20 November 2019

Anguilla, or There and Back Again: Part V

Blooming ixora on Turtles Nest grounds
Wednesday arrives and I’m inevitably sad. It’s my last full day on the island, and thanks in part to Delta’s scheduling gaffe, there are still too many of my favorite Anguilla things that I haven’t done and I’m actually a little bit stressed at the thought of fitting them all in. Good thing I spent my time last night making a list.

The first thing I do after making a few pictures of Turtles Nest flora (looking vibrant after the light rain in the night) is hightail it to Village Bake House, which has been closed for the last two mornings and which I’ve been eagerly waiting to try. Located in the new-old Geraud’s location in South Hill, it has ample parking and outdoor seating for those patrons who wish to partake of the delectable pastries on site.

I selected a blueberry pastry and an apple tart, along with an iced latte. That’s when I learned that the Village Bakehouse has a fairly high credit card minimum (US $25, I think?). I didn’t want to dip into my cash because I was a little concerned about having enough for boat fare, departure tax, and a tip for housekeeping the next day, and ATMs are sometimes a little finicky on the island. So I proposed to the woman since I planned to come the next day for breakfast that I go ahead and pay for tomorrow, too, and then we’d be square.  Anguilla being Anguilla, she happily agreed to my proposal but the whole time I was struggling to place her face.

In the meantime, I took my pastries and coffee outside to the shaded patio to enjoy while trying to remember where I knew her. The deliciously flaky and buttery pastry crust must have jogged my memory just enough, because BINGO! It was Susanne from the former Bonjour Cafe in Sandy Ground.

At one point she came out to see if I needed anything else, and as she turned to go, she asked if she knew me in almost the same breath as I asked her if her name was Susanne. It seems that she’d been going through her own mental Rolodex to place me, too. We both laughed and then she lingered for a few minutes while we checked in to see how the ensuing years had treated us since we last crossed paths.

After breakfast, I headed back to Turtles Nest to enjoy the beach for a little while. Mostly I was simply biding my time until the morning was sufficiently advanced to head up to Ocean Echo to spend a few hours in the company of Andrea. No trip to Anguilla would be complete with a nice, leisurely visit with Andrea!

I squealed a little bit when I walked up and saw her behind the bar. Luckily I was the first guest at Ocean Echo that day, so we could have a proper catch up. She asked me where I wanted to sit, and when I replied, “In the breeziest spot,” she sat me at the corner of the bar.

I know that lots of folks love The Rumzie, Ocean Echo’s signature drink, but it’s a little sweet for my personal preference, so Andrea created this beverage for me.  Passionfruit, raspberry vodka, lots of fresh lime juice, and a touch of sparkling water.  Delicious!

A good hour passed while sipping my drink, chatting with Andrea, and reading my book while she was tending to various tasks. My adult beverage went down with tolerable ease, but I needed to pace myself. In the interest of avoiding plastic bottles, I opted for a Ting instead of a bottled water. Eventually, though, I grew hungry enough to place my lunch order for a fish burger.

The fish burger was deliciously seasoned and despite missing the French fries, I was glad I made the sensible choice and requested the green salad as my side. Meanwhile, a lovely American couple who own a home in Anguilla had arrived and she recognized me from this blog and from the TripAdvisor forum, so we had lots of things to chat about.

Looking west toward Four Seasons
Originally I had packed a beach bag with the intention of setting up shop on Ocean Echo’s comfy beach chairs, but that part of Meads was feeling a tad warm, so after making a few photographs on the beach, I was happy to head back to the bar for the rest of my visit. Andrea made me a margarita to help slake my thirst while finishing up my book. 

Looking east toward Straw Hat

Turtles Nest seen from Ocean Echo
Alas, I still have miles to go before I sleep, so sometime in the late afternoon I regretfully bid adieu to  Andrea so that I can keep my other commitments for the day. First up: a bit of shopping at Devonish gallery. I almost always come home from my Anguilla trips with one of his carvings/sculptures because they’re the ultimate affordable piece of art and this time I needed a little somethin-somethin’ for my colleague who was doing some of my work for me whilst on vacation. 

From Devonish, I headed east so that I could get in a visit with Pamela from Sea Spray. Here I picked up a t-shirt for my beau and made friends with her new feline companion, who is a real sweetheart. Sea Spray always has a nice array of casual jewelry and island-themed Christmas ornaments suitable for people even in my tax bracket.

Typically I would have ordered Pamela’s famous rum punch, but since my plans for the evening also included a sundowner in Sandy Ground, I opted for a smoothie instead.

I always enjoy catching up with Pam and hearing her news.  She was still getting readied for the upcoming season when I stopped in, and of course we spent some time talking about our cats, dogs, and AARF. Before long, though, I had to hie myself down the hill to Sandy Ground so that I could catch the sunset from a new vantage point. 

I arrived at Sand Bar just in time to settle in at my table and order a drink. There was one other couple seated there when I arrived, and they were of a friendly bent, so they invited me over to chat. They’d been to Anguilla a few times before and were also active on one of the travel forums. We discussed our favorite restaurants and they asked me the pros & cons of renting a villa vs staying in one of the resorts. 

Ahhh, so refreshing
Soon enough, though, it was time for me to think about heading home to clean up for my last dinner on the island.  Last dinner on the island generally can mean only one thing for me: Straw Hat.

My 7:00pm reservation put me the first to arrive in their dining room that night.  I think it was the very first dinner there where I wasn’t seated in Armel’s section, and I was very sorry in retrospect not to have requested that.  Still, the young man taking care of me was capable and friendly.

As difficult as it is to believe, I hadn’t had crayfish yet on this visit, so I made amends.  Skipping the appetizer because I’d just had one of Pam’s excellent smoothies just three hours ago seemed like a wise decision, and even so, I left half of a crayfish behind on my platter.

In the meantime, Doris, Peter, and Armel all took a moment to come over and chat, which made me very happy, indeed.  I ordered a second glass of wine while contemplating the rain and my choices for dessert.  I’d had my heart set on the warm coconut tart with rum raisin ice cream but it wasn’t on offer that night, so I had to consider my other options very carefully. In the end, I opted for the layer cake served with (if my memory is accurate) a homemade ginger ice cream and a rich caramel sauce.

While perhaps not strictly as satisfying as the coconut tart would have been, it was delicious and a very fitting end to my last evening meal. I was, in fact, sad when leaving and if there were tears in my eyes, then so be it.

Next up: a farewell tour of the west end and trip report wrap-up.

18 November 2019

Anguilla, or There and Back Again Part IV

Another Tuesday in paradise. Rise with the sun, read in bed while listening to the waves, breakfast on the balcony. Early walk on the beach, floating in those gorgeously warm waters, read under the umbrella. Those last three bits? Repeat until it’s time to clean up for lunch.  Because today, lunch is a Special Occasion.

Which is to say, Hibernia. I’d only been there once before for dinner many years ago, and when I tried going there for lunch on my last trip in 2016, I showed up without a reservation and they were closed.  So this year it was definitely a priority for me to have a nice meal at Hibernia, and I wanted to go for lunch so that I could enjoy the views and their lovely gardens to the fullest.

As it turns out, I was the only guest for lunch, so basically I had the luxury of a private dining experience. Mary Pat was incredibly lovely and gracious, and we chatted a bit about the island and the changes we’ve seen over the years, but then we also bonded over books.

I placed my order for the scallops & wahoo carpaccio with passionfruit, cucumber, and basil, followed by the warm crab, lobster, and onion tartlet, accompanied by the delicious Irish brown bread and sauvignon blanc. While waiting for my first course, I explored the art gallery and made some photos.

The Hibernia meal is like no other on the island. From the objets d’art of Southeast Asia to the gorgeous view to the unique menu, it all adds up to one phenomenal experience. This beautiful appetizer is one of the two best cold first courses I’ve enjoyed on Anguilla (tied with the cucumber soup with tomato sorbet at Jacala). Also, how gorgeous is it?  I love passion fruit - the flavor is so bright and clean, and frankly I don’t know why it isn’t used more widely with tropical cuisine. The warm tart was redolent with seafood and was comforting AF. The two combined were sheer perfection.

For dessert, I ended up ordering a trio of sorbet/ice cream. One scoop each of ginger and almond gelato and a separate bowl for the passionfruit sorbet.  Every last spoonful was divine. Also, the bowls they were served in were just beautiful. Hand painted coconut shell and hand carved wood. 

Eventually I tore myself away from that idyllic setting because I wanted to briefly stop in Island Harbour before heading on to Shoal Bay East for the rest of the afternoon. Sidenote: I gave my mom my old iPhone in September, but I mistakenly deleted all of my photos, including all of my Anguilla pics.  So I wanted to stock up on my stock photos, as it were.

Lime Keel is new since my last visit to the island

My favorite spot on Shoal Bay East is Elodia’s.  The location is a bit quieter and I love being so close to the point. I’m sure there are other spots in Anguilla where the same thing happens, but what is so remarkable to me about that location is the change in scenery, wind, even temperature when you reach the end of the point and look towards Upper Shoal Bay. 

Carole, the lady I used to know from Elodia’s, no longer works there but her niece was there the day I dropped in.  It was a quiet afternoon, so she let me camp out under the big canopy for a couple of hours for only the cost of a single chair & umbrella. I had a small nap and when I emerged from my food coma, I went for a short swim.  Or rather, I simply entered the water and bobbed in place for a while. 

Around 4:00pm I settled my tab and drove homeward. Mindful that I still had a little shopping to do for friends back home, I stopped in at Irie Life on my way back to Turtles Nest. As always, their prices are a little high, but I knew it was where I could pick up some baseball caps.

I’d originally planned to stop in to visit with Pam at Sea Spray on my way home, but since she was closed that afternoon, I headed home and tried to figure out what my plan for the night would be.  I debated between eating my Dolce Vita leftovers and staying in for the whole night vs eating my DV leftovers and then actually heading over to Dolce Vita so I could see Abbi (since I’d missed him, thanks to my reservation gaffe), sit at the bar, and eat that amazing poached pear dessert again. 

After heading up to the rooftop deck for sunset and making a few photos (alas, less than spectacular) with my complimentary glass of house rum punch, I felt extreme inertia kicking in.  As darkness fell, I knew in my heart that I’d be staying in for the night.  (Sorry, Abbi!) The leftover lasagna from Dolce Vita was quite possibly even better than it was the first night and I finished off the bottle of wine that Turtles Nest had given me upon checkin.

That was also the same night of the exclusive wedding party that had booked the entirety of the Four Seasons resort. It was definitely a no-expense-spared sort of soiree, so between the light show and the fireworks, it felt like a private party pour moi.  Happy early birthday to me, indeed.