18 November 2013

Ahhhh, Anguilla: October 2013, Post-the-Last

Wow, but this trip flew by way too quickly.  We've done several 4- and 5-night trips before, but this one seemed particularly swift. I awakened with the sunrise in the morning and instead of snapping a photo and going back to sleep, got up to pack. We'd debated between getting up early for breakfast and returning to the villa for the last few minutes vs packing up and doing our leavetaking of the villa before  heading out for breakfast and the airport, and the latter won.

Apartment above Bonjour Cafe
Thus it was that around 10:00 we showed up at Bonjour Cafe again, having locked up the villa, made a last-minute sweep for out stuff, and leaving notes and tips for our housekeepers. DH decided to fortify himself with protein and thus ordered eggs & bacon, but I was a pastry girl all the way.  We ordered cappuccinos (cappuccini?) and shared one of the freshly squeezed orange juices, plus a buttered ham baguette to go to eat in St. Maarten.

I appreciated that the flowers were picked fresh daily--the handwritten sign for the OJ looked the same, but somebody had taken the trouble to remove the bougainvillea from the day before and put out fresh frangipani blooms.

We had some time, so once again we lingered over coffee, even having a second cup, and chatting with the owner a bit.  I ordered the identical pastries from the day before--almond croissant and a pain au chocolat--and they were infinitely better and fresher-tasting. I was even tempted to try out the hammock this time, but I held off. Gotta save something for next trip, right?

Before long, it was time to head to the airport to meet Joan from AARF, who was delivering two kitties to us to transport back to the US. My husband was filled with nervousness about it, but I'd been in contact with GreensFromMaine, a member of one of the travel forums I frequent, and she walked me through the process pretty well via email. We took two litter mates with us and AARF takes care of everything: carrier, small pouches of food, a small toy, veterinary papers, collars, leashes, and a spare liner for the carrier in case the kitties had to wee. They even provide cash for paying the airline carrier's fee, but in this case we volunteered to pay it as a means of supporting AARF.

Check-in with Anguilla Air Services was easy and since the kitties were sharing one carrier and it could ride on my lap, they didn't charge anything to transport them. The kitties could even stay in the carrier while I carried it through security--after they inspected the carrier, that is. I just have to say that those kitties were champs.  Though they cried for all three takeoffs and cried for most of the 6-minute flight from Anguilla to St. Maarten, they were champs. Troupers. Whatever cliche you prefer, insert it here. They went about 13.5 hours without eating, drinking, or using the bathroom!

Expressing their displeasure at takeoff
This was the third time we'd flown with AAS to St. Maarten and this trip we flew lower and came in at a sharper angle than we'd done before, seeing new parts of both Anguilla and St. Maarten.  We took lots of photos, including a shot of what I think might be the old location of Straw Hat and Saba seen through the windscreen:

Is this the old Straw Hat seen in the mid-ground?
Saba, dead ahead

Coming in sharply for the runway!
The pilot and the gate agent for AAS were marvelous, helping us onto the little bus that takes us to the terminal, and helping us handle our bags (we had one empty but largish bag with us that had been filled with stuff for AARF on our way to Anguilla), and showing us exactly where to go to find the transfer desk at baggage claim so that we wouldn't have go out into the terminal to check in. Everything we did that day with the kitties went as smoothly as possible--it was a dream, really--and we will definitely do it again. I don't imagine that we will ever take the ferry again if we had our druthers.

I had to take the kitties out of the carrier to go through security at St. Maarten, which I was rather dreading.  As any of you know who have passed through SXM, they seem to have the surliest workers in all of the travel industry. But with the kitties in hand, they were all smiles at me as I passed through, offering to help with zipping or unzipping the carrier, and one woman quickly jumped in to help extricate one of the kitties' claws from the mesh on the carrier. Verdict: everybody who travels to Anguilla back to the US via St. Maarten should transport a puppy or kitty to make their travels easier and more pleasant!

Once upstairs in the gate area, we turned left to the quiet end of the concourse to try to give the kitties a little food and water, but they refused it all, except for when I dipped my fingertips in water and then moistened their mouths. Oh, well.  They seemed fairly content when I would slip one hand into the carrier and pet them, with the fuzzier kitten having such a loud purr that even DH could hear it one seat away.
Seriously, how cute are these two?
The rest of our travel went smoothly and except for a few minutes at takeoff, the kitties were quiet, nestled into their carriers.  Even Miami wasn't bad--lines were pretty short for immigration and we spent an extra 5 minutes in the agriculture line where our veterinary health papers were inspected and we were waved on through.  At security in Miami, I thought one of the TSA agents was going to go into paroxysms of joy at seeing the kitty, and lots of people asked if they could see the kitties before we put them back into the carrier. On the flight from Miami to Hartford, we had one open seat between us, so we could take turns putting one of our hands inside to give comfort, all through the flight.

We met the kittens' foster mom at 1:00 am when we landed (such is the dedication of the people who work with AARF), who is a vet tech. She surprised us just a few days later by letting us know that the kitten had been adopted already.  Seriously, I would urge anybody traveling to Anguilla (or to other parts of the world that might have an animal overpopulation problem) to consider volunteering these animals for transport.  I was surprised just how hard it was to give up those kitties after spending just one day with them, but I would do it again in a heart beat.

That essentially concludes our trip. When we arrived back home, it was to a miasma of black mold, intermittent service of electricity, water, and internet, and no heat for two weeks.  Which is to say that all of the relaxation we soaked up in in the Anguillian sun evaporated lickety-split, such are the joys of home ownership. Thus it is that we're already planning in our minds our next vacation in June.

I'll miss these empty beaches!
Some closing thoughts: Visiting Anguilla this October was very different from being there in Oct '09 and Oct '10. Much quieter over all, and far more places were still closed for the season compared to our previous fall trips. We loved the quietness of the beaches, though, and we'll definitely miss that come next summer.  I was a little surprised to discover just how much our favorite restaurants play a part of our vacation in Anguilla, so we've decided that we will probably save future October breaks for other islands--either new ones we'd like to explore or old favorites that we've not revisited since we discovered Anguilla--and save Anguilla for our two weeks each summer.  Comparison is the thief of joy, and it was difficult not to compare this trip with previous ones.

Some folks have asked if we'll go back to Sweet Return villa and the answer is a qualified yes. Caribella earned our loyalty a couple of years ago and we will return to them whenever they are open.  If we go back to Anguilla again when they're closed, then I would absolutely go back to Sweet Return. I preferred the villa's location on the island compared to Caribella, as it felt much more centrally located.  It's also much nicer than Caribella, whose premium value is its beachfront location on a quiet stretch of sand. I'll say this--it was pretty easy adjusting to Sweet Return's amenities, especially its pool.  But I guess when it comes down to it, I'd rather be beachfront than have a pool, and though it would be perfectly lovely to have both, I'm not aware of any places in Anguilla in my price bracket that offer both. (If you're reading this and you know of any, I'd love to hear what they are!)


  1. what a fun time it looks like you had. and those cats are so sweet!!!

    1. next time i will want them to come all the way home with me and not give them up!

  2. I have so enjoyed sharing this trip with you. Your descriptions are always so vivid and photographs so beautiful they certainly brought some much needed sunshine to a cold and frosty day in London. Thanks.

    1. Thanks! I will look forward to your next trip whchi will no doubt inspire much more dreaded island fever in me!

  3. Johan at seniorbooksNovember 18, 2013 at 11:49 AM

    Thanks flying reading Cowe. Those kittens do steal the show, don't they? ' ' Tis wonderful to have people who care about creatures that can not defend or speak for themselves. By the way, is that US dollars for the orange juice?

    1. A-yup. Those juices were very expensive. they were more than 25% of our $40 US breakfast.

    2. And that's why we shared one the second day instead of each ordering our own,

  4. Pictuuuuures! And kittens. Omg kittens. I'm not even a cat person and they're so cute. Well done for transporting them; that is a fabulous thing to do.

    1. Kitties! They really were the cutest things ever. And I just have to say that reading a book and turning pages with one hand while cuddling a kitten with the other hand is a great way to spend a flight.

  5. I've been looking forward to your AARF post and as usual another great read - thanks again Emily for sharing :)

    The kitties look identical to our cat!

    Meow - Roxanne and Princess Puss Puss

  6. Good to know it all was pure fun! The AARF support was instrumental and the Kitties were good throught their travel.

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