14 July 2010

How I spent my summer vacation, part X

Photos from Gwen's

Anguilla Day 5

Never having been to Gwen’s, we decided that we would spend the day on Upper Shoal Bay. It quickly eclipsed all other locations for DH, who mightily enjoyed reading his book among the palm trees. Though Elodia’s still holds the top spot in my heart, I certainly enjoyed it, and it’s hard to argue with the beauty of that spot, combined with the stiff breeze to ensure total comfort all day long. The food, grilled right there on the beach, had a simple freshness that hit the spot—we shared the chicken & rib combo platter between us and it ended up being the perfect amount of food. Although we’re both avid readers, there were long moments where our books lay forgotten, neglected in favor of just taking in the view. We stayed there until it was time for the ladies to close up shop at 4:00, at which point we decided to explore out near West End Bay. We had strongly considered staying at Indigo Reef before we booked Caribella, so I was curious to see its situation. The property is attractive and the beach was deserted but it didn’t look very inviting for swimming, at least not that day. I liked the way the villas had a cohesive look to them without looking too same-same. If Indigo Reef offers the same package rates next year that they did this year, I would certainly be open to staying there.

Photos from West End Bay, including Indigo Reef, where we almost booked our trip. It's a
good place for shelling but Barnes Bay is a nicer location, at least for us.

We had two car mishaps today. On our way out to Shoal Bay, we stopped at the Education Department to donate a few children’s books, but as I was backing out of the parking lot, I backed over a sharp rock that punctured a front tire. What a way to put a damper on our spirits! I walked back to the Education Dept and explained the situation, asking if I could please borrow a telephone to contact Ronnie Bryan. I told him that I thought the tire was ruined but the rim still looked good, so he told us to just sit tight while he tracked someone down to get us set up with another tire (he was cycling when I called).

Sure enough, about 15 minutes later a man shows up to put a new tire on and cart away the old one, and another 15 minutes after that, we were on our way again. We tipped the young man, but I swear, his demeanor was so agreeable, even enthusiastic, that it was as if he woke up that morning and decided that his greatest ambition was to help a tourist in need. I manage a small, locally-owned bookshop, and I’ve had to deal with all manner of complaints and customer situations, but I would be tremendously proud if my staff were as uniformly courteous in the face of difficult situations as Ronnie Bryan and his staff were to us that day. I cannot overly praise the efficiency and dedication to good service that they demonstrated to us. Anybody can give good customer service when things are going right. But Ronnie demonstrated such a calibre of customer service that what could have been a ruinous morning and afternoon turned out to be a mere anecdote in our trip report, and we could happily be on our way with very little time lost.

The other mishap occurred while we were driving back to Caribella. You know the traffic light where you turn off the main road to head to Blowing Point? I was stopped at a red light and just about to accelerate after it turned green when the car lurched, as if my foot had slipped off the gas pedal. Turns out that we were rear-ended, but thankfully it was at such a slow speed that there was no damage done to the bumper. The other driver was profusely apologetic when we both pulled over to inspect the car, but there wasn’t so much as a ding, much less a dent. Thankful that we escaped not one but two potentially disastrous car situations that day, DH and I were both secretly relieved that we had already planned to have dinner close to home that night and thus wouldn’t be on the road to tempt the Fates a third time with vehicular misfortune.

Flat tire and DH at Picante

We had missed Picante on our two trips last year and they were closed for vacation for the first part of this visit, but I knew this time around that I would prioritize dinner there no matter what. My long-suffering husband merely looked at me sidelong when I said we were doing Mexican, no discussion. The distance was such that we could have easily walked, but I’m not comfortable walking on the roads at night—not for issues of personal safety, but for lack of visibility. The place was packed (in fact, it was the only restaurant in our two week stay on both islands that was busy, turning over several tables during the course of our meal and even had people waiting for tables), and luckily our reservation landed us the last available table for two. We just loved the whole experience at Picante and it will likely become another must-do on future trips.

The air was admittedly a little still compared to other locations on the island, but it was so lively and vibrant that our minds were soon diverted to more pleasant things. We ordered a half-pitcher of margaritas (US $26, that netted us about 2.5 glasses a piece), DH had the lime brick chicken (we saluted you, Howard, as he ate!) and I had the Picante tacos with beef (I only ate one of the two). We shared the frozen lemon-lime pudding for dessert that was reminiscent of a custardy Key Lime pie and declared it was an excellent way to end an excellent meal. We had a lot of fun observing a large party there to celebrate a little girl’s graduation (from kindergarten? Preschool? She was wearing a pink satin gown and tiny mortarboard), as the kids were dashing about outside, organizing themselves into teams for what looked like a long-jump competition. It sounds obtrusive, but it really wasn’t—they were energetic but not loud or disruptive and really quite adorable to watch.

Beautiful Upper Shoal Bay

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