23 September 2013

Anguilla, Pre- and Post-Trip Evaluations

Long Bay, Anguilla
Blogging about vacation once I'm back home is difficult on multiple levels: I am so busy catching up at work that I have very little time to devote to blogging and photo organization, and I'm so homesick for Anguilla that it feels like torture to be writing about my time there.  A few weeks later, once things settle down at work and in my heart, it theoretically would be easier to write about Anguilla, but by that time my reading momentum usually carries me somewhere else, and inevitably I abandon the last couple of posts that I had good intentions of writing.

This is what my desk looked like when I got back to work.
It is essentially a barricade. Just like Les Mis but with less singing.
Incidentally, that is a photo of Anguilla showing on my wall calendar.
Which brings me to this post.  I didn't write an Anguilla Wrap Up post for my 2013 vacation, and I've been too busy at work to share much news about our upcoming shorter trip to the island next month, but now that the new trip is drawing nearer every day, it seems like the perfect opportunity to indulge in my Anguillaphilia.

West End Bay, Anguilla
Highlights of June 2013: Well, this trip was amazing, so there were lots of highlights. The tasting menu at Veya was pretty spectacular (sea lice, anyone?). We tried a new restaurant, Dolce Vita, that we feel sure will become one of our favorites.  We discovered Long Bay for the first time. We spent more time on Rendezvous than on any other beach (except our "home" beach of Barnes Bay), thanks in large part to the opening of The Place. We met some really terrific people, both belongers (Andrea & Moe) and visitors (JP & Adria), and got to know folks in a way we hadn't on previous trips. We visited AARF (twice) to play with some puppies and kittens. We also were lucky enough to spend one night at the dreamy Las Esquinas, which is about as close to perfection as a place can get. We already loved Caribella, which is our home away from home on Anguilla, but we discovered on this trip that we liked a different unit better.
Barge and tugboat, seen from the road leading to Caribella
Lowlights: There aren't many.  The biggest one was the eyesore of a barge set up between Viceroy and Caribella to create a breakwater.  It's a completely asinine, not to mention megalomanic, project. The barge wasn't active every day, and we spent more of our days elsewhere on the island than on Barnes Bay, so it wasn't totally disruptive in that sense.  But it did disrupt the visual beauty of the horizon, and near the end of our trip the barge actually capsized, though how the hell a barge can capsize is beyond me. The loud techno-pop and DJ music from Viceroy was also occasionally disruptive, and if we didn't sleep with earplugs each night, we would have been seriously disgruntled. I can't imagine how loud it must be on site!
Capsized barge, seen from our balcony
As with most travelers to Anguilla, our last day is always full of bittersweetness.  Though I always miss my "animules" at home (one dog, three cats), it does feel tragic to leave Anguilla.  For the last few years we have opted to fly to St. Maarten instead of taking the ferry, and we do feel that it's worth the extra expense to us to have that extra bit of time on Anguilla, and not having to worry whether our bags have made it on board the boat is good, too.

Rendezvous Bay, seen from the air
When flying Anguilla Air Services to St. Maarten, we only need to be at the airport 30 minutes before the scheduled departure, and since we were the only two on board for this flight, I believe we even left a few minutes ahead of schedule.

Sad face, leaving Anguilla
Lines at the airport weren't too bad, but we were also fortunate enough to be flying up front on our way home.  We usually fly coach, but when booking through American Airlines we found that upgrading on the way home would only cost about $75 more per person, so we decided to live a little.
St. Maarten, seen from the air
We always stop by Geraud's to pick up a sandwich to go so that we can have one last taste of Anguilla while we're waiting in the St. Maarten airport. After we ate I was feeling a little restless--once we've crossed that line to St. Maarten, we're both eager to get home--so I poked around the gift and duty free shops and found something interesting.  I'd like to be a fly on the wall when someone orders this rum by name:
I'll have the Big Black Dick, barkeep.
The trip home was relatively uneventful, if a bit long.  The only connecting flight between Miami and Hartford leaves Miami after 9:00 pm, which means we're not usually back home and greeting our dog until around 2:00 in the morning. Oy! But of course Anguilla is worth all of that trouble and more. The most exciting part was between St. Maarten and Miami when we flew over the British Virgin Islands and I was able to get a good shot of Guana, where we honeymooned and spent our 5th anniversary:
That's Guana in almost the dead-center of the photo
One of the ways we ease back into our real lives is by recreating something we've eaten or drunk during our trip.  A few years ago I experimented with the frozen mojito from Cuisinart.  This time we made the pain au tomate from Las Esquinas. We made it a few times each week during July and August when the tomatoes were so gorgeous, and we devised a mixture that we love--we added a little garlic, basil, and crushed red pepper to the recipe given to us at Las Esquinas.
Our re-imagined pain au tomate
Remember when I mentioned that on our last full day we stopped off at Devonish Gallery and I bought a small oil painting by Antoine Chapon? I had a dickens of a time waiting for it to be shipped to me. Now that I think about it, this should go under the heading of Lowlights 2013. I purchased the painting on July 4 and paid for it to be shipped to me. On July 12, I emailed the gallery to ask for the tracking number on the painting, only to find that Mr Devonish hadn't even taken it to the post office yet. On July 27, when I tracked the package, the Anguilla postal website told me that it hadn't left the island yet. Excuse me? I know things take a long time to ship, and I did not want to pay a premium price to expedite the shipping, but that just seemed totally excessive to me.
Antoine Chapon's watercolor reproductions for sale
The painting did finally arrive in early August, however, and it arrived in perfect shape.  I kept the frame that the gallery provided, but I may upgrade it after I live with the image for a while if it seems to want it.
Here is a close-up of the painting

Here's the painting in situ in our home. 
The only cure for DIF (Dreaded Island Fever) is to plan a return trip, so that's what I spent my August doing. Our beloved Caribella is closed during the months of September and October, so I had to find a new place to try.  After many hours of research, I sent out inquiry emails to several villa owners and proposed a modestly reduced rate since (1) it's not just low season, it's LOW-low season, and (2) I'm an amateur travel writer/blogger who always reviews places I stay.  Quite a few were amenable to my rate negotiations, so then I had to spend time agonizing over which to choose.  Do we give preference to a villa's location on the island? Its view? Level of Luxury? Do we take the least expensive place and put that money towards our restaurant bills?

It's such a tough call, but we ended up choosing Sweet Return Villa, owned by a Canadian family who *usually* goes to Anguilla during the time we're going to be there, but there's a special milestone birthday celebration for them elsewhere this fall, so the villa was unexpectedly unoccupied. Its location seems ideal, and it offers some very nice amenities without being one of those over-the-top, we-don't-want-to-breathe-wrong-on-it luxury homes. It was neither the most nor the least expensive of our choices, but it offered the best value.

It turns out that our two favorite restaurants--Veya and Dolce Vita-- are scheduled to open by the time we arrive on island (alas, most tourist-oriented places close for September & October), and now we're crossing our fingers that Geraud's will be open, too.  It's our favorite place for breakfast and lunch, and they tell me on Facebook that their re-opening date for October isn't set yet. We'll just have to see.

In the meantime, I'm planning our days around Anguilla's greatest charms: its beaches.  We'll be sure to take in our usual Rendezvous and Shoal Bay East, but our villa is close enough to Long Bay that it might be fun pretending to be castaways for the day, too.  And of course we cannot forget our friends at AARF.  We may even act as couriers for a pup or kitten on the way home to New England, where various foster families await.

Such a sweet little cow on Meads Bay
You do NOT want to mess with this MoFo MoGo. I saw him charge a pedestrian.
I can't wait to see what else Anguilla has in store for us on this trip.  We're only there for five nights, which is a shame, but I'll take it anyway. And as our last night on the island is DH's birthday, we may reprise our experience with the chef's tasting menu at Veya again.
Anguillian sunset over Barnes Bay
P. S. Happy birthday to my sweet and beautiful sister, Holly, today!


  1. Very nice review/evaluation. Thanks. But I think you got it wrong with the "cow" in that picture. Just think of the rum when you look at the photo again.

  2. Thanks for a lovely recap of your last trip to Anguilla in anticipation of your next!
    How lucky are you?!
    I do like your painting. I am not familiar with the artist so I hope he will have some of his work on display when we next visit.
    How lovely to have honeymooned on Guana. We were lucky enough to have a private tour of the island when we sailed in the BVIs a few years ago and we adored that idyllic and beautiful hideaway - maybe one day.
    Thanks for the report, makes me want to start planning for my next holiday to Anguilla even though it will be next summer.

    1. Guana is definitely a special place, but it comes at a price. We debated going back there for our tenth anniversary this summer, but it was either a week on Guana or two weeks on Anguilla, and you know which one won out! When we honeymooned there, we got a phenomenal deal on the place through skyauction (back when it had more upscale places listed) for only $250/night. It was never offered for auction again on that site, as far as I'm aware!

  3. Aww, sadface pic. And that cow is gorgeous. ALSO I want pain au tomate, so I shall be visiting you exclusively for this purpose.

    1. YES! And we shall eat all the bread and discuss all the books and watch all the shows and a large time will be had by all.

  4. Emily - that barge is despicable, what an eyesore. The breakwater sure seems to have widened the beach at Meads Viceroy - wonder which beach has suffered.
    You are lucky to be going in October, seems as if you will have the whole island to yourself.
    Thanks for another great read.

    1. Yes, it's a gamble we're willing to take. Hurricane season vs having entire beaches all to ourselves.

  5. Hi Emily, so glad to see you are considering being an AARF courier! Feel free to message me on the AG Forum if you need any tips or details on how it all works. AARF makes it SO easy and it is such a rewarding experience to save a precious life. Have a great trip!
    Paula Green (GreensfromMaine)

    1. Thanks, Paula. I might just do that. I'm still waiting to hear back from some folks at AARF about various logistics.

  6. As usual, your review and pictures were spectacular. Please have a special swim and beverage for me when you return there in October. I will be there with y'all in spirit (or spirits.....)

  7. A great review! Five nights is the LONGEST we've ever gotten to spend on Anguilla on our 4 trips as my business can't be left for long. You will have plenty of time for fun. Looking forward to trying your new recs when we go back in January...

    1. ooh, I hope that one day you're able to enjoy a longer stay on the island. It's just so darn lovely!

  8. Lovely recap, and I totally don't blame you for being bummed to be home after that! But YAY for already planning a return trip, that's fantastic :) Are you guys going to just move there one day? ;-)

    1. Don't think I haven't tried to figure out a way to get myself down there on a more permanent basis. But apparently being a bookseller isn't a specialized enough profession to make a go of it. Shocking, I know!

  9. A word of warning: If you do plan to move there one day, you better have accommodations for life-time visitors!!

    1. Hi, Mom. ;) You'll have access to a year-roung guest room, promise.


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