Sitting here, gale force winds howling outside, the rain is lashing at the windows, and dreaming of the beautiful beaches and the sunny weather we left behind only one week ago.
Another extreme busy year for us all, and nothing could be better than a relaxing holiday on our favourite holiday destination, this was the 25th year visiting Anguilla for husband and I, 20th and 14th year for boys, where did the time go?
Again, we met up with our friends from CT and Houston, spread over various location on the island. The size of our party from varied from 3 to 15 people all depending on various arrival and departure dates. Christine (Swe) and her family went to Mauritius this year, we missed you all!
Husband, youngest son and I left home on Tuesday 12 December with British Airways at 1315 hrs to Manchester, followed by Air France1700 hrs flight to Paris.
Stayed overnight at the SAS Radisson, where we had a lovely dinner in the restaurant before bed, congratulating ourselves on the wise decision on staying overnight in Paris, which meant we did not have to get up at 0430 am, and also not to have to worry about delays from the UK due to weather or other factors.
Having checked the bags straight thru to SXM in Manchester the day before, we already had the boarding passes, so straight to security which always takes time. Eventually we got thru, with 5 minutes to spare before boarding, perfect timing.
As usual, delayed on take-off, but the 9 hr flight was smooth, and with the help of a good book, a couple of movies and a nap, went quickly and arrived SXM on time 1445 hrs. We got thru immigration quickly, and the bags were already making their journey around the conveyor belt. No more waiting one hour for the bags, this was fantastic!
Gotchaâ€™s crew were waiting for us, we elected to walk to the dock. Had to stop at Simpson Bridge for immigration, 20 minutes to check 3 passports, we spent the time looking at the huge yachts, many of them carrying our home islandâ€™s flag.
No queues at Blowing Point, and very quickly in the taxi heading for our villa at Barnes Bay. Our rental jeep from HighWay was there, ready for us.
After scrubbing up and unpacking (why on earth did I bring so many clothes?), we were off to Royâ€™s Bayside Grill, thirsty and hungry â€“ Joanâ€™s Rum Punch is lethal, and the Lobster Soup and Sauteed Snapper never disappoints. We had arrived!
Our oldest son, who lives in London, was due to arrive on Thursday 21st, unfortunately his journey was not as smooth as ours. On arrival at Heathrow, was told his flight was cancelled due to heavy fog and he was booked on a flight the next day at 1600 hrs. Not much use when he had a connection from Paris to SXM at 1050 hrs. Using his own initiative, he managed to get on the last flight to Paris, and spent the night at the SAS Radisson, as planned. (65% of flight out of Heathrow was cancelled that day).
Next morning, more problems, the engines had problems starting up, the flight was cancelled, another night in a hotel. Next morning all went well, early start and he arrived at SXM at 1300 hrs, where Gotcha was waiting for him. Was he glad to get on the beach and in the sea, no prices for the correct answer!
Up until the Christmas week, we found the island very quiet, I spoke to some friends who stayed at Shoal Bay East, and they said the week prior to Christmas there had been up to 5 people on the beach. Talked to a friend who works at Cap Juluca, who said apart from the Christmas week, the occupancy was low for that time of the year.
We did not do as much exploring as we normally do. Mid way into the holiday the youngest son started to comment that we were turning into â€śresort peopleâ€ť, content to stay at our own beach. And he was correct, Barnes Bay was quiet, the water not too rough, the pool was lovely, I could go for my walks, our friends came to visit, we have caviar in the fridge, wine and champagne in the cooler, we really did not need to go anywhere else.
We did venture out some days though â€“
Palm Grove at Junkâ€™s Hole: Met up with friends from our home island, who were staying in Island Harbour. The usual long wait, the secret is order first, then go on the beach. We did this, but still it was 30 minutes before we got the food. The whole fish was reported to be delicious, the ribs were good, son and I were disappointed with quality of the crayfish, some was dry, some slightly undercooked, only 2 pieces can be described as good.
The beach was unusually busy the day we were there, there must have been at least another 15 people. It could benefit from having the dried up seaweed removed and cleaned up, but it is a nice long beach to walk over to Savannah Bay. The surroundings are unspoilt, wild and beautiful in their own way, another 5 years it may be another building site, letâ€™s enjoy it while it is still there.
Uncle Ernieâ€™s/Shoal Bay East:
Went to Shoal Bay East once, on Boxing Day, it was busy as it was a public holiday, but we had to go and say hello to Ernie and wish him a Happy Christmas.
Had chicken/rib combo and, which was very nice, but could have done with a bigger scoop of coleslaw, it wasnâ€™t much more than a large teaspoon.
He is famous for his ribs and chicken, but also have a specials board, with whole fish, lobster salad and crayfish.
Gone are the fancy placemats and silver cutlery which appeared last year, itâ€™s back to the basic Ernieâ€™s, plastic cutlery and paper napkins. He does have a more fancy looking menu, and I did notice â€“ â€śService Charge is NOT includedâ€ť and â€śNo Credit Cardsâ€ť.
The new waitress was a bit confused when we told her â€śweâ€™ll pay laterâ€ť until Ernie explained why (long time customers)
Watching the sun set enjoying a great Pina Coladaâ€™s, with extra Amaretto on top for us, Ernie knows his customers.
As expected, SBE was busy but we arrived in time to get beach chairs. Obviously a shortage of beach chair at KU, one family was very upset with their beach attendant, who in turn tried to find/hire chairs from the other vendors. No luck as they were all full.
Some of our friends ate at Maderimanâ€™s a couple of times, reported back nice food. We intended to go there one day, but never made it back to SBE.
Work going on at Maderimanâ€™s, with a wooden construction being built on top of the exsisting units. Must be very noisy for the guests staying there, - (Christine â€“ I donâ€™t think you would have been very happy there this year.)
Smokeyâ€™s at the Cove/Cove Bay:
The Musical Brothers play every Saturday 1230 â€“ 1530 hrs. It was very busy and a great atmosphere. Extra staff brought in from Cedar Grove, so wait for food and drinks was not too long.
Went there 3 -4 times during our stay, a couple of days we stayed on the beach, some days just for lunch. Beach loungers and umbrellas can be found in the shed next to the restaurant, you have to lug them yourself. There is a charge, but not if you eat lunch (I think).
The service can at times be a little slow, food is very nice, my favourites are the roti, curry coconut chicken and the saccafete.
Killer rum punches. A hint, - if you want Rose wine and are told they have none, ask to see the white wine, and there is a good chance one of the white is actually a rose.
A couple of our Anguillian friends told us St. Regis/Temenos wants to buy Smokeyâ€™s. The boatowners and the fishermen are very concerned, IF repeat IF this happens, they will lose the access to the dock. Those who have seen the model of the project have noticed there are bridges going from the big villas onto Cove Bay. IF (repeat IF) Smokeyâ€™s and the surrounding land get sold, fences are built, and access to that part of the beach and access road gets limited.
Bananas by the Sea:/Meadâ€™s Bay:
A new one for us, lovely looking restaurant, great location, food was very nice, husband raved about the tuna burger. Karen from Bistro Phil works there now, really nice to see her again.
Only 2 beach chairs for the guest, we talked to the owner and suggested to put out some more, it is being considered.
The boys had fun studying the 5 Giga/Mega yachts in the bay, one was â€śRising Sunâ€ť at 420 ft, owner Larry Ellison (Oracle) this year the biggest in the world owned by a non-royal.
A 15000 sq ft luxury villa (Meads Bay Estate) is being constructed next door to Bananas, 5 master bedrooms, home theatre, games room, plus plus. Price on application, which means expensive. Construction work going on near Turtle Nest, saw billboards for â€śSeychellesâ€ť, not sure where these villas are being built. Of course, billboards advertising Viceroy are lining the road, another blot on the landscape.
Walked down to the far end, a boat was in from St. Maarten, kids and parents, obviously visitor to the Dolphin place who by the looks of it provided beach chairs, umbrellas, food and drinks..
From what I was told, the Dolphin Pool has been extended, which is an improvement of the small original pool. The plan is to close it down completely and relocate the dolphins. I did not find out where to and when, unfortunately.
Trattoria Tramonto/Shoal Bay West:
Ask me to list my top 10 restaurants in the World and TT will be on this list.
The location on this beautiful beach, the ambiance, wonderful food, the service by the friendly and patient staff, and Allan, who really went the â€śextra mileâ€ť for us, -
We made several reservations at TT, all on Saturdays. We then discovered music at Smokeyâ€™s and changed one reservation for 15 people to the Friday. It was raining in the morning, and we received a call from Allan â€“ he was very booked up that day and was concerned that one of our tables may get rained on, was it possible we could switch to the Saturday as originally planned? We appreciated his concerns and agreed to switch, no problem for us, incl. the 7 year old birthday girl. Then â€“ about 30 minutes later he called us again, and told us he had been home and checked the satellite and the weather is clearing â€śso please come today if you still want toâ€ť.
Ok, so perhaps this doesnâ€™t seem to be such a big thing, many will think he was just making sure his tables were full. But anyone who is a regular at TT knows â€śbook to avoid disappointmentâ€ť, so he did not need us to come that day, he always has to turn people away. Especially since it turned out he had prominent guests arriving, Hillary and Bill Clinton and their guests which filled up 2 large tables. Why should they have the extra stress with us?
This gesture really touched us, and made us feel valued as customers and much appreciated, it turned out a memorable day for all of us, especially the birthday girl who had photo taken with the Clintons.
I know this will be a Question â€“ Is Trattoria Tramonto closing?
To answer that: Allan said he is ok until July, hopefully he will know more definitely early spring.
So we will just have to wait and seeâ€¦ I feel quite sentimental at the thought of it closing and being demolished â€“ we remember this place since it was the Oasis Beach Bar, where we sat there having a quiet Carib, and a stranger came up and said â€śyou were the ones who got married last week, congratulationsâ€ť, then it became Paradise CafĂ©, another of our favourites before Allan took over the site.
But then â€¦ it may never happenâ€¦this yearâ€¦.
(Part II to follow, Dining and General Notes)