My wife and I needed a truly special experience to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. We thought about a trip to Italy, a mega-spa out West, and even a sojourn to Australia. Ultimately, we decided that all we wanted was to completely relax. Thus, we decided that we would return to Anguilla because we had fond memories of vacations there in 2000 and 2003.
In short, we experienced eight days of perfection. Highlights included beautiful flights of butterflies dancing about our front porch. Light rain sprinkles followed by intense sunshine. Immersion in schools of small fish at Little Bay. Sunset in my true love’s arms. And, bioluminescence in the waves of Meads Bay.
If you included visits to beachside restaurants, we went to ten beaches, ate at ten restaurants, read 8 books, and completed one, incredibly difficult jigsaw puzzle. We watched absolutely no television, refused to check our e-mails, and refrained from any work whatsoever.
Now for the details. After much research, we decided to stay at Meads Bay Beach Villas. We wanted a house with a kitchen and a private pool, directly on a beach, but small enough for two people. MBBV filled our requirements – and more. The key to this property is Chris, the manager. In reality, he is more like a concierge extraordinaire. If you need ANYTHING, he will make happen – day or night 24/7. He gave us his cell phone number, and always picked up when we had a question or request. Every restaurant seated us in prime locations, and his recommendations were virtually without fault. We cannot lavish enough praise upon Chris.
We stayed in Villa One which is on the beach front. It is impeccably furnished and has a well-stocked kitchen. We sent a grocery list a few days before arrival, and everything was present except frozen limeade. (Long story involving Margaritas. In short, after much searching, we don’t think you can get frozen limeade on the island). The plunge pool on the front porch was exactly what we wanted and provided a great respite from the moments when the sun was too much. Potentially, privacy could be an issue for some, but was not during our stay. The villa is squeezed between the Frangipani and Turtles Nest resorts. A second floor balcony at Frangipani, and the second and third floors of Turtles Nest could overlook your porch, but we saw no one during our vacation. Also, I’m not sure how much privacy anybody should honestly expect unless they rented a truly private villa at a much higher rate. Mosquitoes are an issue. Our first afternoon I was attacked mercilessly while reading on the porch, while my wife was left unscathed. At 6:30, I called Chris, who was somewhere off-property living his life. Within fifteen minutes, he was at our unit with two cans of repellant (which I should have packed from the start). From that point, I gave myself a good coating if I was using the porch in the morning or afternoon, and had no issues. One of my highlights was waking early, brewing a cup of coffee, and reading on the porch listening to the waves rolling into Meads Bay. One final note on MBBV. There are two bedrooms. One has a true king bed, the other has two twin beds squeezed together into a king, that presumably can be separated. We chose the room with two twins, but if this is an issue for you, make sure to check.
We arrived in Saint Martin on June 2 and had a very easy time getting through customs. We were met by a pleasant driver from Funtime Charters, who whisked us to the dock around the corner from the airport. We waited a while for other passengers on charter to arrive. There is a dockside bar, and communication with the bartender was a bit of an adventure because of her heavy patois. I drank Heinekin while my wife ordered a rum punch. The rum punch was not very good. Some type of liqueur or dark rum was overpowering and gave it an aftertaste like cough syrup. After a wait of 45 minutes to an hour, we boarded our boat. Make sure to bring your tip money. The porters are going to make sure to let you know about their efforts. Fortunately, reviews on this Board had me prepared.
On arrival, we were told by the taxi dispatcher that another traveler was heading our way, and we shared a cab. He is actually the son of the MBBV developer and we had a pleasant conversation about their property, and plans for a new property on the island. Once at MBBV, Chris quickly got us squared away and we lounged on the beach for a couple of hours.
Our first dinner was a Straw Hat. Honestly, I was slightly disappointed because of the many rave reviews that I have seen. It wasn’t bad, but I don’t think it lived up to the hype. For an appetizer, I had a Wilke (sp?) chowder, which was described as the local version of escargot. I decided to be adventurous. It was a very creamy bisque with bits of Wilke, which were earthy tasting and pretty rubbery (I’ve never eaten escargot or Wilkes before, so I can’t critique the quality). Not bad, but not something I would try again. My wife had a Caesar salad, which she described as OK, but not fresh. For dinner, I had the jerk pork belly, which was very good and almost had a pot roast like taste and consistency. My wife had the Mahi Mahi and Crayfish special, which she described as good. The mahi was tough on the outside but tender on the inside. Apparently, there’s a lot of mahi being caught, because it was on everyone’s menu. You are also going to see a recurring crayfish theme to my wife’s ordering habits.
On Monday, June 3, our car was delivered to MBBV early. The rental process was a breeze, and I was soon a licensed driver on Anguilla. We still lounged on Meads Bay for most of the day, but decided to go searching for that Limeade in the afternoon. We located the Best Buy grocery store, but no luck there. Inspections of a couple of other stores led to no limeade. We tried using Margarita mix, but the recipe just didn’t taste the same. But, we found fresh limes and transitioned to a ginger ale, tequila and lime recipe that hit the spot.
Dinner that night was at Mango’s, which I would rank a step ahead of Straw Hat. They have an impressive wine list, and this was the only restaurant where we ordered a bottle. Otherwise our dishes were so different that I was usually drinking red by the glass, while my wife had white. She started with a Greek salad that was awesome with local tomatoes and feta cheese. I had a black bean soup that was very pedestrian – little spice or flavor other than the beans. My wife ordered the grilled grouper with sundried tomatoes, mushrooms, rice and broccoli. It was soooooo tender and extremely well cooked. I ordered the stuffed chicken, which was very cheesy, but the highlight was the pureed carrots, which were sinful. We closed with coconut cheesecake and crème brulee, both of which were just OK.
Tuesday June 4 was one of the best days of my life, because it was the perfect combination of adventure, relaxation and romance. The weather was mostly cloudy. I woke early to try to fish on Meads Bay. I walked to the area below the Malliouhana and spoke with a nice gentleman who was hand-lining for fish. Neither he nor I had any success. But, he was chumming for fish and drew in a large barracuda, which was incredible to just watch. We lounged in the morning, and then went touring after lunch. We first went to Rendezvous Bay where it was very windy. We parked next to the Anguilla Great House and had the beach almost completely to ourselves – close to a mile of waterfront with just a few folks walking up and down from Cuisinart. After a few minutes, a family arrived and I enjoyed watching the father hand-line for fish, and his son’s euphoria when he caught one. It was pretty windy, so we decided to search out another location.
We travelled down the road and saw the sign for Smokey’s at the Cove. So, we made a quick left and travelled down to Cove Bay. What a perfect afternoon. Again the beach was virtually deserted. There were two other people at Smokey’s – and that was it for the entire beach. We ordered drinks and also decided on the 50/50 onion ring/French fry combo. Sufficiently sated with cholesterol and alcohol, we simply vegetated – and loved every second of it.
Dinner that night was at Veya. Top to bottom this was our best meal on the island, and one of the best meals that we have had anywhere in a long time. I had a Savannah Rum punch cocktail that was delicious. The amuse bouche was a parsnip and pepper bisque. This dish needs to be on the main menu. It was incredible!! It was rich and creamy with just a hint of spice. I literally licked the small cup it came in. My wife had a layered salad, which was good, but not memorable. I had the skirt steak wraps, which were delectable. As a general rule, I don’t like vegetables. But, the combination of flavors with the skirt steak, tomatoes, onions(?) and cheese ensured that I would include the lettuce wrap. For the second night in a row, my wife ordered the crayfish for dinner. She tells me that this was the best of 5 different crayfish concoctions that she ate on vacation. The top portion of the meat was almost deviled with cream and green onions, but also had meat that remained in the tail. My pork tenderloin was extremely tender with good pureed carrots, but also had a cucumber concoction of some type that I didn’t care for. For dessert, we had the malted mousse bars, which were decadent and extremely rich. Overall, we had great service, but the restaurant got busy late and it looked like there might have been some lag in delivery of food for some tables as we were leaving.
On Wednesday June 5, we stayed at Meads Bay. We had a lazy day and found the pool particularly handy. For me, the highlight of the day was our walk along Meads Bay. We saw two very small sand sharks swimming in extremely shallow water. These fish were about a foot and a half long and could cause no harm to a swimmer. They were also dark and easily seen. They were cruising along the beach and would virtually wash onto shore with their backs out of the water chasing some type of small food. One distraction was the ski boat at Frangipani. I imagine that it is extremely difficult to ski/wakeboard in the ocean, which isn’t calm like a lake. Several guests made efforts, which resulted in repeated gunning of boat engines as the skier would crash on takeoff.
Dinner was at Tasty’s. This is a reasonably priced “local” restaurant. We last visited Anguilla 10 years ago, and my wife fondly remembered the seafood salad. She ordered it again, and it hadn’t changed – she loved it. I had the pumpkin soup, which was just OK. It needed more cream. My wife again ordered crayfish, which were large and very good. I had the curried goat, which I considered adventurous. It had a rich, meaty flavor, much like a good beef stew or pot roast, and was extremely good.
On Thursday, June 6, we spent the entire morning reading on the porch of our villa. This was the best weather day of our vacation. Only partly cloudy and extremely clear air. After lunch, my wife humored me and my desire to go fly fishing. We first stopped at Little Harbor where I had moderate success 10 years ago. The condition of this once-beautiful area was disappointing. The harbor itself remains beautiful, although it is much more shallow near the beach. Overall, it has great flats, which look like they should reveal bonefish. Unfortunately, I saw nothing but a small ray. The area is rife with trash. It looks like fishermen put oil in the engines of their small boats and then simply toss the plastic oil bottles onto and around the surrounding beach. The old Cinnamon Reef resort has been completely abandoned and picked clean of anything useful.
We next stopped at Forest Bay, where I had read reports of good fishing and flats. Unfortunately, it was extremely windy and I only bothered to cast a line for a few minutes. On our way to our car, I chatted briefly with a pleasant local gentleman who was amused by fly rod: he said it “made him smile”. He showed me a blue bullet headed jig with a blue and white buck tail which he said would produce fish, including snook, in the area. Again, I saw nothing. In an attempt to avoid the wind, we drove to Long Bay, but barely got out of the car. The waves were large enough that I did not want to put in the effort to fish.
While recovering at our villa, it became clear that we would finally have a good sunset after several disappointing ones. So we got ready a little early and drove to Dolce Vita in Sandy Ground, where we had dinner reservations. We ordered a cocktail and sat in their lounge-like bar area while watching the sun go down. Thereafter, we were seated and ordered the gorgonzola gnocchi as an appetizer. It was light, airy and cheesy. My wife ordered the lasagna, which was very good, but not what she expected. The lasagna is not doused in tomato sauce, like many recipes. Instead, it is very light and almost creamy in its presentation, with just a hint of tomato sauce. It is good and recommended. I ordered the duck peppardelle, which rivaled the parsnip/pepper soup at Veya for my favorite dish of the trip. It is sinfully rich in some type of tomato sauce. I am not a food critic. I can only describe the taste as almost a carmelized tomato sauce.
On Friday, June 7, we chartered a boat trip with Chris’s assistance through Shoal Bay Scuba. We were assisted by Metro and Pinky who did their jobs perfectly. We didn’t want a bunch of music and partying, and they were at all times extremely professional. They answered all of our questions, were very nice and got us where we wanted to go. We visited Little Bay and Prickly Pear. Our expectation was deserted beaches, but these were actually the two busiest beaches of our vacation. We probably spent about 1.5 hours at Little Bay and when we left there were close to 20 people there. I observed the rope descent and would not attempt it myself. Snorkeling was good, but not great. It was incredibly cool to swim through schools of small bait fish hiding in the corners, but lots of fresh water from recent rains made visibility problematic at times. When we arrived a Prickly Pear, there were two giant catamarans from St. Martin anchored. One left soon thereafter, but the other was occupied by 20 to 30 people who were pretty loud and detracted from the general experience. Nevertheless, the beer was cold and the weather was nice, so we stayed there for the rest of the day. We returned to Sandy Ground and talked to Shoal Bay Scuba’s proprietor, Matthew. He’s an interesting guy who is expecting his first child soon. Roy’s Place seems like a great bar, and they serve draft Heineken, which was tasty and cold.
We knew we would be exhausted after the boat trip, so we planned for dinner at Blanchard’s Beach Shack. It was very reasonably priced and similar to almost any good sandwich shop in the states. Good but not spectacular.
On the way home from Blanchard’s, however, was one of the highlights. My wife noticed bioluminescent plankton that was washing ashore. It wasn’t enough to light up the ocean, but as the waves would recede, you could see tiny bits of glowing “sand”. As a geek, I found this fascinating.
On June 8, the plan was to stick to the porch at Villa One all day. But, it got hot, and there wasn’t much of a breeze. So, I announced that we were returning to Smokey’s for lunch and relaxation thereafter. The Musical Brothers were playing, and provided the perfect entertainment – like party music, but just laid back enough not to be obnoxious. You could sit and relax, but dance or sing along if you wanted to. I had the ribs for lunch, which were very average. My wife had the mahi mahi, which she described as her best fish on the island. She also raved about the peas and rice.
I also introduced myself to the “Anguillatini” drink. Those things are dangerous. They have all sorts of fresh fruit, and are tangy. I stopped at two and was feeling no pain. We lounged in beach chairs and took a dip in Cove Bay. I would characterize Smokeys as slightly busy – maybe 20 tables in the 3 hours that we were there. Still, the beachgoers were all laid back. Nobody was loud, and the vast majority of the beach was empty.
At our request, Chris had made reservations at Flavour’s for Friday night. Upon arrival, dance music was blaring from the courtyard at the rear of La Vue. It appeared that there was some type of fashion show scheduled for the night, as a stage was set up in the courtyard, with floodlights peering down from Flavours. The restaurant was virtually empty of tables and chairs, which appeared to have been moved to the courtyard for the event. There was no host or hostess, and we told the bar tender that we were not going to eat because the music was ear shattering. Even without that, I sincerely doubt whether food for the restaurant would be a priority.
We decided to try Trattoria Tramontto, which was the biggest mistake of our vacation. I had read the mixed reviews on Tripadvisor, but remembered that it had a good reputation in the past. When we arrived, our lack of a reservation was no problem. There was only one other table seated. From there, our experience was average at best. We wife ordered a glass of chardonnay that was terrible. It tasted like it had been opened and sitting in a refrigerator for a week. I ordered an appetizer portion of a pasta that was supposed to be spicy and creamy, but was mostly just spicy. My entrée was a pasta with tomato meat sauce that was worse than what I could have cooked at home. My wife ordered the branzino, fileted and described it as “lackluster banquet food.” The wait staff was not rude by any stretch, but seemed completely indifferent and ready to go home. Also, the restaurant had absolutely no breeze and was stifling, which matched our recollection of our visit ten years ago.
We tried to salvage our evening by going for drinks at the Viceroy on the way home. Sometimes, it’s good to know that you are just not cool enough. The bar was packed with lots of young, beautiful people. We managed to find two tall chairs at the back corner of the bar, and endured some smokers before taking our very good mixed drinks and walking around. It’s an impressive facility, and I enjoyed seeing some tarpon swimming under the restaurant lights. (On the way home I spoke to a gentleman who told me that he fished for them past midnight with no success.) But, it has just a different vibe from what we want. I’ve never been to Miami, but it’s how I picture the scene on South Beach.
Sunday was our final full day, and we dedicated it to lounging on Meads Bay. It was also pretty cloudy and we had some big rain showers. Per our request, Chris had supplied some jigsaw puzzles, and one of them took us virtually all week to finish. But, we used the rainy time as an opportunity to finish it off. I also fished on Meads Bay and caught a couple of small blue runners using a small clouser minnow.
We ate our final dinner at Jacala. The atmosphere was perfect, especially when a heavy rain storm blew through at the start of dinner, and we relaxed while watching the storm by torchlight. The amuse bouche was a greek salad, which wasn’t very impressive for somebody like me who is not a big vegetable lover. My wife had a tuna tartar that was very good, and I had the foie gras that was not terribly flavorful. My wife was carefully perusing the menu until the wait staff brought a tub and allowed her to choose her crayfish. It was prepared just OK and slightly burned. I try to avoid steaks in the Caribbean, but on the recommendation of the host ordered the filet mignon, which was just good. We ordered the Jacala Cake, which was a simple chocolate cake. “For friendship,” we were given a shot of vanilla pepper rum and lemon rum, which were quite tasty. The restaurant got full and very busy with only two wait staff and the host working the house. But, we encountered no service issues other than a good delay in getting our check. On the walk home, we saw more plankton, but not as much as earlier in the week.
On Monday, we woke up and each finished a book by the pool. We packed our things and Chris secured us a cab to the ferry. The return trip with Funtime was on a smaller boat, which seemed to be faster and somehow more stable than the boat that we first used. The seas seemed like they were very high, but we cut through them.
Again, we were quickly delivered to the Princess Juliana airport. I was impressed by the staff at the airport, who informed us upon lining up that their computer was down, but expected to resume service shortly. We were through that line within10 minutes. One word of advice is to eat at the food court on the first floor of the airport. The food selection on the second floor, after security, is extremely limited.
Again, we had an incredible trip, and we are in the beginning phases to planning a return with a slightly more reasonable, non-anniversary budget. Thank you to everyone who posts on this forum. I relied greatly upon your posts in getting ready.