16 December 2014

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Good-bye...

Morning on Barnes Bay     
So...when I last left off with my Anguilla trip reporting, we had had a very full day: visiting with friends, eating, paddle-boarding, kayaking, and shopping. And that was all before dinner!  Though DH and I couldn't promise Ava another meal of her favorite lasagna, we had saved something special for our last dinner -- night of live music with Omari Banks at Veya.

Omari Banks
Carrie Bogar, the chef, was very accommodating in my advance email reservation requests, answering my questions about live music, which dates, which tables to request, etc, and we enjoyed chatting with Jerry Bogar and the rest of the staff while we enjoyed our cocktails and perused the menu. We've visited Veya enough times that I think we sampled just about everything on their menu, so DH and I revisited some old favorites while Ava had a difficult time deciding.

We started with the calamari and grilled watermelon for the table, followed by the shrimp entrée (DH), the red snapper entrée (Ava) and the Moroccan shrimp cigar appetizer (me).  Full disclosure: this appetizer does contain cilantro, and I could occasionally taste it, but the flavor is so perfectly balanced among various spices that the foul herb which is usually so offensive to me was, in fact, mild.

The calamari
Grilled watermelon w/poached shrimp
Red snapper
Shrimp w/ corn fritters
Moroccan shrimp cigars
We enjoyed all of the food and were tickled to sample the amuse-bouche: a skewer with okra and a bit of local pepper, something that is stronger than a bell pepper but much milder than any hot pepper. We were even more tickled when, after the meal, Jerry stopped by the table again with a different menu, saying,"Take a look at this and tell me what you think."  It turns out that in a very short while, Veya will be offering a casual, small-bites kind of bar on the lower level where the Veya Cafe used to be.

If I am remembering correctly, they will be keeping later hours than the restaurant and will be offering dishes similar to these sample menus of small bites that are more diminutive in portion than tapas. Meze (or mezze).  I can't wait to give it a try the next time I'm on the island!

Though we had a relatively early reservation for dinner, our meal lasted longer than usual -- something that I noticed on this trip in general.  I reckon that having three people at the table makes for a bit more conversation than DH and I usually have, just the two of us. After Ava polished off her malted chocolate mousse bars, we were surprised how late it was!

We got up early the next morning to pack, then we all piled out onto the beach for one last walk.  And one last hundred (or so) rocks to skip.  The wind and waves had really picked up, and the sand was so soft & mushy, even several feet up from the waterline, that I sank into it up to the bottoms of my capri pants. Ellen came outside to say goodbye when she saw us, and I finally remembered to get a shot of the two of us.

It was nice to have our feet in the sand one last time, and the weather gods were kind enough to provide one last rainbow before we had to load the car up and drive away.

We stopped at Geraud's for breakfast (and for a trio of take-out sandwiches for later) and arrived at the airport for our Anguilla Air Services flight.  Even if DH weren't such an airplane buff, we'd still prefer to fly between Anguilla and St Maarten for the ease of connection and for the simple joy of seeing Anguilla from the air.  We had the plane to ourselves, so The Kid was thrilled to be invited to sit up with the co-pilot.

We traditionally do our sad-face pose here, but the trip
was so spectacular that we couldn't help ourselves

We even got one last rainbow while we were in the air.

St Maarten looked greener than ever as we landed.

Lines for immigration were short, and we popped into the little side area for American Airlines ticketing, where something strange happened.  Even though our e-tickets had us all booked together in one row and our itineraries were linked, and EVEN THOUGH we had paid the extra fee for sitting at the front of economy with extra leg room, the ticketing agent for AA gave us boarding passes in three separate rows, all in the back of the plane.

We didn't notice this, however, until after we'd already gone through security upstairs.  Ugh!  DH and Ava weren't eager head out of the secure area to go back downstairs to fix it, but luckily there was a gate agent working a different AA flight who was willing to help us out.  I had to show her my printed-out itinerary with all three of us confirmed in the Economy Plus section (or whatever it's called), and she gave us a puzzled frown for about 5 minutes and asked a colleague to help before we got it all straightened out. Luckily for us, she was patient and willing to spend a little time fixing it.

Flights home were long but uneventful, and even transferring in Miami wasn't terrible this time around. All in all, this was a great trip.  Anguilla is our favorite place for a vacation, but this trip was a great reminder of how much fun it can be to introduce it to a newcomer.  This was the third time we've done so -- twice with our granddaughters and once with my mom.  Ava loved every bit of it, and seeing the island through her eyes was a real treat.

Right before she fell asleep in the car on the ride home from the airport, she said the sweetest thing. "You guys," she said. "I feel like if I kept saying 'thank you' every time I was thankful for something on this trip, I would have been hoarse after the first day."  She's a good kid, that one.

I hope I can manage to put together a book review or two before the end of the year of the books I read on vacation, but it keeps getting harder to make myself do it with the limited spare time I have this time of year.  Travel blogging is SOOOOO much easier than book blogging!  But thanks for reading and traveling along with me, nonetheless. 

08 December 2014

Making the Most of our Last Day on the Island


It's hard to believe that Monday is our last full day on the island.  Time always goes by quickly when we're on vacation, to be sure.  But it seems to be especially fleet when it comes to vacation in Anguilla. That morning, since Geraud's is closed, we take the easy way out and head up the road to Straw Hat for breakfast.

It was a gorgeous morning, sunny and bright, and the view looking over Meads Bay was really lovely. Ava had the pancakes, DH ordered some poached eggs & toast, while I opted to try the scallion potato pancakes à la Benedict.  It was a very satisfying breakfast and I loved the texture in mine.  The pesto Hollandaise wasn't bad, either!

After breakfast, we headed back to Caribella because we had a date with Ronnie Bryan to settle up about our rental car.  Ava entertained herself skipping rocks on the beach while we chatted with Ronnie and admired the photos of his newborn son that we made him promise to bring.  After that, we packed up our beach bags and headed out for Irie Life so that Ava could do a bit more shopping for her family and so that DH and I could pick up a few things for our housemates, too.  I also lightened my wallet buying an Omari Banks cd and a new beach cover up for myself while I was at it.

Leaving Irie Life, we saw a pretty big boat at anchor in Road Bay -- much bigger than anything we'd seen there before.  We also happened to see a very pretty cow, too!

It was a little early for lunch, but at 11:30 we headed to Ocean Echo anyway because we had a gift for our friend Andrea, who works there, and we thought we might as well sit and chat with her at the restaurant instead of just driving around. As we were the only people there, she was free to visit for quite a while, and we had a fun time just sitting around in their club chairs, gabbing away.

Looking west, toward Viceroy, from the bar at Ocean Echo
The comfy club chairs 

I don't understand why Ocean Echo doesn't ever seem to be busy when we're there.  Admittedly, we only travel in low season (or as in this trip, shoulder season), but it's a great location, with a varied menu. Good food served at reasonable prices.  AND they offer complimentary beach chairs with the purchase of lunch -- and it must be said that these chairs are nicely padded and among the more comfortable ones available around the island. On top of all of that, Ocean Echo honors the Anguilla card!

The comfortable-looking, lie-flat chaises available at Ocean Echo
The view from our lunch table
Around 12:30, The Kid said she was feeling hungry again, so we grabbed a table to order some lunch -- we chose a table a little farther back to catch the best breezes.  Sometimes the sand on Meads can radiate some real warmth toward the restaurant.  DH wasn't feeling so great, so he only had his iced tea, but Ava ordered the vegetable panini with fries and I had the vegetable stir fry, which was a pretty different choice from my usual luncheon fare. Both were quite fresh and tasty.

We'd debated over lunch about what to do with the rest of the afternoon.  Ava and DH were thinking maybe we should just set up shop right there at Ocean Echo, take advantage of Andrea's company and the chairs & umbrellas, but I had a card up my sleeve.  I'd remembered that Davida had kayaks for rental on Crocus Bay, and I had the dimmest of recollections that they also offered stand up paddle boarding.  When I casually mentioned that there was a chance of doing some SUP once more, Ava's face lit up.

So onward to Crocus Bay we went.

Davida is one of those places on Anguilla where I'm *really* glad we gave it a second chance.  Our first visit there was not good, but we went again last year to meet Andrea for lunch because it was convenient to her house, and now the rest is history.  We liked the location, the food, the service, the ambience, you name it.  Complete turnaround from our first time there.

Just chilling at Davida
When we arrived, we told the nice server that we'd like to rent some beach chairs & umbrellas because we wouldn't be having lunch, but she very sweetly informed us that there would be no charge anyway. This was welcome news, as the beach chairs at Davida are the most comfortable ones available to the public on the island, and their umbrellas are the most generously-sized, too.  We told her that we'd be happy to start a drinks tab and that we would eventually rent some equipment, then headed to our chaises to read for a while.

There was a motor boat really close to shore, but we didn't really give it a second thought until the guy tried to leave.  His hull was stuck in the sand, and the situation got dicey quickly.  One by one, people got up to help the guy get out of the sand, and their group efforts nearly resulted in capsizing the boat more than once.  There were maybe 10-12 guys out there pushing and giving directions, and then, I kid you not, one of the ladies on the beach got up and started helping and the boat immediately got free. Just sayin'.

The boat went from this...

...to this
After an hour of reading and enjoying a refreshing cocktail, Ava and I got up for our little sea adventure.  I knew better than to try the SUP again, so I started off with a kayak. The beach attendant, whose name eludes me right now, got us fitted with everything we needed and off we went to explore the beach immediately west/southwest of Crocus.

What I could not tell from my position in the kayak, however, was how rough the water felt to Ava, who remained in a kneeling position the whole way down and back. By the time we got back to the beach in front of Davida, her legs were shaking so we trade her SUP for a second kayak and headed off to the east, checking things out along the rocks.

MUCH better!
The kayak was much easier, and we were maybe 1/4 of the way towards Little Bay when it started raining.  Actually, not just raining, but pouring.  It rained hard enough and long enough that everybody on shore scurried for cover and the beach attendants put away all of the umbrellas and cushions.  Ava and I, on the other hand, just lay back in our kayaks and let the rain wash over us, enjoying the sensation of the cold drops on our faces while trailing our hands through the warm sea.

After about 45 minutes, we paddled back in, as we were one of only two parties still out on the sand and we got the feeling that maybe the folks at Davida would like to close up for the day.  When DH paid the bill, we got a pretty big surprise.

Now, I don't mean any disrespect to Anguilla Watersports when I share this, as they provided a service with their SUP by delivering all of the equipment to Rendezvous Bay, providing a quick lesson, and then returning when we decided for them to pick everything up again.  That kind of service comes at a price (and you can see their price on the website, if you care to see it), and we paid it and were happy with the service. Fair enough.  In fact, we *still* are happy with the service, even in retrospect.

But our water sports bill at Davida was only $20 for the entire time, for the SUP rental AND the two kayaks rental.  They charge $10 per hour per piece of equipment, but I'm positive that we were out for at least 90 minutes, and by my reckoning, they could have charged us $40: for the time and because we had three pieces of equipment all together. My bottom line is this: even with a 100% tip to the watersports guy, our bill at Davida for SUP was less than a third of what it was the day before.

So if you're thinking about doing SUP on Anguilla, my recommendation to you is this: If you want to try it for the first time because you're not sure if it's for you, drive down the hill to Crocus Bay and give it a whirl for $10/hour.  If you already love SUP and want to do it in your favorite location anywhere on the island, and if cost is immaterial, try Anguilla Watersports.

Smoothie perfection -- no artificial flavors or colors!
In the meantime, all of this activity was generating a pretty powerful thirst, so after settling the bill, we packed up the car again and headed to Sea Spray to see Pamela one last time, enjoy a smoothie, and to lighten our wallets once more. I ordered the White Sands again to share with DH and I can't remember what Ava ordered, but while I was waiting for it to be made, I made some photographs of Pamela's shop, including the hand-painted Christmas ornaments that she makes.

Hand painted shell bottle openers
One of two main jewelry displays

This report really is getting long in the tooth, so I believe I will end it here and pick up with our fabulous dinner at Veya in my next installment.  Here's a pretty beach video to play you out: