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Trip Report 1/30 to 2/8: Murphy's Law Takes Anguilla!

Travel & news discussion about Anguilla

Trip Report 1/30 to 2/8: Murphy's Law Takes Anguilla!

Postby TTG » Mon Feb 27, 2006 8:01 pm

Perhaps I should have known when I stepped in dog poop on my way to the car to take us to the airport that it wasn't going to be our best trip to Anguilla.

Or maybe I should have known when the medication I was taking to prevent the nasty sun allergy I got on our last trip backfired and actually caused the allergy, on the morning of our departure.

Or maybe, just maybe, I should have taken the hint when we discovered that my husband, whose name is the equivalent of "John Smith," was mistakenly placed on the terrorist no-fly list.

But still I persevered. And then WinAir left half of our luggage in St. Maarten.

And yet still, still, I refused to believe that this, our fourth trip to Anguilla, would not be as wonderful as all the others. And then Murphy's Law decided to step up its game and show us who was really boss: It rained for TEN DAYS STRAIGHT.

Yes, all ten days. In a row. Of course, it didn't rain the entire time. But make no mistake: It rained every single day of our ten-day trip. And just to keep us on our toes, this was no "every-afternoon-at-4pm" Florida type rain. Oh, no. Instead, we were treated to a variety of rain---light, heavy, sideways, squalling---at various times of day, including morning, lunchtime, afternoon, dinnertime, and pouring, pelting rain that woke us in the middle of the night.

But I digress.

We decided to stay at the Ferryboat Inn on this trip. We'd simply much rather blow all our money eating all of our meals out and ordering good wine than on accommodations that we rarely see in the daylight. I'd requested the most "secluded" room available, and Marjorie, the sweet and accommodating innkeeper, certainly obliged: our apartment was so well-secluded behind dense tropical foliage that, unfortunately, it effectively blocked our view of the sea. The next morning we moved to another unit (#8), which was very spacious (probably about 1200 square feet) and lovely, with tropical-style white furniture, a king-sized bed, soaring cathedral ceilings, and a huge terrace accessible from both the living room and the bedroom, complete with a wonderful view of the ferries coming and going from St. Martin in the distance. Our terrace was made all the more inviting when our maid suggested that I put out one saucer of sugar and one of water, which worked like a charm in attracting the tiny, yellow-breasted "katie" birds that lived in the nearby tree. Oh, and for those who like their A/C, the air conditioner in the bedroom nearly froze us out every time we tried to use it!

Before we'd left on our trip, I'd thought about how I wanted to organize this trip report, deciding to focus (of course) on our meals, while also adding a "beaches" category to describe where we spent each afternoon. But given the circumstances of our trip, I think I should include a third category, which I will affectionately call "Rain Dodging." We became quite good at this and only regret that it is not a featured event at Torino, for we would surely have brought home the gold for Team USA!

Day 1: Murphy's Law Flies to Anguilla
Hey, even havoc-causing laws need to take a vacation once in a while. But they're just not happy unless everything that can go wrong, does. So on the way we were treated to the various incidents described above involving dog poop, sun allergies, terrorist watch lists, and, just for fun, some lost luggage. Thankfully, later that evening Murphy decided to take some pity on us and allowed us a short break to go out to dinner at E's Oven. What a fantastic meal! We'd eaten here a few years back and thought it was good, but now it's truly great. For starters my husband Angel had the lobster pancakes with the sweetest lobster imaginable and I had the terrific shellfish ravioli which, though tiny, were packed with flavor. For entrees Angel had the yellowtail snapper in an orange vinaigrette, and I tried something new: red hind. This local fish was pan-seared with a passionfruit sauce over a bed of julienned christophene and carrot. The christophene was so good that I asked the chef how it was prepared, but all he would divulge was that it was sauteed in vegetable oil with a little butter (yeah, right!) and fish stock. Given how good the food was, we were shocked to find that the total bill, including two fruity but strong rum punches, was just $89! [I've decided to include prices for all the newbies out there. All prices include the 15% service charge, although we also typically left an additional 5% in cash for our server.]. Oh, and the on the way home, it started to rain.

Day 2: An Almost Murphy-Free Day
After re-packing all of our stuff and moving apartments, it was time for a well-deserved lunch. Where better to treat ourselves than George's? The sun made a (what we would later learn was a rare) appearance and Maunday's Bay looked gorgeous. We were seated right near the sand and immediately ordered a Junior's Special for me and a Mag's Special for Angel. As usual the Junior's was great, but the Mag was a little disappointing---too many competing flavors. On to appetizers: fantastic cool gazpacho for each of us, followed by an excellent grilled swordfish sandwich for Angel and a crabmeat Caesar wrap for me. The wrap was full of fresh veggies (lettuce, tomato, red peppers), croutons, chopped egg, and fresh crabmeat---delicious! Total bill was $95. After lunch our walk on the beach (during which we were dismayed to find the water a bit chilly and cloudy due to the constant wind) was interrupted by rain, so we decided to visit a few shops (Irie Life, Anguilla Drugs, and Ashley & Sons grocery). During our drive over to the shops we rolled the windows down and embraced the island's unique and wonderful smell. Maybe it's all the goats, or the scrubby grass, or the mingling of all the delicious scents coming from the restaurants. Whatever it is, I'd give anything to be able to bottle that smell and take it home with me. I'd hide the bottle under my bed, opening it only sparingly on the coldest, darkest days of winter.

Dinner was Trattoria Tramonto. We started with a bottle of Chianti at the bar while we waited for a table near the sand. We ended up at the same table we'd had on our last visit a few years ago, along with the same waitress. Angel had a mixed green salad to start, and I was thrilled to hear that the chicken chowder, which I had been dreaming about since our last visit, was a special appetizer. Unfortunately the recipe has changed, and this version wasn't nearly as thick, rich, or salty with prosciutto as the old version. For our main courses, Angel had the lobster ravioli and I had the penne arrabiata, one of my favorite dishes at TT. The lobster ravioli is now prepared with a truffle cream sauce instead of the pink sauce, but it's still delicious and stuffed with plenty of lobster. Total bill was $119 with the wine---a terrific bargain.

Day 3: Murphy Joins Us for Lunch
Today began calm and sunny. We decided to head over to CuisinArt, one of our favorite lunch spots. The purple frangipani was in full bloom, a striking contrast against all the white buildings. We began our lunch with two frozen mojitos, which were just delicious (and took so long to arrive that the waitress gave them to us on the house---well, if you insist!). We decided to start with the fried calamari, but Murphy thought otherwise---it never arrived! So lunch ended up being two paid-for mojitos, two free mojitos, and two salads (Caesar for Angel; Greek for me). Total bill was $69; we still left a bit extra despite the mix-ups. I should also add that although CuisinArt is a lovely resort on a great beach, the additions of the playground and mini golf (mini golf!) are threatening to put it in the running for the Most Hellish Place on Earth, right after Disney World. :)

After lunch we decided to spend a few hours at Rendezvous Bay, one of my favorite beaches. [I also started reading "The Time Traveler's Wife---thank you, thank you, thank you to the person who recommended this----what an amazing, creative, and touching story!] It was mainly cloudy, and we were eventually rained out. (For those of you keeping track, that's two rain-outs in three days---so far. You'll need a pad and pen to keep track of all of them!).

Dinner tonight was Oliver's, one of our favorites. We arrived early for our 8:30 reservations and were asked to wait in the downstairs lounge. Remember that scene in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy's house detaches from its foundation and blows away? That pretty much describes the wind conditions in the lounge. At least now I finally understand why Oliver installed those windows in the dining room. Two guavaberry coladas later and it was time for dinner. We each started with the lobster cakes (delicious if a little thin), accompanied by a half-bottle of Sancerre and followed by two orders of the seafood compote, which came highly recommended by our waitress (who also recommended the fantastic wine---a true professional). The compote was incredible---huge chunks of lobster, shrimp, and grouper and snapper filets, along with polenta pancakes studded with spinach, all in a rich, creamy lobster sauce. Once again we were too full to try the famous coconut pie. Total bill was $172, plus an extra $10 for the waitress who recommended the compote and the wine. Pricey but well worth it.

Day 4: The Perfect Storm
It's cloudy and windy today. Again. More shopping, then! This time we went to the new Bartlett's location near the roundabout. I don't recommend buying your rum here (they're pricier than anyplace else we tried), but they have lovely hand-painted gifts and a smoothie shop right next door. Lunch was at La Sirena, because it reminds me of our first visit to the island (in 1997) and because I love the secluded pool area. We decided to go simple and light---two rum punches, two mixed green salads, and two orders of penne with tomato sauce (mild for me; spicy for Angel with the addition of Rockford Pepper Sauce---that stuff is deadly!). Total bill was just $60. After lunch we got a little sun at the beach, then went shopping (again) when we got rained out (again). This time we hit Irie Life (the Sandy Ground location), Devonish Gallery, and the now-closed (as we were very sad to learn) Curiosity Shop near the Red Dragon disco.

For dinner we decided to drive out to Hibernia. A squalling rainstorm heralded our departure, but we bravely soldiered on, since they have food there. Chilled tomato & red pepper soup for me; fish soup for Angel, followed by Tom Yam Pla for him and the Thai casserole for me. The tomato soup was particularly good (accompanied by an incredibly fresh basil pesto), as was the Thai casserole---huge pieces of crayfish in a spicy coconut milk-basil broth. For dessert we decided to try the 3-sorbet sampler (we chose coconut, passionfruit, and tamarind--yum!). Add two rum punches and the bill came to $140. Everything was good, but based on the reviews I'd read prior to our trip, I thought it would be better. And livelier. You could hear a pin drop in that place.

Day 5: Not Enough to Eat on Anguilla---Can It Be True?!
This morning we were awakened not by the sun, but by pelting rain at 4:00 in the morning. By 9 a.m. we'd stepped outside to perform the 360-Degree Head Turn we'd perfected, in which we surveyed the sky in each direction and attempted to divine what part of the island might possibly be graced by a few minutes of sun. That location was determined to be Shoal Bay East, so off we went, driving to beat hell (and the rain). We decided to have lunch at Serenity because of the beautiful space it inhabits, all soaring white ceilings and graceful potted palms. Not a great value for the money, though: we had chips & salsa with the tiniest saucer of salsa you've ever seen, two daiquiris (mango and banana), followed by two skinny lobster-salad sandwiches on toast. Total bill was $70, plus an extended wait for the check during which we missed twenty whole minutes of precious sun! The post-lunch weather finally cooperated, and we enjoyed several blissful hours of uninterrupted sun and sea (take that, Murphy!) before we had to eat again (at Sandpiper, which sadly does not sell side orders of fries) after our skimpy lunch at Serenity.

For dinner we decided to try a new place, Bananas by the Sea. We'd stopped by here earlier in the week during the day and the placed looked amazing---pale yellow walls accented by dark wood furniture and bright touches of red, rust, and orange. The effect is spectacular during the day against the blinding blue of Mead's Bay, and suffused with a warm, golden glow at night. The owners, Bob and his wife Dale, own another restaurant in St. Martin and are experienced restaurateurs. We started with two glasses of Chardonnay, which was good once it was properly chilled (we asked our server to do so and he gladly obliged). For our appetizers, Angel started with a fabulous grilled calamari, cut into delicious tiny rings, while I went with a (good) Caesar salad. For our entrees we (again!) decided on the same thing, the mahi-mahi stuffed with crab and shrimp in a white wine cream sauce. Although both entrees could have been warmer, they were both delicious so we didn't say anything (still feeling guilty about asking them to chill the wine, I guess!). Total bill was right in line with others on the island: $128. We'd definitely give this place another try, and would especially like to return for lunch.

Day 6: Sideways---only without the good wine.
Today we spent the morning watching helplessly as it rained sideways in sheets. I never thought I'd say this, but I am officially TIRED OF SHOPPING. We decided to have lunch at Tasty's since anything waterfront was out of the question. Luckily the food was as good as we remembered from previous trips. I started with the gazpacho, which was terrific (and very, very salty, which I happen to like. But don't say you weren't warned!). Angel had the jerk chicken salad, which was very good in a basil dressing, and I had the chicken in mushroom cream sauce, which was amazing! If you go to Tasty's, I highly recommend this delicious dish. But don't bother asking what's in it---I already tried, but Mr. Tasty wouldn’t budge. Total bill was just $50. After lunch the sun broke out, and we managed to squeeze in a few hours of sun and sea at Sandy Ground before it began to pour once again.

Dinner tonight, following a very crowded exhibition at Devonish Gallery (Antoine Chapon's gorgeous oils were on display), was at Flavours. I loved the downstairs lounge area, all very British Colonial with the dark brown wicker and ivory cushions. The upstairs dining room was also lovely, dimly lit with oil lamps to not distract from the view of the twinkling lights in Sandy Ground. One nice feature of Flavours' wine list is that wines are the same price whether by the glass or by the bottle. We started with the mozzarella and tomato salad for me, and the terrific coconut shrimp empanadas for Angel. These were a little small but very, very good. For entrees, I had the tenderloin in red wine sauce, while Angel had the ten-spice strip steak, which was fantastic. Our only quibble was that the red wine sauce tasted more like an A1-type steak sauce, but overall everything was very good and we'll definitely return. Total bill with 3 glasses of wine was $140.

Day 7: Get on the Bus!!
Today actually started out pretty good, so we decided to take advantage by spending the morning at Rendezvous Bay. A few hours later we were ready for lunch, and we decided to try Barrel Stay at Sandy Ground. Angel started with the Anguillian pumpkin soup, which I'd liken to a spicy split-pea soup, and I started with my usual mixed-green salad, which was arranged beautifully on the plate. We also had a lime daiquiri for me (nice & tart!) and a guavaberry colada for Angel. For entrees I had the pasta with fresh tomatoes and basil, and Angel tried the tuna special, which was served with a delicious Asian salad. Total bill was a little steep for lunch---$100---but the quality of the food was a cut above the rest.

After lunch it clouded up, so we decided to do some exploring. We checked out Barnes Bay (beautiful & quite secluded, with giant waves) and went over to see if the old Bistro Phil was up and running as Luna Rosa yet (nope), then it began to rain (are you still keeping track?), so headed back to the inn to get ready for . . . the Super Bowl! That's right, my beloved Pittsburgh Steelers made it to the big game, so we decided to go to the Super Bowl Buffet at CuisinArt. The American-style buffet was packed with perfect football-watching fare (wings, nachos, hot dogs, chili, pizza) and they even had tiny chocolate cakes shaped and decorated like footballs! We sat with a very nice couple from the Netherlands who weren't familiar with American football, so it was fun to explain the game to them and hear about their favorite sports as well. Several hours and several frozen mojitos later, the Steelers were the Super Bowl Champs! Go Bus!! I think we spent about $140 here, but the buffet was only $40. You can figure out what we spent the rest on. :)

Day 8: Cheeseburger in Paradise
Today we decided to have lunch at Ferryboat Inn. How is it that Marjorie McClean has managed to keep such a low profile all this time? Holy mother of all things good and juicy, this had to be the best hamburger I've ever had. No joke. If you're a New Yorker, I hope you're sitting down: It's BETTER THAN CORNER BISTRO! There, I said it. And that's to say nothing of the out-of-this-world French onion soup. Not even the downpour during lunch could ruin this burger. And the bill was just $50.

After executing another 360 Degree Head Turn, it was off to Shoal Bay East again in search of some sun. Is this the only sunny spot on the entire island? Does everyone know that but us? Well, a few blissful hours later, during which I actually attempted to sunburn myself so as to return with some semblance of color (if that color had to be red, so be it), it began to rain again, so we headed home, enjoying the bumpy ride along the east end of the island. (Those new paved roads just aren't any fun!).

We enjoyed our lunch at Ferryboat so much that we decided to go back for dinner. French onion soup and veal marsala---two, please. Again, the food was outstanding, and the bill was pretty low (I think about $80). Unfortunately they ran out of sugar for the rum punches, but we managed to make do with beer. Ah, the sacrifices.

Day 9: Trapped At Tramonto
Our last full day. Because our dinner at Oliver's had been so delicious, we decided to give them a try for lunch---only to find out they're closed (although the lunch menu is still posted on their web site). Oh well. . . off to our favorite trattoria then! As usual, the food at Trattoria Tramonto was delicious---if the wild boar ravioli is on special when you're there, definitely give it a try! I steered clear of the chicken chowder this time and went for the fresh mozzarella and tomato salad. For entrees, I tried the penne with fresh tomatoes and basil, while Angel went for penne with fresh pesto. Everything was simply prepared, fresh, and delicious. About halfway through our lunch, it began to pour. And pour some more. Effectively trapped, we did what any Rain Dodger would do: ordered another drink and waited it out!

After finishing up some last-minute shopping, and deciding against the free drinks and hors d'oeuvres at Viceroy for fear of another rain-out, it was time for our last dinner on the island. We'd saved the best for last: Straw Hat. This place was packed! Despite our reservation, we waited for a bit at the bar, where we splurged on a good bottle of Chardonnay and tried to count how many times it had rained during our trip (I think we ran out of fingers). Finally we were seated at the perfect table: right on the water, but off to the side and very private. After quickly scanning the menu (we'd looked at it a million times before leaving home---you know you do it too!), we settled on the red snapper ceviche for Angel and the baked goat cheese for me, followed by two orders of the plantain-crusted grouper with lemongrass beurre blanc. Because we were yet again ordering the same entrée (can you see why we got married?), my husband said, somewhat kiddingly, to the waitress, "The grouper is good, right? Since we're ordering two of them?" She agreed and we then dug into our appetizers. The ceviche was by far one of the best appetizers we'd had all week, and the goat cheese was prepared very creatively, coated in poppy seeds and served with poached pears, candied almonds, and an aged balsamico. Delicious! But then the grouper arrived.

Now, we both love grouper. And plantains. And who among us doesn't love a lemongrass beurre blanc? We'd been talking about ordering this particular grouper even before we'd arrived on the island, so maybe our expectations were a bit high, especially since on our other visits to Straw Hat, we'd had our best meals of the entire trip. Whatever the reason, this poor fish was completely flavorless. It was a gorgeous filet, large and firm and perfectly white, but still . . . no flavor. Even though we'd been seated at a table for two, it was clear that Murphy had decided to pull up a chair and have a little fun with us. So we gamely ate the grouper, but we didn't finish it and unfortunately we didn't enjoy it.

But what happened next is precisely why we will always return to Straw Hat, and why we will certainly continue to recommend it to everyone we can. When our waitress came over to clear our plates, she noticed that we hadn't finished the fish, and commented that she didn't much care for it either! Naturally we harassed her a bit ("Why didn't you tell us? We ASKED you!") and then asked for the check. Before she could bring it, however, Peter came over and said that he'd heard that we didn't like our fish. Since we hate complaining in restaurants we demurred a bit, but finally fessed up that no, we really didn't care for it. But rather than offering us a free dessert or drink on the house, as most places would do, Peter was a true class act: He told us that he'd already taken both entrees off our bill. Well, we immediately protested---after all, we did eat them---but he insisted, and then took the time to explain to us that grouper can be a particularly difficult fish to prepare since it can be very dense, and that's likely what happened in our case. We explained to him that we'd always enjoyed our meals at Straw Hat in the past (they do particularly amazing things with swordfish and red snapper) and greatly appreciated his taking the time to speak with us and certainly appreciated his generosity in adjusting our bill. The bottom line is, we still love Straw Hat; we will always return to it and recommend it; and we will always think of this particular dining experience as our Murphy Meal. :)

Day 10: "Dozing" Away Our Last Day
Our last day. All week long, I'd predicted that our last day would be gorgeous: perfect blue skies, brilliant sunshine, no wind. Isn't that what always happens on the day you depart from your vacation? So convinced were we that Murphy would get in this one last parting shot that we'd planned all week to have our last meal on the island at Malliouhana, which serves a lovely breakfast. We could practically see the sparkling blue water of Mead's Bay, reflected in actual sunshine . . . . But no! Cloudy again, my friends. And windy. So off we went to Tasty's, the only other place we could think of that serves breakfast (and that awesome hash brown). Now, if you've stuck it out and read this entire report, the following will come as no surprise to you. As soon as we walked into Tasty's, we were greeted not by the hostess, but by the deafening sounds of a giant bulldozer RIGHT OUTSIDE OUR WINDOW. We just looked at each other and burst out laughing: Hollywood could not have scripted a better ending to our trip! The bulldozer finally moved down the road (or maybe we just became oblivious to it) and we enjoyed a perfectly nice breakfast, including the famous hash brown. And this time, I didn't even bother asking what was in it. I knew Mr. Tasty wouldn't tell me.
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Postby pepper » Mon Feb 27, 2006 11:08 pm

You are one prolific writer.
I enjoyed reading every "damp" moment of your trip.
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Postby Ellen » Tue Feb 28, 2006 7:42 am

That was a fabulous trip report - thank you for all the food details - wonderful writing - I was hanging on to every word!
Thank you!
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Postby Christine (Swe) » Tue Feb 28, 2006 8:09 am

Thank You, TTG !!!

Loved to read your trip report, but I felt so sad for all the bad things you encountered.

We also love that hamburger at Ferryboat Inn. Best we have had. And what a great location the restaurant has!

Yes, I think you are right. There are less rain on the north side. Last trip we had very little or no rain (only extremely short ones or during night). But we did however notice some days when going into the Valley or to the south side in the afternoon that the streets were very wet in the Valley and south. So then it had defenitely rained a lot there, when we had been in clear sun on SBE. I guess all the rain clouds over St Martin do come over to Anguilla some times, but seldom has the power to go all the way up north to Shoal Bay :-)

Thanks again for your great report!
Christine (Swe)
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Postby JohnM » Tue Mar 07, 2006 12:47 pm

Perfect! Thanks for sharing your experience and your sense of humor. I enjoyed both equally. And I appreciated the detail.
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Meal prices really that high?

Postby Riverdale » Mon Mar 13, 2006 9:44 am

A great report but do you really spend US $89 for lunch for two, and find that $120 or so for dinner is cheap? My gosh, those prices seem to me to be really high but then again, I haven't been to resort islands. Our experiences in Puerto Rico included incredible PR and Cuban dinners for $50 for two...

Am I missing something here, or perhaps naive?
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