it was time to get dressed for our 8:30 breakfast.  This time I opted for the pancakes and DH got the same thing as the day before. We returned to the room to pack and generally enjoy the breezy balcony until our noon check out.  Maria and Katie were there to wish us goodbye with hugs and farewells, and it was with a bittersweet feeling that we moved on from Arawak to Caribella.

It was when we were wrangling our suitcases out of the room and toward our car when we first saw him: as sweet a dog as we'd ever encountered.  He approached us very slowly, but with tail fully wagging, and it wasn't until he bumped into one of our suitcases did we realize why his gait was so deliberate--he was blind.  Dubbing him Homer, we shared with him some of our leftover pizza and gave him a little water and he seemed grateful.  He had an old, very serious-looking scar on his shoulder, as if perhaps he'd had an altercation with a car in his youth, but he looked reasonably well cared for (not to mention he was far too friendly and gentle to be a stray), so we fervently hoped that he was just wandering from home that day.

 Which leads me to AARF, the Anguilla Animal Rescue Foundation.  We stopped by there to drop off a check on our way to the west end, not knowing that they close for 2.5 hours every middle of the day.  My husband had done a fund raiser for a friend's publishing project by doing an engraving of a puppy and selling original prints, but once the book's needs were met, the proceeds for any other prints that sold would go to AARF, so we wanted to drop off a check for them. Alas, we'll have to drive out that way another day so that we can drop off the check in person and perhaps play with the dogs & cats awaiting adoption.

Pamela & Veronica with DH

Yummy smoothie options, or create your own
After stopping briefly at Albert Lake to do some provisioning for the villa, we decided to make Sea Spray our lunch destination.  That's right--we had smoothies for lunch. Cold, delicious, brain-freeze-inducing smoothies.  At $6 each, and with an array of flavors to choose from, there are worse ways to cool down down during the heat of the day.  We were quite pleasantly surprised that Pam and Veronica remembered us from last year, so we sat under the awning with them and chatted about this & that until it was time for us to check in at Caribella.

The huge balcony is one of our favorite things about Caribella

The casual living room

Barnes Bay, immediately in front of our unit
Ahh, Caribella.  It feels like home now.  THis is our third summer visit in as many years, and while we're not blind to its imperfections, we do love it here.  There do seem to be some subtle changes to the property and to Barnes Bay since last June: the beach is a bit broader and less eroded, but this has, oddly resulted in making it more difficult to enter the water in front of Caribella.  The undertow of the retreating waves from shore is very strong, despite the smallness of the waves.  Also, for the first time, we have neighbors!

Since it was our anniversary, we celebrated with dinner at Veya, which is hands-down our favorite fine dining on the island.  We've visited them nine times over the course of our six visits to Anguilla, and Veya consistently wins top marks for inventive dishes, warm hospitality, and consistency of quality.  Add in the charming treehouse-like atmosphere, and you've got an unbeatable combination. We began with the conch carpaccio (DH) , which was new to us, and the grilled watermelon (me), which is an old favorite, but with an updated flavor with the addition of Chinese five spice. Next we moved on to the Moroccan-spiced shrimp cigars wrapped in phyllo and the shrimp entree, which was also new to us.  

DH's shrimp w/ julienned snowpeas and hushpuppies
Coconut panna cotta
For dessert, we opted to try a new item on the menu--the coconut panna cotta with pineapple compote and an apricot macaroon.  They surprised us by decorating our plate for our anniversary, which was a very sweet touch.  All in all, a very satisfying day!

We returned home and discovered, much to our dismay, that neither the wi-fi nor the a/c were functioning properly at Caribella.  Our first order of business will have to be correcting those deficits, or else I will not be a happy camper!


  1. Ah yes, that blasted cilantro that keeps me away from certain places.
    I am right there with you.
    Wonderful posting. Please continue.


  2. Count me in on the blasted cilantro bandwagon...I can attest to the Tom Ya Plah without it as quite tasty, but the portions are so huge I felt awfully wasteful that our refrigerator was not working properly back in our room to have the leftovers. (Which brings me to a question...considering No Crayfish Left Behind, is it bad manners on the island to take leftovers home? I certainly wouldn't want to insult their wonderful culture, but my stomach just can't take in all that food in one sitting.)

    Loved the pictures and commentary, as usual. I wish you were a resident writer for Anguilla, you have a gift at highlighting all that is to be admired, while still being honest about less than ideal things. I'm learning on this front.

    And the pineapple topped panna cotta, brought my tastebuds instantly back to the island. I really enjoyed that dessert.

    I am hoping by the time this reaches you, you are in the midst of working a/c and wifi!

    Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy...and thanks so much for taking the time to post for the masses!

  3. I'm so glad you enjoyed Arawak. We will all have to remember to recommend them now for an inexpensive place to stay.

    That sorbet at Hibernia sounds delicious. Just might have to check it out myself this fall.


  4. I love cilantro, go figure BUT onions, bleck....LOVE the Homer story..please can you ask Arawak people to check on his behalf, perhaps? What a lovey boy. Have FUN Em


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