28 October 2013

Ahhhh, Anguilla! October 2013: Part Four

Sunrise seen from the bed.
It's Monday morning and we can hardly believe that our trip is already more than halfway over.  We had another pretty sunrise, and this time, instead of rolling over to doze after making my sunrise photo, I get up and make some coffee and take the early sun out on the pool deck before it gets too hot.  There's been some rain overnight and the birds are darting back & forth to the little puddles of water that haven't yet been absorbed by the earth. 

As with the previous days, we eat breakfast in the villa.  DH made French toast with the last egg and bread slices we had on hand.  We'd been prepared to eat it with nothing but butter and perhaps a little dollop of raspberry preserves, but we found some maple syrup, along with cinnamon and nutmeg, in one of the cabinets and thus we really treated ourselves. 
I love these brightly colored shutters at Savannah Gallery

We left the villa around 10:00 after packing up our beach bags.  Our destination for the day is Shoal Bay East, particularlyTropical Sunsets, but along the way we stop in at Savannah Gallery in the hopes that it might be open.  We got there about ten minutes after the stated opening, but nobody was there.  The sign also says open by appointment, but since we were only browsing and not intent on purchasing anything, we didn't want to do that.  We'll have to try our luck next time we're on island. 

We stop by AARF, the Anguilla Animal Rescue Foundation, on the way to Shoal Bay East to drop off a couple of carriers and to check in with them to make sure we're all set for our departure--we've volunteered to transport two kitties back to the States, about which more anon. From AARF, we take some of the backroads to Shoal Bay East and pass this house, which I've always liked because of the cheery colors, but now they've added about a dozen airplanes to their outdoor decor.  Check it out:

An abandoned Anguillian chattel house on a back road
When we enter the Shoal Bay area, we usually turn right to go to Elodia's, but they were closed to put in a new floor, so we turned left to hit Tropical Sunset, a place we'd heard great things about but somehow had never managed to visit during our various Anguilla vacations. A friendly young woman came out to greet us and she offered to set up a single umbrella off to the side for us in the shade of some palm trees. We had brought our own chairs, which were more comfortable for sitting, but they offer lounge chairs for rent, too.
Exterior of Tropical Sunset
Looking left from our umbrellas 
Looking right from our umbrella 
Oy, what terrible crowds!
It was pretty blissful.  There were some people already set up on the beach (turns out they were daytrippers from St. Maarten) but it was beautiful and serene--just the way we like it.  We read, played in the water, walked on the beach, made photos, and in general blissed out for a couple of hours until lunch time. 

Ronnie Bryan
Right before we went up to eat lunch, Ronnie Bryan caught up with us.  I'd emailed him to let him know our itinerary that day to see if he could meet up with us to fill out the car rental paperwork--usually we have lots of time to do that, but with such a short trip I was afraid we might leave the island without that happening!  He's such a great guy, that Ronnie, and he's done as much for our enjoyment of Anguilla as anybody we've met on the island. 

DH at our railside table 
That's actually my cleverly-disguised Kobo, not the classic novel.
For lunch we opted for a couple of rum punches (alas, a little too sweet) as well as some bottled water. DH was craving a simple hot dog and I liked the sound of the grilled shrimp kebabs, which came with rice & peas and a little cole slaw.  The menu offered a pretty good variety in a wide price range, everything from hamburgers & hotdogs to a crayfish or lobster platter, and there was a sandwich board of specials, too.  We debated ordering a dessert but passed--we wanted to make sure we were extra-special-hungry for dinner that night. Our bill for the day came to $45, and that included both a $5 charge for use of the beach umbrella and a clearly-marked service charge.  In other words, half of what our bill at Garvey's Sunshine Shack was from two days before.  Garvey's food was better, but the locations were about par in my book.  I liked the seclusion better at Garvey's, but I think it's clear that Tropical Sunset wins for better value. We liked both very much and intend to be repeat visitors next year.

Self-explanatory, methinks
This was the perfect portion for me, but a hungrier person might wish for  more.
The bar at Tropical Sunset
Love this sign from behind the bar. Nice juxtaposition with the Tylenol, too.
After lunch we did a repeat of the morning, but after a walk I was feeling so relaxed that at one point I was actually dozing upright in my chair.  DH apparently stole a photo or two of me with my mouth agape, but I deleted them when he wasn't paying attention. While I love the soothing sounds of the surf, I don't typically fall asleep when at the beach, so snorting myself awake was as much a surprise to me as to those in my immediate listening area. 

Note the AARF logo on my cap
What is the reading equivalent of double-fisting a drink? I had this
 book as well as my e-reader for a full complement of reading experience.
Our little spot in the shade
Around 4:00 we packed up because we wanted to make sure that Sea Spray was still open on our drive home. Sea Spray is the little sherbet-colored cottage at the Sandy Ground roundabout that houses a cute gift shop as well as Iced & Easy, a smoothie place.  Pamela, the proprietor, is a fellow animal lover and AARF supporter and we always look forward to our visits with her. She was busy that day painting a selection of Christmas ornaments that sell like hotcakes during high season.

Here's Pamela, mixing up our rum punches
Here was the day's smoothie selection
(you can also mix & match your favorite flavors) 
These are her cute ornaments
We love Pamela's rum punch--it's among my favorites, right up there with the rum punch from Ferryboat Inn and the Ti punch from Straw Hat.  It's not too sweet, plus it's very strong.  I mean VERY strong. And at only $6, it's not a bad price, either. The three of us chatted for a while and Pamela shared  some very useful information when we made the offhand comment about missing our usual breakfast places on this trip--Bonjour Cafe was open and serving breakfast daily down in Sandy Ground.  The name was vaguely familiar to me from reading Nori's blog but we'd never been there, so we vowed to try it out the next morning. 

We left Sea Spray and drove all the way out to Best Buy to pick up some more water and other items.  The place is huge and it looks like all of the expats on the island shop there.  The selection was certainly fantastic if you're looking for US  (and other international) brands for packaged foodstuffs.  I didn't really check out the meat & poultry section, but for produce I'd still suggest shopping at the roadside fruit stands. However we did see this product, which was just begging to be photographed. Inconceivable:
I don't think this word means what you think it means...
At least we headed home to Sweet Return to get ready for dinner that night.  It was opening night at Dolce Vita and to say that we were excited about that would be to engage in the most careless of understatement. At last we would be able to dine in our of our favorite places on the island!
Our going-out clothes (and in my case, makeup)
It was not a propitious beginning when we walked up and they didn't have our reservation that I had made that morning.  I started to get a little panicky, thinking that every single Viceroy guest would be there for opening night and there wouldn't be enough room for us, so I stammered out in desperation, "B-b-but I called.  This morning.  I called this morning and spoke to a man." Yup, that's apparently my idea of being helpful and not at all redundant.  But all was well and they had a table for two--turns out that I had made my reservation with Abbi himself (the owner) but that he'd been driving and answering his cell phone when I called).

Our beachside table
When the server came by to take our order, I was slightly disappointed that, despite being the first night open, the bar was not stocked with things that I assumed would be staples: bourbon, fresh mint, and limoncello--this last item being unusual because the restaurant traditionally serves shots of limoncello with their desserts. Still, it's not a hardship to sip on a gin and tonic, so we both did just that while perusing the menu. We shared the arugula salad with candied walnuts and sliced pears, and then DH chose the eggplant rollatini (the wonderful dish he'd had last time) while I decided to try the papardelle with duck sauce based on the recommendations on various travel forums. 

DH's eggplant 
My duck pappadelle
Both were good, but the rollatini wasn't quite as good as last time.  It was a little heavy with the ricotta. And while mine was tasty and I enjoyed it while it was at the table, it didn't sit well with me as the night wore on. We shared a glass of red wine, though, and sat looking out at the boats anchored in Sandy Ground--or rather, trying to make out the boats from the little lights atop the sailboat masts, as it was quite dark. We weren't very hungry, but we did want dessert, and it turned out that the limoncello cheesecake was every bit as good as what we remembered. In fact, it was practically perfect. Three cocktails, one glass of wine, one salad, one entree, and one appetizer (the eggplant) brought our meal to $98, with a service charge clearly marked. We made our reservation for the next night as we left, just to make sure that it was accounted for.  ;)
The perfect ending to our meal.

24 October 2013

Ahhhh, Anguilla: October 2013, Part Three

Beautiful Meads Bay
We awaken to wet pavement and wet cushions 'round the pool.  There's been a storm in the night but we both slept so well that neither of us heard it. We settled into our routine of early morning coffee outside, followed by breakfast around 9:00 inside.  There are about two hours mid-morning when the pool and deck area are completely in the sun with no shade at all, so we always ate breakfast inside.  I picked out the veggies from my pasta the night before to make a cheese & veggie omelet while DH opted for scrambled eggs.  We both had bacon, toast, coffee, and juice.  After breakfast my sweet'art wasn't feeling so hot, so he reclined for a while and I busied myself with my book and checking in on the Anguilla travel forums using the villa's wifi.

Breakfast at home
Fetch me my fainting couch!
Around 1:00 pm, DH starts to feel better, so we decide to pack up beach bags and a couple of chairs & umbrellas and head for a west end beach.  We really wanted to go to Maundays Bay, but with Cap Juluca still closed, we weren't sure what the beach access would be.  Remembering how much we loved that little cove on the Malliouhana end of Meads Bay, we headed there.  Surprised that nobody was under the tree, since it was a Sunday afternoon--we'd expected more locals kicking back down there--we ducked over the small headland and started to set up shop in the "private" cove on the other side.  I say "private" because by law,  all beaches on Anguilla are public up to the high water line, but we were the only two on it. We lasted only about 5 minutes, I'm afraid.  It was so frickin' hot in that cove, with not a lick of shade other than what we brought, and not even a hint of breeze. And it was hot. And one of our umbrellas didn't work. And I stepped on a thorn, lost my balance standing on one foot trying to get it out, and served only to jam it further into my instep.  And did I mention it was hot?

The public access road to Meads Bay 
Our one working umbrella
You can see Malli's dismantled restaurant here
Steps leading down to the private cove
We just looked at each other after I stopped swearing at the thorn, and it was a good thing, too, because we started laughing.  If I hadn't started laughing, my mood would have become very foul, very quickly. We it took us more time to pack & unpack everything than we spent actually on the beach. We headed back to Sweet Return to enjoy the comforts of the copious breezes and the nice swimming pool.  Note to self: In the future, only visit Meads Bay in the morning.
DH, right before we started laughing at ourselves for poor judgment
At least we got to see some nice animules on our way back to the villa:

I've never seen such a big hermit crab in such a small shell.
DH tried to help it across the road so it wouldn't get run over,
but he couldn't get a grip on it that was safe from pincers.
Neither one of us could get into the pool fast enough.  We floated there for longer than we should have, considering the sun was still pretty high in the sky, but eventually common sense kicked in and we retreated to the shade once more to read and doze. I was really peckish by that time, having skipped lunch, so we snacked on the remainder of our cheese plate that the villa provided us, and we nature provided us with a show in the form of a storm approaching from the east. We looked up and all of a sudden St. Martin wasn't there any more.

Normal, hazy view with St. Martin in distance
Stormy view, all but obliterating St. Martin
We debated whether to go out for dinner or just order a pizza to go from the Corner Bar and Tasty's won. We called ahead to see if they could accommodate us and arrived around 7:00.  We'd only been there for breakfast on a previous vacation, and it had been disappointing, so I doubt we would have returned to Tasty's if other options had been available.  As it turned out, it would have been completely our loss had we skipped it, because we both enjoyed dinner quite a bit.

There were a few tables already seated when we arrived, and several more would fill up before we left, so it was also the busiest restaurant we visited on this trip. Despite the fact that the restaurant is on the main road and not on the water, the dining room was comfortable, with breezes darting in through the windows. Chef Dale Carty sent out an amuse bouche of  tuna in a sweet but spicy sauce--I liked it, though I'm not a big fan of thoroughly cooked tuna.
The amuse bouche
We shared the conch fritters as a starter course, which came with a spicy banana sauce and a small seaweed salad accompaniment. DH selected the goat stew, which proved to be the best goat he's eaten anywhere, and in a break from my usual island protocol, I ordered the coconut curry chicken, which had a sauce that was hot and sweet in equal measure.

Conch fritters to share 
Goat stew, with provision
Coconut curried chicken
The food was good, and we were happy to tell the chef so when he came to the front of the house and did a walk through the dining room to greet each table. We felt that Tasty's provided a good value for dinner on Anguilla, all with the charm of feeling like we were eating hearty, home-style food with a touch of flair.  One appetizer, two entrees, two cocktails, one glass of wine and a clearly marked service charge came to only $5 more than our barefoot beach lunch the day before, which led to an interesting conversation about expectation vs value. The dessert menu didn't interest us, so we drove back to Sweet Return to have a bowl of ice cream and a night cap. It was another mighty fine day on Anguilla, but our trip is already halfway over.

Tune in next time for two ingeniously identical days: Tropical Sunset for lunch, hours on Shoal Bay East, and dinner at Dolce Vita.