28 June 2013

Vacation from a Vacation? Why Not!

When you're already in your favorite part of the world, doing your favorite things, what could possibly be more decadent than a vacation from your vacation?

If by "vacation from your vacation," you mean spending one night at a place like Las Esquinas, the answer is, not much.

Sunset seen from our balcony at Caribella
Let me start by staying that I am in no way displeased with Caribella. We love this place and its rhythms and its privacy, not to mention the good folks who take care of us here. But once I'd heard about this mythical place of beauty called Las Equinas and seen a trusted internet friend Cindy's account of her vacation there, I knew I wanted to check it out.

Suspecting that anybody who puts a Tolkien quotation on their website might be kindred spirit, I inquired with the owner of Las Esquinas to see if she might consider a slightly reduced rate for a one night stay, since I was already on the island and thus not inclined to pay the rack rate for a double booking on top of Caribella.  She graciously agreed to it and we settled that on Wednesday afternoon my husband and I would check in at Las Esquinas at 2:00 pm.

This is my half of our shared lunch
But how to while away the time until then?  Lunch at Geraud's, of course!  We packed up a small travel   bag with toiletries and clothes for dinner, plus our two beach bags and headed to South Hill.  Remembering how large the breakfast sandwiches were, we opted to split a lunch special: pastrami on a pumpernickel bagel, grilled panini-style and accompanied by a small Caesar salad.

We read for a little while and then strike up a conversation with two folks exiting who turn out to be the proprietors. We'd never met them before, so it was fun to talk with them about their great pastries, how much we enjoyed coming there, island life, our mutual love of large dogs (they have two mastiffs, we have one), and so on.

As we pulled out of the parking lot, we saw one of the ladies from Geraud's walking, so we stopped to give her a ride to the Valley, then double backed to the Jeremiah Gumbs Highway (that name still cracks me up, the idea of a HIGHWAY on Anguilla) to our golden grail of a destination. Robin's directions were easy to follow and before we knew it, JR was outside greeting us.  A computer guy by training, JR is the caretaker, gardener/landscaper, and general go-to guy for all things.

The courtyard, looking out to sea
He showed us to the beautiful Balinese suite--each of the four rooms is named for a different country or region that has had an impact on Robin's life--as we continued our ongoing "oohs" and "ahs" that started from the moment we got out of our car.

Fetch my my fainting couch, and quickly!
I have to say here, briefly, that I made most of the photos with my husband's camera, the connector cable of which somehow got left behind in the States, so the few photos I have here were made on lesser equipment on an overcast day.  I'll do a full-photo post once we're back home.

The place is, in one word, incredible. Thoughtfully designed, with an eye towards both comfort and beauty. To paraphrase Jane Austen, I'm not sure I've ever seen a place so thoughtfully situated. It's too bad we never saw it in full sun, the light dancing off the rolling breakers out by Cinnamon Reef, dappling the sea and the pool with myriad shades of blue. Not to mention that I counted three hammocks on the property. Give me a hammock, some shade, and a good book and I may never get up again.

Just when we thought our situation couldn't get any better, two things happened: a dog wandered up from the patio to investigate us, albeit with caution, and the yummiest toasty-goodness smells began emanating from the kitchen. The sun, though invisible, had clearly passed the yardarm, and JR brought us out some treats: cheese, crackers, grapes, and best of all, roasted coconut slices.  We'd had something similar years ago on St. Lucia--grilled coconut, tossed in a little salt--and it was amazing.  I don't know why it's not a more widely eaten snack food.  Pieces of this coconut were roasted a tad too vigorously into the realm of burnt coconut, but overall, it was heaven. Crunchy, salty, buttery goodness.

We lingered there until a squall came upon us, so we scurried to help JR put the cushions away, then watched the storm sock us in until the entire island of St. Martin was obscured from view. Then we read from our sheltered perches indoors until it was time to dress for dinner. Well, I took a brief swim first. Far be it from me to ignore a swimming pool when it's right there, or to object to swimming in the rain.
Pyrat, the very shy resident pooch
We'd never done dinner at DaVida before, only lunch a couple of years ago that was an experience so singularly unpleasant that we never wished to repeat it. However, as wiser people than I have pointed out, dinner is very different from lunch, so 7:00 found us heading out toward Crocus Bay for dinner. We figured we might as well eat there since the drive would be shorter than coming from the West End, and I'd been wanting to give the place another shot anyway.

Well, it was lovely.  In terms of ambience, it may be the loveliest on the island, in my eyes at least. It was also nicely breezy, thanks to the efforts of Mother Nature and the arsenal of ceiling fans hard at work. The beach was lit up beautifully, and for the first time, I realized that those people on the travel forums who say they want a beachfront restaurant at night might have a point...and best of all, it wasn't the least bit buggy.

The amuse bouche
Our service from various gentlemen was quite genial, and we were congratulating ourselves on discovering a new favorite.  Then the food arrived.  It varied along the "not good--okay--not bad--pretty good" spectrum, but not beyond that. The amuse-bouche was okay, but a little on the bland side. I ordered one entree, the blackened shrimp served with gingered spinach and fettucine.  It was pretty good. It wasn't actually blackened (or perhaps that means something else in Anguilla than it does in the States), but the shrimp were both flavorful and succulent.

My non-blackened blackened shrimp
DH ordered two small plates: the spring rolls, which were pretty good, and the dumplings, which he didn't like at all.  He barely managed to eat one. I tried one and thought it was okay, but I didn't like it enough to eat a whole one.

The maligned dumplings
I also ordered a DaVida variation on rum punch. Before ordering, I mentioned that I don't like very sweet rum punches.  Assured that theirs would be perfect for me, I tried it and didn't like it at all--plus it was absolutely covered in cinnamon on top, to the point where the first sips were almost sandy in texture.  I told them I didn't like it (and why) and then asked for a glass of white wine instead.  I didn't ask for it to be removed from our tab, but I hoped that it would be since it was (1) syrupy sweet and (2) drowning in cinnamon, which was not a listed ingredient. It was not removed.

We thought we'd give it one last go by ordering dessert, but the banana-caramel spring rolls were sold out. We ordered some rum & raisin ice cream since something cold sounded good, but it was very crystallized, as if being stored too long at the wrong temperature.

Still, the evening wasn't a total write-off.  The ambience was just lovely, and the live music was low-key.  I'd probably go back there for tapas instead of the full menu, though.

Just one of the many decorative and practical touches

Pool at night, lights of St. Martin in the distance.
We got back to Las Esquinas and slept very well.  One wall of the bedroom faced east to make the most of the breezes. We did run the a/c for a little while to cool down the room since it had been cooped up while we were out, as we couldn't figure out how to turn on the ceiling fan (turns out that there's a switch on the wall AND a remote), but we turned the a/c off after a few hours and slept with the windows open.  We had wifi in the room, so I tended to some work things and did some blogging before tumbling into the bed, which was a little too firm for comfort for a side- or stomach-sleeper like me.

First course: fresh fruit!  The bananas came from the garden
We awoke to further overcast skies, so I read outside on our balcony for a while, then we both went down to breakfast.  And what a breakfast it was!  Unlike our meal from the previous night, everything was excellent.  We also met Adria and JP, a couple from Texas, who were also staying there.  We had a great time chatting with them over breakfast, comparing impressions of the island and sharing some of our favorite experiences so far.  They'd asked us in passing the night before what our favorite restaurant on the island was, and we said, in unison, "Veya," so they tried it. Upon inquiring over breakfast, they said it was the best food they'd had on the island so far AND that JP's crayfish might have been one of the best things he's ever eaten in his life.  They were fun and interesting and friendly, and it reminded us that it's people like that who make the B&B experience that much more enjoyable over a resort experience.

While waiting for the main course at breakfast, we munched on the homemade banana bread and sipped some of the best and strongest coffee we've had on the island. Clemencia, the cook, presented us with a Spanish-style omelet/frittata with onions and potatoes, accompanied by some chicken & mushroom sausage (mildly delicious), and what for me was the piece de resistance: toasted bread with a tomato tapenade/marmalade spread. It was amazing and I probably could have eaten an entire platter of it.  Clemencia graciously shared her recipe with us, and then Robin emailed it to me later.  I can't wait to go home and try it!

We made a few more photos and bid adieu to the staff and fellow guests, sad to be leaving such a perfect place, but happy to have seen it for ourselves and be a part of it, if only for a short while. Once I'm back home, I will post lots of photos!


  1. This all sounds so relaxing and magical, even with some food mishaps! Glad that you're enjoying your vacation :)

  2. You mentioned a hammock, a book, view, etc., but neglected to add a beverage...surely an oversight. Your pictures are great, as usual, and look forward to many more.

  3. Question : What could be nicer than a holiday on Anguilla?
    Answer : Two holidays on Anguilla!

    Lucky you to be able to sample Las Esquinas whilst on the island - I am truly envious, it looks wonderful.

    Really enjoying following your holiday experiences and delighting in your photographs.
    Thank you.

    1. I like your version better--it's more succinct!

  4. Las Esquinas sounds lovely, they have received so many good reviews, all outstanding, and unlike Meads Bay Villas, 3 (now 4, with you) of the posters are from the Trip Advisor forum. That is really saying something! How very extravagant of you to stay in two places! Good for you!

    We like daVida for lunch on a Sunday, we love the pizza and the sounds of Omari Banks, we have been there for dinner 3 or 4 times and while it was fine, we really like their lunch and never miss.

    Thanks for another great read, you sure are doing a lot!

    Also, where is that first picture of your husband taken?

    Thanks again Emily,

    1. Las Esquinas was amazing, no doubt about it. And so thoughtfully designed and laid out, where everything was either useful or beautiful, and frequently both.

      The photo of DH was taken at the end of Barnes Bay this year, down by the swimming cove. We've never been able access that rock before, but the sand had built up there, enabling us to get right to water's edge.

      The sea and sand are ever in a state of flux and it's never looked the same way twice in all of our visits. Which is why it's all the more baffling to me that Viceroy chose to build a breakwater and that it got government permission to do so.

  5. The GM at Nathans Cove is 82, an Islander, his comment about the breakwater - "that won't work".
    They built Coba against all advice not to so in that location, they filled in the blow hole that was there in order to do so, the water now explodes on the rocks and has knocked out the restaurant 2 or 3 times during ground seas.
    We went to Coba once and it was expensive, hot, and too formal, have not been back.
    I think the money would be better spent on AARF, the needy and the schools.

    1. It's pretty arrogant and short-sighted, I'd say. The sea will end up having its way in the long run, and nobody seems to be thinking (or at least caring) what other effects the breakwater will have farther down the island.

  6. Oh my, I am hungry now reading about breakfast and seeing that photo...just sent an email off to Robin to learn how to make such goodness. Mark's mom is coming in town and that tomato topping sounds amazing. Also, loved seeing the photo of Pyrat! Such a shy and sweet dog.

    Mattresses are such fickle things... I remember disliking the mattress at CoveCastles (way too firm) - which Penny (surprisingly) loves! Much like this experience, maybe since I'm a back sleeper, as I slept 11 hours straight my first night in that Bali bed at Las EsQuinas last May - it was the best night's sleep I've had on the island! Sounds like you and I are the reverse mattress experience of Penny and I at CC...

    Re: Da'Vida... Yikes, sounds like a big bummer night. I wonder if it has anything to do with their chef being at that Caribbean culinary competition in Miami right now. I sure hope so, because then it's temporary. The tapas night sounds interesting, especially if SandBar is being sold. Sometimes we like a simple night without so much heavy food.

    Re: that breaker situation at Viceroy/Barnes Bay - so very sad. I had to do a double take when I read above that they plugged the blowhole to build - wow. I mean, I don't have an engineering degree, but I'm pretty sure Mother Nature knows what she is doing to release pressure better than our man-made attempts to change things around to build monster buildings for profits. But again, I don't have the degrees, so maybe my two cents is worth just that.

    1. If my husband and I both slept on our backs, we'd keep each other awake with our snoring, I'm afraid. Thus we both try to sleep on our sides. :-)

      I don't know who said it, but apparently the folks at Viceroy aren't familiar with the phrase, "Nature always bats last."

  7. omg, HEAVENLY! Bummer abt the disappointing rum punch -- but oh, the landscapes!!

  8. I am so glad you are back..I love living vicariously through your blogs!

  9. A bad rum punch is practically a crime against nature!


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