17 October 2011

St John: Day 4

Early morning light at Gallows
We had promised ourselves that Sunday would be our day of rest and that we'd sleep as late as we wanted with no rush to get to the beach.  I still got up at 6:30 to make coffee, but this time I took my book and a mug out onto the grounds to take advantage of the hammock swings and the quiet.  I made my way back to 13C after circumnavigating the property, where I mentally made notes about which buildings I'd request for future stays.  It's a toss-up for me: the harbor side had much better breezes, at least during our visit, but the noise from Cruz Bay was pretty loud each night, to the point where we put earplugs in to sleep.  One night the noise ended around 11:00 but another night it was closer to midnight. 

Rocky headland at Gallows
Anyway, I got back to the room where we breakfasted on bagels & cream cheese.  NB: Gallows Point website says that each unit comes equipped with, among other things, a toaster, but ours didn't have one.  A quick call to the front desk remedied that for us within about 5 minutes.  They also brought us some coffee filters when I mentioned that the room seemed equipped with everything else needed for a morning cuppa joe: coffee maker, coffee, sugar, Splenda, and even Coffee Mate creamers in three flavors. Some travelers rate properties by how perfect they are in, but to me a better measure of any hotel or accommodation is how well they take care of issues when things are not perfect, and Gallows did very well on that point. 

Gorgeous Caneel Bay, seen from an overlook

After breakfast we stopped again at the Deli Grotto to pick up some sandwiches and snacks  to eat on the beach (turkey fresca this time, which was a very good sandwich) and we made our way to Hawksnest.  There was a surf advisory up that day, but we decided to give it a go anyway.  It was already fairly crowded but we managed to find a spot of shade under some sea grapes near the western end of the beach.  Tried snorkeling, but there was too much silt in the water churned up by the surf.  Visibility was poor and so I just gave up.  We stayed there for a couple of hours before the crowds really showed up (I was told later that there was a memorial service that day on the beach) moving onward to Maho Bay, where we were lucky enough to get the same spot under the sea grapes as before.  The water there was also pretty murky, but the school of fry that had been farther up the beach on our previous visit were now right in front of us on the beach, so we enjoyed watching the large tarpon (turns out that they weren't barracuda after all) cutting swathes through the fry.  We got in the water and tried to snorkel amongst them but we could barely see anything.  Too bad!  If nothing else, I will have to return to St. John so that I can snorkel to my heart's content.

Casey at Hawknest
DH under de seagrapes

Gorgeous Hawksnest
We alternated between reading and being in the water for a few hours and we even had the entertainment of a local donkey for a while who wandered up the beach and stopped immediately behind our grove of sea grapes to hang out for a while.  After that, we packed up and headed to the Annaberg ruins to make some photos.  NB: It is illegal to park on the beach-side of the road on Rte 10.  We had done just that, falling in line with the cars in front of us, but by the time we left, there were two police cars with flashing lights trying to sort it all out.  Apparently it *is* okay to park on the woodsy side of Rte 10, which doesn't make sense to me since there's a much smaller shoulder on that side of the road, but they didn't ask my opinion.  I find that is frequently what is wrong with the world today. 

The Annaberg ruins were a short drive away and we were smitten both with the views and the remains of the ruins.  It was the first place on St. John that we had reached that we had entirely to ourselves.  After about 30 minutes or a little longer, a group of about 15 people walked up, so we made our way down the wooden stair walkway--it's very pretty descending through the woods like that, but beware of insects--we were all itching by the time we got back down!

Sugarmill ruins

I think this is Leinster Bay below the ruins

Be sure to wear your bug spray here!
From Annaberg we drove "home" where Casey and I had a quick dip in the pool to cool off before dressing and heading into town to do the obligatory shopping for family.  We had fun poking around the shops but even I, after my many travels in the region, was a little shell-shocked over some of the prices.  At home we're lucky enough to live near Northampton, a town that vies for "Best Small Arts Town" every year and seems to win over Santa Fe, NM, about half the time.  Northampton, MA, is full of art galleries, jewelry boutiques, and other shops showcasing local artisans, and the necklace that I saw in St. John for about $200 (small cultured pearls and some Swarovski crystal in a very simple design) would have been less than half that at home.  What's more, I have friends who make jewelry so I have a pretty good idea of the costs of materials and the time it would take to make a necklace like the one I saw--the prices in St. John are necessarily high because of the huge overhead, but I sure don't want to pay them!  My only purchases were some spices from St. John Spice and a lava-lava (known to the western world as a sarong) for my DH that he had admired one day. 

One of many colorful doors on the island

You can also see the island via scooter
Dinner that night was our special dress-up meal to celebrate all of our birthdays.  We had wanted very much to try Asolare but they are closed on Sundays, so we looked at menus online and called around to discover that Waterfront Bistro was open for bidness.  We truly hit culinary gold, as this was by far the best meal of our trip and the only one that was from start to finish up to Anguilla standards--our new bar against which we measure Caribbean restaurants.  We started off with a round of drinks, then moved on to our first course: Caesar salad for Casey, an arugula salad with pistachios, shaved fennel, and a mint vinaigrette for me, and a marvelous brown sugar-encrusted pan seared pork belly for DH.  All were fabulous and a prelude of good things to come.  We proceeded to French onion soup, some rock lobster crepes for me, and five spice duck confit with port soaked cherries and wilted arugula for DH (all of us had small plates as our entrees, FYI).  Another round of drinks, and then a dark chocolate mousse dessert for Casey and a Painkiller cheesecake for me.  Considering how dark and rich the chocolate mousse was, it was huge.  Even with DH and me sticking our forks in from time to time, we still left half of it on the plate.  In contrast, my cheesecake was fairly light and the graham cracker crust was simply redolent with nutmeg.  Missy, a formally trained sommelier and former employee of Ina Gardner, was our server for the evening and she was terrific--and also the spittin' image of Julianne Moore in profile.  For food quality, invention, service, ambience, and overall value, Waterfront Bistro earns top marks from us: A.  I just wish more restaurants we had visited were similarly praise-worthy.

Waterfront Bistro by daylight

A denser, more chocolatey mousse cannot  be found
Painkiller cheesecake

Good to the last sip!


  1. The donkey alone would do it for me, but that is a whole lot of awesome stuff. And Leinster Bay is gorgeous.

  2. Sounds like a great day! I'm surprised you met with so many people this time of year. One of the things we really love about Anguilla is that there aren't so many people around. I'm glad the trip ended on a high note!

  3. If I'm correct, you were in the part of the world where many of the Jamaica Kincaid books were set. Beautiful.

  4. Levonne, Jamaica Kincaid is one of my favorite Caribbean writers! She's from Antigua, which is where most of her books are set (and incidentally where I got married back in 2003), but St. John isn't too far as the pelican flies from Antigua.

  5. Beautiful commentary and pictures!

  6. St John's is the name of the capitol city of Antigua so maybe that is what caused the confusion about the Kincaid books?

  7. CaptRD, you may be right--I didn't think about that possibility. I don't why there's such a tendency for people to add an apostrophe-s to the island of St. john (including my husband, no matter how many times i tell him differently). Presumably they don't say St. Lucia's. Or St. Thomas's. but now that I think of it, I do hear people say St. Maarten's every now again.

  8. I'm waxing nostalgic at your beautiful shots of Caneel Bay: you've captured its relaxed and stunning essence.

    And it's been so many years since I could afford to travel anywhere outside the westernmost states of the contiguous 48 that I'm also uber-jealous (though happy it's you I'm jealous of!). Should you ever require a Caribbean sherpa of sorts, you know who's first in line...

  9. Waterfront Bistro..sounds divine..thanks Em for the great review. What island next?


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