28 January 2024

Anguilla XV: Another Tuesday in Paradise

The little weather station by our apartment

Having turned in early the night before, we both woke early on Tuesday, eager to greet the day. This was the morning that an echoing boom could be heard across the entire Sandy Ground village, and as better writers than I have stated (thank you, RMG), it was the explosion of a catamaran’s lithium battery. Yikes!

We heated up our omelet and johnnycake leftovers from our earlier (and enormous) breakfast from Roy’s in the efficiency kitchen in the studio and dined al fresco for breakfast before taking a walk up the beach.

Sparkling Sandy Ground

The listing catamaran. 

Before this visit, I had never given much thought of Sandy Ground as a great beach destination, but it’s only in Anguilla that the “afterthought” beach is nicer than what you find on most other islands! I loved feeling like I was staying in the middle of things, like being a part of the local community. Obviously that communal fellow-feeling isn’t found on the big resorts that are intentionally providing an oasis for their guests, but until I experienced it in Sandy Ground, I hadn’t realized that it was something missing from my previous villa stays on the island, too.

We packed up our beach bags and drove all the way out to Shoal Bay East to spend the day at Elodia’s. That location is my favorite spot to park myself on SBE, just a short walk from the point, with steady breezes to keep you comfortable and a constant changing in shades of blue, thanks to the wind, the water, and its myriad interplays of light.

We began our usual cycle of swimming (which honestly is just treading water, not actually any kind of forward locomotion, other than drifting in the current), reading, and gazing at the horizon before I walked up and requested one of my favorite drinks: a passionfruit daiquiri. The one at Elodia’s is excellent and they provide a generous pour, and their prices are still lower than most other spots on the island.


After another dip in the water, we wandered back up to the restaurant for lunch. Michael ordered a mahi mahi sandwich and I had the bbq chicken plate. Both offered solid value and we made quick work of them before heading up the beach for a walk.

The last time we’d been to the island you couldn’t navigate around the point to Upper Shoal Bay, at least not on foot without wading through the waves, but on this visit we could walk all the way up. I have always loved that moment rounding the point, where the wind is suddenly aggressive in your face, whipping your hair around and the waves kick up and all the vegetation is bent to its will.

We walked back and swam again, then read some more, and eventually packed up our bags and settled up, for today was our visit with Pam at Sea Spray. Pam hadn’t been on island on our visit in 2022, I hadn’t seen her since 2019, and Michael hadn’t seen her since his first visit in 2016, so we all had some catching up to do! We sat and chatted while sipping our smoothies and watching the world drive by until eventually we bid her goodbye and hied ourselves down the hill to Sandy Ground.

Sunset from Roy's

Veya's signature urchin candle holders

Crudo of the day

Tonight was special, for tonight was dinner at Veya, which has long been one of my favorite restaurants anywhere. We started by sharing the crudo of the day (forgive me, I don’t recall what fish it was), served with plantain chips that was just delicious, followed by the five-spiced duck breast (Michael) and the grilled mahi mahi with miso-sesame glaze and coconut rice (me). 

The absolutely incredible mahi mahi

The totally delectable duck

There were quite a few new-to-me items on the menu this time, and I was deeply pleased to see that Veya now has a very nice selection of vegetarian and vegan-friendly items compared to my previous visits. (It must be said, that even though most restaurants in Anguilla can accommodate a vegetarian or vegan diet, not all of them list full options on the menu, which is a shame. When traveling with my vegetarian friend in 2022, all of our meal decisions were based on the online menu that restaurants provided.)

As tempted as we were by dessert, we decided to skip it in favor of following Peter’s advice and stopping by Waves on our way back down the hill to have a night cap, but not before popping into Meze for a moment to listen to Sprocka, who waved and greeted us as we gathered ‘round.

While Waves is technically walkable from Roy’s, I am so glad that we drove because walking that dark road through the abandoned Mariners resort to get there would have been creepy AF. It was creepy enough driving! But eventually the road gave way to a brightly lit spot on the water and we could breathe a sigh of relief.

We happened upon them at a quiet moment – they told us that 7-9 is pretty quiet until the after dinner crowd hits them – so it was fun feeling like we had stumbled across something secretive. We had two rounds of drinks while chatting to the two women working and the occasional person who dropped in for takeout before heading back to Roy’s and turning in for the night.

Christmas Bat!

27 January 2024

Anguilla XV: Straw Hat, Tasty's, and Another Day of Sheer Perfection

Passing showers during morning coffee

Despite the late night (by my standards anyway!), I rose with the dawn on the first day of the year and read while Michael slumbered a bit longer. Before long we were  both feeling a bit hungry, but Roy’s is closed on Mondays, so we broke our fast on with coffee and granola bars that we brought from home. We checked with Wayne first to make sure it was okay, and then brought our coffee downstairs to the closed restaurant to enjoy by the water.

We would not have wanted a full breakfast anyway since we had luncheon reservations at Straw Hat at 12:30. After it stopped raining we took a shorter walk up and down the Sandy Ground beach but the direct sun with no ameliorating breeze was starting to get a little too intense for my husband, who hails from northern stock much better suited to the cold.

Gorgeous Meads Bay

Looking for a change of scenery, we decided to take our chances to see if Straw Hat might have chairs & umbrellas available and packed up our beach bags to head to Meads Bay early. Luck was with us as we checked in and inquired whether they had anything left and we got the last set of chairs & umbrella in the front row facing the beach – huzzah!

With more than an hour before our reservation, we alternated between reading, hanging out in the water, and simply enjoying the breeze. Other times of year Meads can feel a little still, a little hot, but on this particular visit it was all bliss. We ordered a couple of Tings to enjoy and then eventually wandered up for our lunch table.

Sea Rueben

Banh Mi - minus cilantro

It’s always so hard to make up my mind what to eat at Straw Hat – I’ve never had a bad meal there, and their menu has changed so often that I’ve never fallen into any kind of food rut – but I have never hesitated when it comes to my drink order, and that’s their Ti punch. It’s one of my favorite rum drinks anywhere – not too sweet, and each ingredient gets to shine. Michael ordered the Island Passion, and then we decided on the Sea Rueben (him) and the Tuna Banh Mi (me), after I was gratified to learn that it could, in fact, be made without cilantro.

The whole experience was basically sublime. Our original plan for the day was to scoot somewhere else by 2:00, but we were experiencing a serious gravitational pull there. My husband’s preferred way of doing things is to stick to whatever plan we may have (it’s a plan – that’s what it’s for!), but even he seemed delighted with my proposal that we just stay put. Meads Bay was tossing up waves that were just large enough to demand our full attention when in the water so that they wouldn’t crest directly on our heads, and so our afternoon was spent in rotation between that glorious water, reading on our loungers, dozing off, and repeating.

This book pubs in May. It's SOOOO good.

Peter and Anne stopped to chat with us and we caught each other up on the broad strokes of our lives in the last couple of years, and then Peter mentioned that Waves had moved down to Sandy Ground and that it was amazing and we should try it out since it was so close to our home base at Roy’s. Around 4:00 pm we settled up our beach tab (which is separate from the main restaurant) and made our way homeward.

For this trip we were trying to alternate bigger ticket meals with more moderate ones, and so originally we thought we might pick up take out for dinner from Blanchards Beach Shack since we were in the neighborhood. After some discussion, however, we determined that we really wanted to sample something new-to-us and so we decided to give Tasty’s POV a try.

We arrived while it was still light enough to appreciate the view over Sandy Ground and were only the second table occupied. I think this is the second occasion on the trip where our server may have forgotten to put our order in, because we were there for nearly 30 minutes before she came back to say that they were out of a key ingredient for the drink I ordered. Again, luckily, we had not arrived hungry and we were in no rush whatsoever, so it was no hardship to sit and enjoy the view, the breeze, and the music which had started up in the interim.

I’m happy to say that our drinks arrived immediately after that, with our food not long to follow, and it was all worth waiting for. Michael had the seafood pasta, which was delicious (although not beautiful to photograph), while I chose the coconut crusted fish, coconut rice, and roasted veg. We loved it all and frankly it was hard not to lick the plate. 
Our bellies were full and happy, and it was a fantastic ending to a perfect day. 

22 January 2024

Anguilla XV: Out with the Old, In with the New

Sunset on Sandy Ground, as seen from our rooftop

Michael and I are not the sort to stay up until midnight on New Year’s Eve, much less go out, but we played against type for our first Old Year’s Night in Anguilla. About a month before our trip, we sat down to determine which restaurants we wanted to prioritize for dinners while on the island, but particularly for December 31 when reservations would be harder to come by. We toyed with the idea of heading to Rendezvous, lured by the thought of ringing in the new year with Bankie and whatever musical celebs might be partying with him at The Dune. Ultimately we decided that given our budget, but more importantly, given our practical nature, that it was the sort of night that would be more fun in the retelling than in the actual experience. Spending $180 pp cover just to be able to say that we spent NYE in the company of Madonna (or so I heard) and then driving a long way home in the dark amidst drivers who have overindulged just isn’t us (not to mention that we were trying to keep some costs down on this trip).

Beachfront table at Dolce Vita

Instead, we chose Dolce Vita, one of our favorite spots, and now even better – just a short walk up the beach from Roy’s! It falls to my lot to be the designated driver on the island because I’m comfortable driving on the left and am generally pretty familiar with the main roads, so it was a real treat to indulge in adult beverages without worry for a change.

Grilled crayfish: Anguilla's signature dish

Typically I order from the same rotation at Dolce Vita – gorgonzola gnocchi, spinach & pear salad, eggplant rollatini, poached pears in red wine with white chocolate mousse – but this night I opted for the grilled crayfish special, and why not? I was hungry and had been dreaming of the island’s signature dish for the last year. Michael and I split the Caesar salad to start, and he ordered another evening special with seafood pasta. We shared the Nutella cheesecake, which always looks beautiful but has never really tasted very chocolatey or hazelnutty to me, but I do love how light-bodied it is. And it pairs beautifully with that coconut cream sauce on the plate, too.

So silky smooth in texture

Since our strategy was to stay awake until midnight, we parted ways with Dolce Vita after our complimentary limoncello but before the joint really got to jumpin’. Abbi came by with a hug, a smile, and warm wishes to send us on our way. From there we walked to the end of the beach to have our second round of drinks at Elvis’s, rum punch for Michael, planters punch for me (it’s less sweet). 

We chatted with Elvis and the other patrons and decided to have another round of the same – hey, not driving! – before walking back up the beach around 10:00 pm. Our best laid plans of stopping in at Criss Conch Shack for a snack and then Lit Lounge for another drink never came to pass. We were still too full from dinner and despite my lack of driving responsibilities, I just didn’t have it in me to have another drink.

Roy's lights - just follow them home!

Traditional holiday Black Cake

Instead, we bellied up to the bar at Roy’s so that I could sample another traditional Caribbean holiday food I’d never had before and hear the last bit of Sprocka’s set. The Black Cake was an intriguing mashup of something like a rum cake, but with the flavors of a mincemeat pie and the density of a fruitcake. I’m so glad I could finally try it! 

Sprocka joined us at the bar after his set and we talked until about 11:30, at which point we went upstairs to watch the fireworks in the comfort of our jammies from the rooftop. I love that the entire Sandy Ground community of restaurants and bars pool their resources to provide fireworks for the entire village’s viewing pleasure. It’s true that various resorts do the same thing for their guests, but it felt special to be a part of a community celebration. The show only lasted a few minutes, but they were memorable – and at one point somebody up on the hill along Back Street was shooting off fireworks, too, so we were surrounded.

The opening fireworks, seen from our rooftop

Self portrait in jammies

“Oh, what a night!” as Frankie Valley might say. 

And the evening and the morning were the second day.