Sunday, June 9, 2013

Back Home

Welcome to our Anguilla eXcellent Adventure Blog

Our adventure has come to an end, but many fond memories remain of our three  days in St Maarten followed by a full week in Anguilla.  It is our hope that through our experiences this blog will bring back a fond memory for you from a previous visit or causes you to have a burning desire to go visit these wonderful islands.   

To the many new friends we met along the way on our adventure, we say Thank You for sharing some pretty special moments – until we meet again! 

Below are quick links to each phase of our trip.  Jump in and start anywhere you like or read the whole story.  At the very bottom, I have also added a link to our trip report on Travel Talk On Line (TTOL).  This is where we have provided a wrap-up of our likes and dislikes. 

Feel free to leave me questions on TTOL if you are planning a trip.  Anonymous posts are allowed on TTOL, but it is always nicer to register and join the fun.  

Until our next trip...  Ta Ta for Now!

Pre-Trip Preparation

T-3 Days: The countdown begins! 5/22/13 
T- 24 Hrs: The Checklist 5/25/13

Sint Maarten / Saint Martin:




Travel Talk On Line (TTOL Trip Report)

The End







Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Tuesday – All things must pass… G.H.

Well today it is official… the vacation has come to the last fun day.  We will get up early tomorrow and reverse direction and head back home.  For our last day we decided to take it slow.  You know get back in our groove and just let happen.   However, I was still feeling a little glum about our return.  I checked our home email and was pleasantly surprised by US Airways which brought a smile to my face when I saw: 

We are finishing as we started -  Front Row!

With a little bounce in my step it was off to Geauard’s for breakfast takeout.  After breakfast we did a quick change we headed to the beach. The blue water is not only beautiful but extremely refreshing. Meads Bay truly is a magic place.  Carimar just made it a little easier to experience it.  Janet set off on her swim towards the Viceroy, and I walked the grounds shooting a few more shots.  Here is a closer look at some of the colors one’s eyes will be drawn to as they walk around Carimar and Anguilla.

I reached the beach as Janet returned and we just sat together and took it all in. 

Sometime around lunch we took a ride just to explore a few places we have not seen in our week.  We even stopped in one store and after chatting with the ladies in the store one pulled up the blog.  She was so excited that one of shots on Anguilla day is her nephew.  Yes, Anguilla is a very small place, and a very friendly island.  

Evidently it now appears that da Tree was the winner of the race, not the Real Deal who we had cheered for.  The young lady in the store said Real Deal was her Uncle’s boat.  However the race committee had not officially announced the winner.  That will be tonight at some sort of ceremony.   After exchanging emails so I could send her pictures we were on our way… to where… back to the beach and to grab lunch.

Being right next door to Blanchard’s is a good and bad thing.  We went to the Beach Shack for lunch and once again just blown away by the quality of the food.   And since we had no beverages with our takeout we achieved a milestone that has totally evaded us to this point - A meal less than $20s.  The rumor has it that the Blanchards left the island on Sunday, but the Beach Shack was cranking out the food and it was very good.

Why break a winning streak when you are on one.  For our last meal we walked back over to Blanchard’s, the restaurant.  We both went with Le Menu, which entitled us to three courses at a fixed rate.  Each course was outstanding and prepared perfectly.  I am so glad we decided to go there for dinner it was a wonderful evening.  A very special touch is when friends (Texas 502) sent over a bubbly libation to say good bye.  Man have we met some special folks.  We had a nice stroll home to finish our packing and call it a vacation.

I will do a wrap-up of the week when we return on the likes and dislikes.  There were very few dislikes, but some to report.  Thanks for following along and check back in a few days. 

If you decide not to, a goat will haunt your dreams for months to come. 

 After a week in Anguilla, I have become
the Goat Whisper!

Monday - Lost at sea and other tales

Monday started out very strange.  How so you ask?  Well Geraud’s was not our breakfast destination.  Instead we were out the door at 8:45 for a day trip adventure on the high seas.  Since the car still had not been replenished with go juice, our wingman from the night before was nice enough let us ride with them to the Sandy Grounds. Chocolat would be the vehicle to take us out to sea.  She is a 35’ CAT set up for day trips to Prickly Pear and Sandy Island.  These small islands lay not far off Anguilla’s coast. 

It was another beautiful morning in the islands as our Captain, Rollins, shuttled groups on the dinghy out to the awaiting CAT.  Assisted by mate Dion, we quickly motored out of the harbor and then raised sails.  The first destination was Prickly Pear for a snorkel. 

Snorkeling in the BWI versus the USVI or BVI is considerably different.  The water is beautiful, but the views under the sea do no match those found in the Virgin Islands.  The truth of the matter - is that anytime one is snorkeling all is good.  I got to try out the new camera, but with the sun popping in and out of clouds made it difficult to get the shots I wanted.

We returned to the Chocolat as Dion pointed out a ray which was circling beneath the boat.  So I started to follow the ray as Janet swam ashore to join the group on Prickly Pear.  Looking up I could see a lot of activity on the beach as others in our group were pointing to the sea and following something with their out stretch arms.  Then I heard the word… SHARK!  (about damn time I got to the story)  I began to swim ashore in the opposite direction they were pointing in.  Then more hands raised pointing other directions, and my kick quicken.  The music from Jaws could be heard playing in my head, and then I saw the creature.  It was 18” long and I snapped the picture.  With my mission accomplished I stood up and walked ashore with the rest of the group.  Really not that big of deal, but I can tell you in the future that shark will grow each time I tell the story.

18", But it sure looks a lot bigger in the picture... eh!

Back on the boat we were off to Sandy Island.  Delayed a few minutes by a passing rain shower, the group was getting hungry.  As we approached the island, I could smell ribs on the BBQ, but more importantly I could see an approaching storm.  Rollins and Dion quickly began the shuttling process to the island, but Janet and I were in the last group. 

The squall hit just as we motored away from Chocolat on our way to lunch.  Would we make it to the island or be taken out to sea... It really was not that bad, but it was definitely a tropical rain – Just pouring!  The drops stung your skin like sleet.  I must admit it was a pretty hairy ride in a dinghy, but we made it.  Of course I fell out of the dinghy coming ashore and to be consistent I fell out of the dinghy trying to get in it on the way back.

The sun returned and we enjoyed our slow transit back to Sandy Ground as the group visited among themselves and told stories of their visit to Anguilla so far. 

Rollins had provided us a wonderful day on the sea and his professionalism when the weather got crappy was appreciated.  I would have no problem telling folks that Chocolat Day Trip is worth the money – Just remember who is the Captain!

Having such a wonderful day, it seemed only appropriate to go to Dolce Vita for dinner.  Located right on the beach we arrived (without camera) as the sun was setting.  I could not find a link to this restaurant, but rest assured this was another amazing dining experience.  Janet and I split an arugula and walnut salad that was to die for and had their own balsamic drizzled lightly on top.  Janet ventured off to the homemade Gnocchi with a red sauce, while I chose a seafood risotto (hold the scallops please I am allergic) with mussels (got it right this time), calamari and shrimp.  Once again I was blown away.  I keep thinking I am going to get a meal that is just average, but no everything (including every bill) is above average.  We did venture out a little with an Orvieto as our wine choice, but the crisp acidity worked so well with my risotto.  Not sure what Janet thought, because the next menu had arrived.  Dessert took us to a new level I must admit.  Janet a Limoncello Cheesecake captured her desires, while I went with the classic Tiramisu.  Both were first rate and not a speck of their existence remained on our plate.  We enjoyed our coffee and then had a complimentary Limoncello as a digestif. 

It is so sad only one more day of fun before reality Thursday is upon us.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Monday – Ahhhh Sharks… I am too tired to update the blog

We spent most of the day on the Catamaran “Chocolat” snorkeling in Prickly Pear. With all the fresh air - I am just too tired to be creative. 

However, I know everyone on our day trip wanted me to upload this shot so they can send it home to their love ones.  I bet I have peaked your interest now.  Stay tuned to hear the saga.

I promise I will publish the whole story soon - just not tonight.  Be patient and learn how we escaped from this predator of the sea!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Sunday - Flashback with a Twist

As a child my family had a Sunday routine. Janet and I kinda recreated it Anguillan style today. We got up early in the morning and checked on the news and any updates from back home.  Showering and putting on church clothes we headed out the door.  Stopping at Geraud’s Patisserie (Not Again) for a light breakfast. However this time instead of takeout we ate there.  This was the first time Janet had been with me to Geraud's, and since we were eating there it afforded us the opportunity to enjoy a cappuccino with our morning meal. Leaving directly we headed to church, but as we hit the roundabout leading to the Sandy Ground I realized that I had not paid my breakfast bill.  So around we went on the roundabout and headed back to Geraud’s to pay our bill.    

Departing a second time from this Patisserie of delight, we hoped that my forgetfullness would not cause us to be late for church.  The moment we Pulled into the parking lot a chuckle arose in the car.  The name of the Catholic Church in Anguilla… St Gerard’s!  Yep it is spelled a little different, but the same name.  We can get croissants at one, and communion at the other - Truly food for the heart and soul!  The second observation that struck us was this is First Communion Sunday.  In the parking lot a group of 13 children gathered; the boys wearing black slacks and white shirts and girls dressed in white dresses with gloves lead the procession into the church.  The beat of drums and voices in song greeted the children and their big day had begun. 

Oh my, this was a very special service!  At the end of the celebration we were asked to stand up and be acknowledged as visitors while the whole congregation sang us a song of welcome.  The Mass completed 90 minutes after the grand entrance, and with multiple congas keeping the tempo the children reversed direction and lead us out of the church to another beautiful Anguillan Day.

Following church mom and dad would go looking at model homes.  Something I never understood since we already had a house, why waste time looking at ones you cannot afford. 


Welcome to our home...
 Janet and I walked down the beach to enjoy the morning when we were beckoned in to view a home for sale on Meads Bay.  We both fell in love with it immediately!  This home is truly ADEQUATE QUARTERS!  The good news is it had just taken a major price reduction and now is on the market for 18 million… Really 18 million! It was in the mid-20s, but has not moved at that price. 

We toured the entire home, checked out the kitchen, wine storage, outdoor and indoor showers in all 8 bedrooms, and many more extras that were just crazy.  All with a view that is hard to match.  
Janet trying to decide Shower in or out?

We hem and hawed about whether we should make an offer, but came to the conclusion that our furniture would not work at all, it did not have a gas cook top, and 1500 sq foot master suite was just too small.  Both of us are so excited about our pending grandchild, and look forward to more in the future, but 8 bedrooms maybe an overkill at this stage in our life.  It was very hard to let this place go, but in the end we thought it best not to make an offer.

Small Sitting area off the Master Bedroom
Sunday lunch or brunch was a must growing up in my house, so following our house tour we walked back down the beach to Jacala. Sitting right on the beach and only 100 yards down from Carimar we entered Jacala sandy and hungry.  Immediately we knew by looking at the menu that culinary nirvana was going to be reached today!   I quickly chose the Calamari Risotto and Janet the Conch Ceviche.  

Jacques, I am guessing the owner, came over and welcomed us briefly and then worked each of the tables speaking to his guests.  Those interested in crayfish for lunch, Jacques would bring over a tub for them to select their lunch.  And what a lovely lunch it was! We are somewhat disappointed that we will miss having a chance to dine at this restaurant before we leave.

In my childhood family experience we would return home to watch football or go out and play with friends. Here is the Sunday twist.  This Sunday we were so moved by the morning services that we decided to do Sunday school.  Instead of swimming and snorkeling we would participate in Bankie Banx’s and Friends Sunday School.

This of course is not your typical Sunday School, but was 3 hours of amazing music from a local calypso artist named John Lloyd, aka “Springer”.  His voice quality was so pure and spot on.  He played his own music, as well as covers from U2 to Marley.  He even threw in a couple of Bankie’s songs.  Bankie joined him for 3 numbers, and absolutely blew the crowd away with their arrangement of “Stand By Me” with John on guitar and Bankie playing harmonica.  Janet laid on the beach listening to music while I opted to avoid the sun today.  A musical experience that I will not forget anytime soon!

Dinner… My God are you guys still eating, you ask?!?  Well yes… but we had a very light one.  On a recommendation from our Carimar neighbors, we followed them down to Sandy Ground to a beachside eating establishment called the Barrel Stay .  We both had a fish soup that brought the sea to your taste buds.  Absent were the heavy creams and the soup only got better as it cooled for awhile.  The next thing that arrived at the table was a scrumptious shrimp tempura that Janet and I split.  Once again the wine was Sauvignon Blanc, but tonight’s offering was a Vin de Pays from the Loire Valley.  The crispness just seems to pair well with many of the local dishes.

There was one small thing I neglected to say about the evening.  As we pulled into the Barrel Stay, the low fuel light came on in the car.  There is like nothing open on Sunday night after 8.  Our neighbors were nice enough to fly wingman on our return to Carimar.   We cruised into the Carimar parking lot joining the other 20 white Toyota vehicles with a smile on our face - love in heart – and the BIG “E” going blink… blink… blink   

Wow I just realized no beach pictures!  Here is a shot of our Sunday School Classroom.

Ah... I think it is time to go to bed now and I will be dreaming about taking a bath in the house that we let get away.

Saturday – Shoal what will we do today?

We must be on vacation, because each day we are moving a little bit slower in the morning.  I made a run to Geraud's again for breakfast treats as we lounged around just enjoying the cool breezes and each other.  We decided our destination of the day would be Shoal Bay.  The beach, which I used in the header of the blog, shows up on many of the top 10 beaches in the world.  This rating is well deserved.  Over the years many folks have asked us why we always go to the Caribbean to the beach vice Nags Head, Ocean City, or Virginia Beach.  A picture of Shoal Bay may answer that question better than anything I can write down.

So we were off to the beach, but decided to take the long way and do some sightseeing on the other side of the island.  Driving on a island that is long and skinny is pretty easy, and if one gets lost it does not take long to rectify the situation.  The one thing that everyone must remember is it is in the “British” West Indies.  KEEP LEFT!  The rental car companies are nice enough to even put on your windshield.  One would think this would be difficult to adjust yourself to drive the car on the side you are accustomed to, yet operate vehicle on the opposite side.  Well let me tell you from my point-of-view, a person who is ambidextrous and suffers from dyslexia, it makes all the sense in the world.  I just get in the car and drive away – no problem mon! 

The hard part is trying to keep your eyes on the road as you drive pass these amazing views and sights.  Our roundabout journey took us through small villages where children played in the streets and the animals roamed freely. 

Transiting through one town we saw a very large crowd gathered outside a church.  The church had overflowed out the doors, in the parking lot, and across the street.  Traveling about another 100 yards we saw these very attentive goats on the front porch of small house taking in the events down the road.  Later on we learned it was a funeral for a very old man that had lived in the town all of his life. 

I wonder if this was the man’s house, and the goats understood things would be different in the future.  I guess that is a pretty heavy topic for a beach blog… 

It is time for a little Anguillan trivia! You never know it may just come up as category on Jeopardy in some future show.

The National Food of Anguilla:

The National Tree of Anguilla:

The National Animal of Anguilla:

As for the animal answer I would say WRONG!!! I think the island animal should be:

Shoal what did we do today?

Well it involved, white sand, blue water, meeting some new friends, chairs, an umbrella, a Presidente or two, Mahi sandwiches, and lots of time with my sweetie. 

Let the decompression continue…

Our dinner experience was one of extremes.  We had asked some locals where they go for good meal.  They all had different recommendations, but one name popped out and that was E’s Oven.  The restaurant is located on the main drag before you get to the Sandy Ground roundabout.  The place was deserted, which is normally not a good sign.  The wait staff of one was very attentive, and from the moment the first item came out the kitchen we knew we had Done Good!  The chef’s treat, was marinated grouper with an island slaw that was magical.  I skipped the first course, but my sweetie had a pumpkin soup that cannot be described.  I ended up having to steal a few spoonfuls.  Janet had coconut crusted grouper sitting in a bed of white beans and cubed potatoes.  The oven roasted chicken is where I headed on the recommendation from the locals who sent us here.  Amazing!  Half of a chicken was sitting on a heavy sauce of vegetables, herbs and spices.  Of course if you remember from the trivia above there was a side of rice and peas.  A bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from Chile to accompany the meal and we are ready to check this one off as great evening! Oh yeah - much easier on the wallet.

The Viceroy looking from Carimar
We decided to skip dessert and head to one of the high end hotels, The Viceroy, for a digestif.  Honestly we were curious.  There was a large Indian Wedding at the Viceroy that basically took over the establishment with the festivities.  Enquiring minds want to know!  We arrived in our white Toyota Yaris, unlike the groom who had arrived at noon on a white horse and service began.  We later found out that they had searched high and low for a white horse and there is one only one solid white horse on the island.  A member of the staff jokingly said, they gave up looking for the elephant a donkey or goat would be much easier on Anguilla to find.  The place was happin’ but we pretty much got ushered to the beach bar and could not see the activities.  The word on the street was that the bride’s hairdo for the reception got messed up, and at 9 pm she still had not arrived for the party.  I think it was going to be a late night at the Viceroy, but for not for us we headed back to Carimar to check our eyelids.
In closing I have to post this picture of a small Rum Shack in Scilly Cay that really says it all – How much better would the world be if we could just keep it this simple?

While driving this morning an Elephant has been sited on island!  More later if the elephant walks, we now return you to whatever you were doing.... Thank you

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Friday – Parade Rest!

We have a close friend that we vacation with who always needs a “Plan of the Day” - So here is our Plan of the Day!

Literally this has been our day.  We came to the realization that we have come to one of the most beautiful beaches in the world… Why should we run around looking at the other 32 beaches on the island? We are exactly 45 paces from the white sand (Janet counted them today) and have a beautiful unit.  Our refrigerator is full of beer and water – Paradise is not Lost… We just need to stay home to enjoy it.

So here is a quick tour of Carimar in pictures.  Welcome to our world... well at least for a few more days.  As my Uncle Bain, a USMC General who has left us, would say, “These are adequate quarters”

Looking at the grounds from the beach
Guided Tour of Carimar on Left
Side of the screen - Click to
Enlarge Photos

Our unit is on the first floor

Bed fit for a King

The morning started early for me.  I had a strong yearning for chicken babies and pig parts, so I arose and headed to Geraud's Patisserie  and had a breakfast sandwich that was top notch.  Ham, two types of cheese, two eggs, ham, 4 slices of bacon smashed between an English Muffin.  Damn Good!  If anyone sees Dr D, please do not tell him the address to the blog.

Lunch was a simple choice – Walk next door to Blanchard’s Beach Shack.  Melinda was working the kitchen and folks she was hustling.  The food was good, but the Mango Coloado was the best ever.  I am truly into mango smoothies, but this mango coloado takes a smoothie hands down.  
Blanchard's Beach Shack

Tour is Over Back to Chilln'
Radical Band Setting Up
The evening plans were to go see the Radical Band boys that we rode over on the boat with to Anguilla.  They were slated to play at 6 PM at a local park in the Valley.  We arrived just a few minutes before their start time and the bands were still assembling equipment.  The Jamaican boys were laughing and said everything is on island time.  Maybe they would start playing around 8 PM. 

So now we had lots of time to kill before our dinner reservations back in Sandy Ground.  We rode back to the harbor as the sun was setting and then pulled up to Elvis’ place on the beach.  To steal a phrase – Elvis was in the building!  WE had a couple rum punches and then we were off to Veya for dinner.

Veya is located on the hill going down to the Sandy Ground and has a rainforest like setting, which is absolutely beautiful.   A local band, British Dependency, has a wonderful sound and provided background music for our evening.  The service... I was honestly disappointed with.  Our primary waitress seemed slow and inattentive to her duties, while she chomped on gum. (Notice I did not say chew).  For our first course Janet had conch fritters in aioli, while I had a Local Leafy Greens Marinated Goat Cheese, Candied Papaya, Toasted Almonds with a Pumpkin Vinaigrette (on the side for me)   Janet’s conch fritters were out of this world, and while my salad was good it wasn’t what I expected.  It was not until I was about halfway through that I realized there was no goat cheese.  The head waiter came over to the table and asked how was our meal?  I said I thought on the menu the salad came with goat cheese.  She scurried off only to return and say she was sorry there was a mistake and the cheese was forgotten… and that was it… hmmm I thought.  For the main course Janet and I both order Snapper that was sitting on a bed of pesto mashed potatoes.  The great presentation was only exceeded by the taste of this dish.  For our wine we had a wine I have never had but always wanted to try - Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc.   We have had many CDPs in our day, but always red.   For dessert we split a trio of tropical Creme Brulees - Ginger, Vanilla, Coconut with coffee.

All in all the food was amazing, the music was great, and the service poor at best.  The bill was a little hefty, and in Anguilla a 15% service charge is added to all meals.  I was surprised to see the goat cheese salad with no goat cheese made the bill.   For some reason this really irritated me and cause me do something I rarely do…   The tip and the goat cheese had a lot in common this evening. 

It is now Saturday morning and it is another beautiful day in the island nation of Anguilla!