24 June 2011

Anguilla, Anguilla, Anguilla: part the sixth

Barnes Bay: Home Sweet Home

Gosh, another beautiful morning in Anguilla.  We spent the first part of the morning on Barnes Bay.  Interestingly enough (at least to me) we have never spent this much time at "home" before, but we enjoy it quite a bit.  Unlike last year, when more Viceroy guests would walk down to our end of the beach, Barnes Bay has felt very much like our own private beach.  Every evening around sunset a woman walks her dog the length of the entire beach, and a handful of times over the course of our stay so far we have seen other people walking along.  One morning a family of three even put their umbrella up not far from our villa.  But for the most part it has felt utterly and blissfully quiet.  I never would have believed it would be this serene, even with at least one of the large beachfront Viceroy villas being occupied.  In short, we love it.  Spending a couple of hours each morning out on our balcony, watching the sunlight play on the water and enjoying our coffee and books is about as perfect a way to start our day as I can think of.  Add in a breakfast of fresh mangoes and some thick slices of buttered toast made from a loaf of Geraud's peasant bread creates an entirely new level of superlative.

Around 11:00 we packed up another beach bag and hit the road, our first stop being Sea Spray to see if the smoothies were just as good as we remembered them.  I am pleased to inform you that they were.  However, we were greedy and couldn't agree on a flavor to share, so we each got our own--not the best decision, as it turned out later.  But at the moment we were happy with our brain freeze-inducing beverages: DH with the Very Berry again, and me with the mango/guava/passionfruit one.  It took us a long time to finish them, and then we were off & rolling again, this time toward the east end with the idea of eating lunch at Cote Mer.  Of course when we pulled up to the restaurant, neither one of us could bear the thought of food after polishing off our large smoothies, so we decided to backtrack to the Anguilla Heritage Collection and see what we could see.  Admission is US $5 for each adult and the quietly intense and handsome Colville Petty, OBE, came out to give us a brief summary of the collection, where no photographs are allowed inside.  We learned a lot about Anguilla history that day, beginning with the Arawaks and ending with the bloodless revolution, commemorated with a hilarious article by journalist Art Buchwald.  The collection is small and somewhat amateurish, but it is very thoughtfully put together and we spent about 90 minutes wandering through and reading the informative placards and signs.  What's more, very little is behind glass, so you can reach out and run your finger along, say, the enormous mortar and three foot long pestle on display or feel the ridges on the makeshift sandals that Anguilla men wore up until fairly recently in the last century, fashioned from sections of car tire and strapped to the foot with leather or rope straps.  There are photograph albums tucked into many parts of the museum, which we also thumbed through--some depicting hurricane damage during the 20th century, others with more lighthearted subjects such as royal visits or the brightly painted buildings around the island.  If anything, I'd say that the history of slavery was a little glossed over, and the museum certainly gives the impression that slavery on Anguilla was not as bad as slavery on other West Indian islands.  But I wonder how true that is?  Slavery is still slavery, and to gloss over it in any way (and I really don't want to know if it's just to ease potential discomfort of white tourists to the island) feels like we're not acknowledging properly a very dark period of human history.  At any rate, there didn't seem to be much glossing when it came to describing the harsh conditions of salt harvesting, which was also a primary means of living well into the second half of the 20th century, and frankly, it's hard to imagine a more brutal way to spend one's life.
Outside the museum it's okay to take photos.  Here is a traditional Anguillian wooden racing boat.

Sweet pothound napping in the shade
With those sobering images, we bid good day to Mr. Petty, OBE, and made our way back to Island Harbour to Cote Mer, where we immediately became smitten with the breeze and the beautiful view of the beach & water.  
Walkway to Cote Mer from the parking lot
DH ordered a Ting while I opted for a glass of sauvignon blanc and we decided to share the conch tempura.  The chef sent out an amuse-bouche of thinly shaved smoked mahi-mahi over a thinly shaved slice of lemon, served on a flatbread.  I am decidedly not a fan of smoked fish of any kind, but even I enjoyed the way the lemon played off the smoked flavor.  You know that your conch is fresh when you can hear the chef hammering away at it in the kitchen, and before long we were digging in.  There were three pieces of conch tempura, each one about the size of your average chicken finger, but less thick, accompanied by a wonderful salad made of cucumber, red pepper, celery and fresh mint, drizzled with olive oil & lemon.  Everything was delicious and we were thrilled with the sense of discover that comes when you try out a new-to-you restaurant.  The breeze off the water was always ample, with Scilly Cay in the background and waving palm trees in the foreground.  Despite not finishing the last few bites of salad and conch we decided to throw caution to the wind and order a dessert after lunch, and even less out of character, we ordered the Cuban chocolate biscuit.  Neither DH nor I am a big fan of chocolate (yes, I know--the horror), but the proprietor suggested it and we were feeling agreeable.  Even we thought it was very well done, so I imagine that a chocolate lover would be in heaven.  We never did figure out the "biscuit" part of the description, as it seemed to be two layers of mousse of varying chocolate intensity and denseness, all on top of a heavenly piquant raspberry reduction.  Alas, we could only finish about 2/3 of it, and it wasn't especially large to begin with, but it was all we could manage.  One small bottle of water brought our tab to US $45, plus additional tip.  We definitely intend to go back, either for dinner or lunch. 
Lovely Cote Mer with gorgeous view
Caught reading.  Again!
We originally thought we might stop off at Gwen's after lunch, but the thought of more food or beverage was a little too much, so we left Cote Mer around 3:00 and headed back in a westerly direction.  Long drawn to the architecture and mystique of Cap Juluca, and having read many wonderful things about that august property and its beach,  we turned off the main road and headed there across the salt pond.  We stopped at the little gate and asked for directions to the public access to the beach, which they gave to us with a smile, so we found the car park and walked through the shrubbery to find ourselves stepping onto the sands of…Cove Bay.  The windy end, opposite from Smokey's.  It was lovely and windblown and wild, and we were glad to see it, but it wasn't the quiet calm of Maundays Bay that we were looking for.  Not wanting to poke around on private property to get to Maundays, we made a few photos and left.  (NB: I have since learned from TA's Anguilla forum how to get to Maundays Bay, so we will give it another try before we leave.)
Picante Restaurant
After that we headed home for a quick swim at Barnes before cleaning up for dinner at Picante.  It's hard to imagine now, in retrospect, exactly what our hesitation about trying Picante was two years ago during our first visit to Anguilla.  People whose advice I had come to trust certainly raved about it.  But now we're dedicated Picante fans--we love the vibe, the casual picnic table atmosphere, the bright paint, the low light, the prompt service, the tasty food & drinks, and especially the outstanding value it provides for a night out in Anguilla. 

That night we ordered guacamole to go with the complimentary chips & salsa, and then settled into our passionfruit (me) and serrano pepper (DH) margaritas.  Mine was frozen and could have easily passed for dessert while his was a spicy little on the rocks number that was perfect as an appetizer. We shared the platter of Picante special tacos with ground beef, which is a traditional hard shell taco, with a soft shell taco wrapped around it, with a buffering layer of beans and guacamole in between the two shells.  Even though the platter was just two tacos and some cole slaw, we couldn't quite eat everything on top of the chips & salsa we'd been hoovering into our mouths.  Still, it seemed like a good idea to order one more round of drinks and the frozen lemon-lime pudding.  We left the table literally groaning and clutching our bellies.  It was a stupid, fool thing to do.  And we can't wait to go back!

Scilly Cay in lovely Island Harbour

The windblown end of Cove Bay

This wasn't even one of the larger splashes by the point.


  1. OH MY..my mouth is watering...LOVE Picante..have not done Cote de Mer for lunch..well done..

  2. Mango smoothie sounds divine. I think it was Paula Deen who recommended eating mano on a stick, with salt, chile powder and lime juice. Sounds weird, but it is fantastic.

  3. Love, love, love this post. For so many reasons...the photos, your writing, food descriptions that make me feel like I am right there, and especially the things I learned about Anguilla history. I don't want you to leave the island next week, because I look so forward to your updates! Thanks again for sharing your experiences with us.

  4. Another winner Emily!
    Did you see all the birds at the salt pond across from Colville's museum, that is one of my regular stops. I love Cote de Mer for lunch, went once for dinner and felt as if I was driving cross country in the dark. Love their tomato pie - and goat cheese salad, great spot!
    As always thanks for the wonderful writing.

  5. 2 things: I HATE chocolate (tastes like chalk or lima beans to me -- you're not alone) & if you haven't read Donald Westlake's Under an English Heaven (I think that's the name), do so. The history of slavery differs on this island from other Caribbean nations because no one could grow anything there to harvest (except salt which the brits weren't interested in) and Anguillians somehow made it clear that they needed time to take care of their own "stuff" so slavery was a "part-time thing" -- the book is fascinating & clearly explains their "war for dependence", probably the 1st in history decidely against independence!

  6. The Heritage Museum is NOT amateurish. It is authentic!!

  7. Anon, it would have been nice for you to leave a name, but I'll respond all the same. In standard English, "amateurish" does not have to be a pejorative, it just means it's not of a professional level. I was impressed with and educated by the Heritage Museum and it is, overall, a very good exhibit. But I stand by my assessment that it is well done, amateur exhibit. I would not say that it is done with the same level of professionalism as, say, The Frick.

    If you come back to my blog and read my response, perhaps you would leave your name and we could begin a dialogue.


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