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What can you say about a place that is heaven on earth, what words can describe the feeling of contentment, bliss, and peace that surrounds you? For those who have been there, you will understand, for those who haven't, I have one word GO!
I have been wanting to go to Anguilla since 1996 when I read a Conde Nast article about its beaches. Luck was never on my side, plans were made, then one of us had to work, and each year was postponed. I continued to read and follow every bit of information I could find, knowing one day, my dream would come true and I would experience the magic I had read about.
Finally, this year, it all seemed to come together, and plans were made last April for a trip in February, but the Gods were conspiring, my Company put a vacation freeze on after January 2005 - no vacations for anyone until the completion of the project, then AA decided to change their schedule, and our perfect little am trip LAS, DFW, SJU, AXA, became the trip from hell on a red-eye out LAS-MIA-SJU-AXA, but I persevered - after all - my trip had been booked last April, I didn't think the Company should penalize me for planning ahead, and what's wrong with a red-eye - heck - that's fun - just like kids getting to stay up all night! I sold work, and my husband, and I was back in business, just one minor hurdle and all would be well - that pesky airport opening in AXA - but they came through with flying colors - I love it when a plan comes together!
We made it to Anguilla in record time - 12 hours later, we touched down!
Clearing customs was a breeze and we walked out and were whisked away in a taxi. The gal was pleasant and chatty, giving us a running commentary as we drove, pointing out landmarks and sights - in our catatonic state, we could do no more than nod and smile! As we made our way up the road to RBH, my anticipation grew, and there in the distance, finally, was that view I had only seen in pictures, that water, the color I had seen, but could not believe, was real - a blue beyond compare - we had arrived!
Rendezvous Bay Hotel
We chose RBH for its beach. We wanted a small hotel, smack on the beach, away from crowds, and it fit the bill for us. We had a ground floor ocean front villa; the end unit in a series of 3 - next door to us was a retired couple from Manhattan, and next to them a retired couple from Delaware - both had been there many times and were familiar with the island, the hotel, and Bart the manager - one of the reasons they kept coming back, and I can see why - Bart is a true gem, and the Gumbs are lucky to have him. What a sweet guy, he could not do enough for us, from start to finish, he just went out of his way to make sure we were happy.
The villa room is around 20' x 15' with a table, 2 chairs, a small fridge, an easy chair, a large chest for clothes, closet with a safe, iron and board . Along with this, there are 1 1/2 bathrooms, one with a sink and plenty of cabinet space, and a large counter top, along with a coffee maker and a hairdryer, and one with another cabinet, tub, shower, sink, toilet and bidet. It was great having the two sinks and such a large storage area. Everything was clean and bright, and our housekeeper kept our room spotless each day.
One great feature of this room, is the huge porch - 20' x 10' with good quality lawn furniture consisting of a table, two chairs, a chaise lounge and another side chair with footstool. It was so great to sit out there in the morning and have coffee, and in the evening a glass of wine and watching the sunset. It was wonderful.
I have seen a lot of beaches, but never one as nice as this.the sand was like talcum powder, and the water was crystal clear, the blue in the pictures - unbelievable! RBH beach is lined with good quality vinyl strapped lounge chairs, and navy blue umbrellas, plenty to go around, there was never a need to get out there early to claim a spot. The beach is clean, the groundsman cleans it everyday, picking up leaves and any trash that may have been left, and there was no seaweed. Our days were spent on the beach until we got hungry, and then we would head out somewhere and get something to eat, drive around for a while and then come back and hit the beach!
First night's dinner was Cedar Grove at RBH - one of the best and most reasonable dinners we had. We shared a Jeremiah salad, and I had the paper wrapped snapper and Pete had the snapper in lemon sauce - it was perfect in everyway, excellent attentive service and melt in your mouth food! We went back to the room and crashed to the gentle sound of the waves!
Breakfast at Cedar Grove - then we hit the beach, around 1pm, we got the car - a small blue automatic Daihatsu with air, I was the DD and Pete was the navigator - it worked out perfect - I can't read a map to save my soul but I am good at following directions - been doing that all my life! We went to Ashley's - right up the street and bought some snacks, but they don't sell liquor, and directed us to a place called "RumCan", so we made our way there.
All this time, I had been worrying about driving on the left, and it turned out to be a breeze, with only a few exceptions - roundabouts and right turns!
I wanted to go and find Straw Hat prior to dinner that night, and we found it with no problem - there are plenty of signs along the way! I had emailed my reservation request and they had responded promptly, and we got a table in the corner, it was lovely. We had the lobster spring rolls, very good, shared a spinach salad, Pete had the pecan encrusted snapper, and I had the crawfish - it was a bit mushy - I have never had it, so I don't know if that is the norm - it tasted good, and then we shared the flambé banana dessert. After the spring rolls, the Chef sent an amuse bouche, which I thought was a nice touch. Peter came over and visited several times, and it was just a very nice evening - good food and service. Back to the hotel and stopped off at the bar to get some ice - met Simon and had a Bailey's and visited with him - a great guy!
We both got too much sun yesterday, so we planned on taking it easy today. We went out in the morning, but at 11 decided to go in an get ready to go to Gwen's - I had heard good things about their burgers and told Pete they were supposed to be some of the best on the Island - what a disappointment - the absolute worst experience of our trip!
Number one - Shoal Bay East was not what I expected - it was very crowded, and the waves were HUGE, plus the beach in front of Gwen's was very narrow - nothing like RB.
Number two - Gwen's was just terrible! We got there around 12:10 and there were not that many people in the restaurant - there were a bunch of people out in the lounge chairs and in the tables below. The waitress took our order, brought our cokes, and then we sat, and sat and sat, as we watched them hustle plates of food to the people down below. It was pure chaos, as they tried to serve this cruise ship bunch (I counted 26 people). Finally, 45 minutes later, they brought our burgers, the buns were hard, the meat was lukewarm and dry, they had obviously been sitting in the window all that time - they were just awful. We weren't in a rush, and had they told us when we placed out order, we would have gone exploring and came back; I thought it was wrong of them to take the order, cook it and then leave it to sit while they attended to the cruisers - two thumbs way down to Gwen's!
I don't know if you can normally walk to Shoal Bay Villas and that area, but this day the water was too high, so we got back in the car and drove over there - saw Le Bar, it looked very nice and I wished we had gone there - but live and learn! We drove around, saw Smitty's, saw Scilly Cay and saw people being picked up by the boat - took some pictures - big waves!
Our best dinner of the trip - bar none - we loved everything about it. Reservations by email again and I had requested, and received the corner table and Oliver came over and he was just so nice and genuinely pleased to see us. What a beautiful restaurant - lovely china and décor, and I really couldn't imagine what it would have been like without the windows, as this night was very blustery - we talked with Oliver about the windows - they are very high quality and I'm sure he spent a lot - he said he had to do it - he has lost too much business . Ms. B came around and talked with us - then she told us we should try Gwen's - oh boy - wrong thing to say - I told her in no uncertain terms about our experience, and she said - "oh yes, I never go there when the cruise ships are in!" How the heck would we know the cruise ships are in?
Anyway, back to Oliver's - that is a great spot - I had the Pumpkin soup (Oliver's grandma's recipe) - absolutely delicious, Pete had the gazpacho , we shared the lobster cakes - very good with lots of meat, and Pete had the grouper and I had the conch fritters - appetizer. These were excellent - I had them once before in St Thomas and was disappointed - they tasted like deep fried stove top stuffing - these were light and good. And, we shared a piece of coconut pie - one of the best things that has ever graced my lips! Really good!
Stopped in at the bar at RBH on the way home - a nightly ritual, and met up with Smokey - what a doll - he talked to us at length and told us about his career - his place at the Cove and how he comes up with recipes - that was a lot of fun!
Can't believe it is Thursday already - last night was wild - the waves were just pounding and crashing - they woke me a couple of times with their fierceness and it was a bit frightening! They were breaking right close to shore and were too big and strong to go in - just pounding.
We walked down to Cuisinart and had the continental, and then we toured the Hydroponics Garden - just beautiful - those tomatoes are unreal - so red and lush, we walked around the grounds, took some pictures - very nice - not for us - kids were jumping and splashing in the pool - I counted 7 kids at 11am. From there we went over to Bankie's - nobody around - he's got a bar set up on the beach - but there was no one there!
We sat out on the beach and then came back in and went looking for Vinissimo. It is up on the road to Oliver's - the owner's name is Christine - she was a delight - she has some good wines at good prices and is very knowledgeable and helpful. I read about this place on the boards - I think Frank talked about it - worth the trip! Apparently, she used to be on the other side of the road, but has recently moved into a building which houses her store, another place that sells liquor/snacks called "Shaken not Stirred" - they also have good prices, and a cigar bar - which we didn't check out - looked nice and there were people sitting outside smoking and drinking.
Another great meal - in a lovely restaurant - there was hardly anyone there - such a shame! I had made the reservation on line, and once again, Phil promptly replied with a confirmation. I loved the décor and the staff - so warm and friendly, Phil came over to visit. The food was very very good - Bistro Phil salad, Goat cheese salad - both way too big and could have been our meals - which is what we will do next time - skip the entrée's - we were too full, but managed to nearly finish our snapper and scallops - everything was excellent!
Oh no - Friday already - time is flying and I still haven't seen/been half the places I want to see! We're out on the beach at 8:30am - it's hot and sunny. After obsessing about the weather, reading all the weather sights each day, my fears were unfounded - all of them said rain each day - but we didn't see rain - sometimes it rained at night - we knew because the beach chairs were wet, but basically, the sun would come up, there would be clouds, as soon as the sun got up high, the sky would be clear with a few clouds - perfect - and NO WIND!
Ok, so I have been reading all about Tasty's, and we have passed it a few times in our drives, and I decide this is the morning we are going to go there for breakfast! What an absolute pleasure. Dale Carty is one of the nicest guys you can meet - he is a joy - such a smiling, happy presence, and boy can he cook!
Pete had the Grand Marnier French toast which he loved, I had eggs over easy - cooked exactly the way I like them, and we shared the hash browns - we thought they were fabulous ! Dale came over and talked - and told us we have to come back for dinner - I wished we could have made it - too much good food - too little time! His place is very cute, clean and the staff was friendly - and oh that food!
Back to the beach, this was a fun day - there was to be a wedding on Sat night, right close to our unit, so we got to watch them set up and rehearse. Bart was out there setting up, he made a path of conch shells, then he put small palm fronds and hibiscus in them - it really looked nice, Bart has such attention to detail, he just wants everything to be perfect - he loves his job and it shows! BTW, Bart is getting married April 30 - his gal's name is Anne, and she is just as sweet and nice as he is, I'm happy for them both!
Thanks to the boards, I already knew about the "rules" at Roy's - get your drinks at the bar when you come in, no ordering dessert before 7, and no joking around . We got there before 6 and were lucky to get a seat in the upstairs part, the bar was packed with people standing around, and we sat at a table for 4. Everybody went down on the beach to see the sunset - it was glorious - some people said they saw the "green flash", - I didn't - but then, I didn't know what that was - so maybe I saw it and didn't know!
We ordered the fish and chips - it really is good - but then the waitress came around - I don't know if it was Mandy - gray hair - kinda grumpy looking and she said - "are you sitting alone?" - we said "yes", and she said - "well plan on having other people sit with you" - fine - we didn't care - but no one ever came and that was fine too. The fish was in a light batter and the pieces were big - once again too much food. We went to pay, I know it was "Joan" because I heard people calling her by name - she seemed grumpy too, and she rang us up - weird system with the order books - but somehow she makes it all happen, then I saw some postcards and asked her "would it make you mad if I got some postcards?" - She actually cracked a smile - got my postcards and all was well - I liked it there very much!
>From there, we went to the Pumphouse - too early for the band - but we (I) wanted to see what it was like -pretty good crowd for that early - lots of people eating. We met up with a couple from Salt Lake City - they had to overnight in Atlanta both ways! I think it is ridiculous that we can fly to Tahiti for $900 each, including rooms, and be there in 8 hours, yet it is so hard to get to the Caribbean!
Another gorgeous beach day - at this point we are both tanned very dark - best tan I have ever had - waves have calmed down and we are in and out of the water constantly. It is so nice - there are lots of people in the water each day, and there are several people who swim long distances up and down the shoreline - not us - we're lazy and stay in our chairs reading books and going in every half hour to cool off!
Ferry Boat Inn
After the fiasco at Gwen's I really needed to find Pete a good cheeseburger! We went to Ferryboat Inn. This is a lovely little spot, not too far from RBH, with a great little restaurant and a good view of the beach, the boats and St. Martin. We got there too early, so we went up to Vinissimo and got some wine. Came back and ordered our burgers, the gal wasn't too friendly, seemed as if we were putting her out. All that changed with the entrance of Marjorie, who promptly turned off the rap music and put on a soothing cd. She came over to visit, and told us about the changes and how she is apprehensive of so much growth on the Island. She told us about St Martin in the old days, lovely shops and boutiques and how she cringes at going there now, she was a delight, another warm friendly person. The burgers were excellent - perfectly cooked, big and juicy - redemption for me!
The wedding was to take place this afternoon and Bart and staff were busy getting everything ready, they had chairs with linen covers and bows set up for the guests (10 people from around the States - the bride and groom were from Phoenix - small world). We had a front row seat for the whole ceremony - it was lovely - perfect weather!
When the wedding was over, they were going to Cedar Grove for their reception, where they were having dinner and Sprocka was playing. He came by at the end of the wedding and when I saw him I went over and said hi - I had emailed him asking where he was playing and he emailed me back and gave me his cell number to call when I got down there - I told him all this and he remembered - he actually said "that was you?" and he laughed and told me about his place over at the airport - we didn't make it over there either - but we did see him playing at Johnno's on Sunday afternoon - he's great!
After reading comments about Mango's on the boards, I had a bit of trepidation about going. I didn't want to put up with one of Dave's moods, and I didn't want to be "stuck in the back", and I didn't want to feel rushed - once again - fears all unfounded, it was one of our best meals and best evenings!
I had emailed for reservations - no response, I had sent a fax, with my email address and phone number - no response - I finally called to see if they had us down, and the person on the phone said the owner had the appointment book, and I would have to call back! "Staff" graciously called and made our reservation - he must have big juice, because we had the perfect table - right up front on the left side - not near the windows because the plastic blinds were down, this was better - the waves outside were huge and crashing! Thank you Staff!
This was a fabulous meal - I had the conch chowder and Pete had the gazpacho, and we shared the lobster cakes. Then I had the chicken stuffed with cheese and sun dried tomatoes, and Pete had the sesame snapper, once again we were stuffed. The service was excellent, I loved their timing, the courses just flowed. We left on our own accord with no sense of hurry - even though it was Saturday night and was getting busy. On the way out, we saw a guy - you know how you just know - well I said "are you Dave?" - He said "depends on if your meal was good or bad" - he had an impish look on his face and he was carrying a glass of wine. We talked for awhile - he wants to bring his new wife to Las Vegas - he said he used to come here a lot. He gave us his card and told us to call him next time we are in town - he was a great guy!
Well, our luck had run out this morning - the sky was dark gray - one solid cloud mass - thick with moisture and light drops were falling - I knew we would not get any beach time this morning. So we planned another driving tour. I wanted to get a picture of the Methodist church - I knew how to get there, there was another little church I also wanted to shoot, but we never found that, after that, we made our way to Nat's - Palm Grove for lunch.
This was one of the highlights of our trip!
My top speed was always 20 - unless I felt rushed, then I went 30 - this was a lazy day with hardly any traffic and I was able to go 20 all the way! We went down that road, and suddenly, it started raining - hard, but it only lasted for a short while, we got to Nat's and it was only 10:10 - there was a fisherman there and Nat - he was getting his day's catch. We asked him when we could eat - he said 11 - we went out on the beach and walked and took pictures - it was raining a bit - but real windy - note - mousse, rain and wind is not a good combo - I looked like Frankenstein's bride! LOL!
We came back in and ordered and then Nat showed us his photo albums, and told us all about the hurricanes destroying his property twice! We each got the lobster, coleslaw and johnnycakes - oh my god - this food really was good - he steams the lobster, the flavor and texture was unbelievable - the best I have ever had.
He gave us the recipe for the Johnnycakes and we are going to have them today (game day) with homemade clam chowder!
We stayed there until 2:00 pm - we were the only ones there - it rained off and on, and Nat regaled us with his food, and stories of his life - it was just an amazing time - like being in someone's home - I will always remember his gracious hospitality - what a wonderful guy!
We stopped into Johnno's on the way back - they had a good jazz group playing - and Sprocka was part of that!
Thanks to Ellen for this trip report ...