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I've got those Leavin' Anguilla blues. Again.

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Oct 16th, 2009, 07:01 AM
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I've got those Leavin' Anguilla blues. Again.

My husband and I traveled to Anguilla for the first time in June of this year and were so smitten with the island that we plotted our return as soon as we possibly could. Our schedules (and truth be told, our budget) would not permit us to travel in high season, and though it wouldn’t be ideal, we opted to return there in October during his fall break. Many people on these boards were very generous of their time in helping me search out reasonable accommodations for our return trip. In time, we invited my sweet mama (henceforth referred to as MSM) to join us, and the three of us made a merry group.

I knew that one of the non-negotables in selecting our accommodations during the height of hurricane season would be having air conditioning in the bedrooms. There were plenty of one bedroom places on the island that would have suited us, but with the addition of MSM, we had to rethink our budget and our needs. Some of you may remember my intense frustrations in negotiating with various properties, with the insult of Turtle Nest actually wanting to increase their rates rather than broker a discount. But then I happened to inquire about a two bedroom villa on www.mycaribbean.com and really struck gold. Because we wanted a/c, we were able to get all of the Bayberry and Chinaberry villa properties to ourselves, but with car rental for the complete stay and a $200 dining voucher thrown in—all for considerably less than the rack rates. I’m convinced it’s one of the two best travel deals I’ve ever received, and it reminded me once again that patience has its virtues.

Travel Day:

Easy-peasy travel to Anguilla from Hartford, CT, via San Juan, on American and American Eagle. We had an excruciatingly long wait for luggage, during which time some enterprising locals returning home endeavored to entertain us all with impromptu raps about how Anguilla is paradise, but we ended up in Hell. It really was awfully hot in that arrivals arena between immigration and customs, and the air was brutally still. Diane, the villa rep, met us outside the airport and arranged our taxi ride with KiKi ($25 + tip), and then led Kiki to the villas. What a roundabout way of doing things, though I understand wanting to protect the taxi guild.

Our jaws dropped when Diane led us through the walled courtyard, as the place was huge and much lovelier than it looks online.

Villa details: L’Occitane toiletries in each bathroom. Kitchen has high quality, heavy duty cookware. Coffee maker, coffee grinder, electric kettle, toaster, microwave, blender, microwave. Living room has French doors on three sides to open up for outdoor living. Various padded chairs and padded chaise longues in the courtyard and on the balconies. There’s an i-Pod dock in the living room, along with stereo and large selection of CDs. Each bedroom has a flat screen tv, DVD and VCR player with large selection of movies. Furniture is comfortable and sturdy, and I suspect, much of it is antique. It’s beautiful and comfortable without being fussy. It’s a space meant to be lived in and enjoyed, offering all of the luxuries one could wish for on vacation without making one feel that breathing wrong on something might break it. Much of the art on the walls is original rather than reproduction, and there are thoughtful little decorative touches everywhere.

The courtyard is quite large—large enough to accommodate a day bed, two sets of chaises longues, two umbrellas, and a table with six chairs, giving each set its own private space. Plus a dividing area with six palm trees and huge terra cotta plants with flowering plants.

We requested villa provisioning so that we could have breakfast and cocktail items on hand upon arrival. We were charged at cost, plus $10 provisioning fee. ON top of that, they provided us with two complimentary welcome baskets full of coffee, tea, banana rum, cookies, Presidente, Red Stripe, and club soda. I wasn’t sure how much we’d go for the banana rum, but it was quite yummy and we made short work of it.

Despite our cheese and crackers, we were half-starved by 6:00, so we decided to do an easy first dinner by going down to Ferryboat Inn. We could have walked, but it was dark and we were tired, so we hopped into the little rental car and zipped down the road. Our dinner consisted of 3 rum punches, two green salads, two hamburgers, one red snapper dish, about $85, but we left additional tip. Red snapper was done to “near perfection, but with a tad too much tarragon.” MSM said burger was the “best she’d had in a long time.” Rum punches were divine. The air was very still there, so dinner was just a little uncomfortably warm. A far cry from our visit in June when the breeze off the water was so stiff that my arms got chilled at midday!

Day 1:

Woke up feeling groggy from poor night’s sleep. Turns out the a/c in our bedroom wasn’t working at all, only blowing room temperature air (which turned out to be about 88 degrees Fahrenheit). DH made breakfast for MSM and me while we lounged out on the deck, enjoying the gorgeous views of Rendezvous Bay—omelets, toast, coffee, and two kinds of juice. God, don’t you just love being served breakfast like that?

Not long after we finished cleaning up, our housekeeper Lyn arrived and introduced herself. She answered a few questions we had about the villa that we neglected to ask Diane the afternoon before. We mentioned the broken a/c and that we’d really like it to be fixed (we’re paying extra for it, after all).

We drove into town and by prior arrangement met Neville from Gumbsie’s Car Rental at the post office to fill out the paperwork. Bought some stamps at the philatelic bureau and then made our way to Shoal Bay East. Had wanted try out Gwen’s and enjoy those hammocks by the water, but it was closed so we returned to Elodia’s. Booked a cabana and three chaises longues for $25. Lovely spot, no crowds since Ku and Shoal Bay Villas were closed. Despite that, lots of folks dropped by throughout the day and it felt livelier than what we experienced back in June. MSM and I shared a grilled chicken sandwich with coleslaw and fries, DH had the toasted cheese sandwich with fries and slaw. One beer, two softdrinks, and two outstanding mango coladas brought our total for the day to $84, plus additional tip, and that included the cabana and chairs. Walked up and down the entire beach—up to the pink building on one end and down to Gwen’s on the other. Perfect day. Left around 5:00 to head back to the villas for sunset, shower and cocktails.

Our first meal on our first trip to Anguilla was B&D’s bbq, and DH and I knew that no future trip to the island would be complete without dining there. It was just as wonderful as we remembered from June visit. Two orders of chicken, two of ribs, plus coleslaw and green salad for each plate came to US $32. A bargain by any stretch, but especially for Anguilla. We took the food back to the villa to eat by candlelight on our lovely dining table. Tings and Presidentes all around, amidst food rhapsodies and deep sighs of satusfaction

Making use of the iPod dock, wee listened to various tunes during and after dinner, while we sat around chatting about everything and nothing at all. Excellent first day on the island. Hard to imagine how it could have improved.

Finished reading Thrity Umrigar’s The Space Between Us. What a tragic story, but then again, it has seemed that all women’s stories coming out of India that I’ve read lately have been tragic.

TBC...
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Oct 16th, 2009, 07:22 AM
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Ahh, just what I needed a great trip report on Anguilla (with some good book tips thrown in) especially as it's just stopped snowing here, ack!
Welcome back ej, but I guess you wish you weren't!
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Oct 16th, 2009, 07:58 AM
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so sorry you had to come home. hope your case of dif is not too debilitating. can't wait for next installment.

(fyi: to those not in the know dif is dreaded island fever = feeling like you should never have left the island a/or must return immediately.)
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Oct 16th, 2009, 11:41 AM
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I woke up to snow flurries this morning. Very cruel twist of fate!

Off to work on next installment presently. Oh, what would I give for a Ferryboat rum punch right about now?
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Oct 16th, 2009, 02:55 PM
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Sounds good...I must admit it sounds enticing for a trip next year, thanks for teh villa reco, EJ. No sharks this time though I hope?!

Peace, Greenie
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Oct 16th, 2009, 03:01 PM
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Keep writing. and please post pictures!
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Oct 16th, 2009, 05:07 PM
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How nice that you snuck in another trip this year. Looking forward to the rest and definitely some pictures.
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Oct 16th, 2009, 07:07 PM
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Here's a link to a small selection of photos. Oddly, I didn't take many pics on this trip and I've not downloaded anything from my husband's camera yet, but this should give an idea of what our trip was like.

http://share.shutterfly.com/share/re...1Abt2zhw3bsWEF
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Oct 17th, 2009, 08:56 AM
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Hi! I remember how much you loved Anguilla. I didn't know you were going back so soon! That's great! Your Mom seemed to really enjoy it. Was this her first trip to the Caribbean? Did you also read 20+ books on this trip?! Welcome back.
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Oct 17th, 2009, 09:15 AM
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Great pics... the beaches are so perfect they are beyond superlatives.
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Oct 17th, 2009, 09:49 AM
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No sharks and no long list of books for this trip, I'm sorry to say. My mom has been to the Caribbean a few times--during the 1960s she was in Cuba, Haiti, and the DR with her first husband, and then she was in Antigua with us twice since 2003. She really loved Anguilla, though.
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Oct 17th, 2009, 03:01 PM
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thanks for sharing the pcitures!
It's been about 4 years since I've been back to Anguilla. I need to return!

Until then please keep writing your report!
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Oct 17th, 2009, 03:14 PM
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I'm enjoying your trip report. The pictures you took are beautiful. Thanks for posting.
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Oct 17th, 2009, 06:39 PM
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Here's the next installment:

Day 2:

Very fitful night’s sleep, as the a/c was still not working. Woke up off and on throughout the night, completely sticky and uncomfortable. At one point I even got out of bed to take a cold shower so that I could cool off enough to fall asleep.

We ate breakfast in the villa again—this time scrambled eggs & toast—then headed into the Valley to mail some postcards and buy some t-shirts at the pharmacy. Oddly enough, their credit card machine wasn’t working. We’d had the same problem at the philatelic bureau the day before. No connection, apparently. Then we walked up to the Keene villa office to make arrangements for our dining voucher and to request again to have the a/c fixed in our bedroom. Apparently the request Lyn made on our behalf got garbled because the maintenance folks checked the unit in Chinaberry, not Bayberry, which was working perfectly fine. MSM got two great nights’ sleep, though, so at least we had that.

Then we made our way to spend the day at Anguilla Great House on Rendezvous Bay. We paid US $5 per person to use a beach chair for the day, which had to be paid up front and not added to a tab. The beach was very pretty and I loved the strong breeze that kept us from getting too warm. We alternated among dips in the sea, walks along the beach, and staying put reading our books. For lunch we opted for simple fare: two grilled cheese sandwiches and one BLT, all served with fries. Two mango coladas and two Diet Cokes brought the total to only $34, plus additional tip. I was quite surprised at the value, and the food was perfectly good and generously portioned. I’d read a few lukewarm reviews for dinner at AGH, so I was a little apprehensive about our luncheon fare, but my fears were unfounded. I’d definitely recommend it as a pleasant and economical place for lunch on Rendezvous Bay.

Late afternoon we drove back to freshen up and catch the sunset from our balcony—we were completely surprised to note that we could actually see it, as we didn’t expect that that it would be visible from our location on the island. Tonight was so hazy, though, that it wasn’t worth rushing home for.

Dinner tonight was at Luna Rosa, a first time experience for us. At first we weren’t sure that we’d be able to work through the $200 dining voucher, so we agreed we’d just make this our big splurge meal. (Turns out, we needn’t have worried, as you’ll soon see…) We ordered a lot of the evening specials, which were definitely pricier than we were expecting. DH had swordfish carpaccio followed by Italy’s answer to the sea bass (I can’t recall its name, but it began with a B and has 3 syllables. I’d never heard of it before.) I had the Tricolore salad and the same fish as DH. MSM opted for the salad special, which was locally grown arugula topped with goat cheese, toasted pine nuts, and 25 year old balsamic vinegar, followed by red snapper. All three entrees were catch of the day specials, grilled whole and then boned for us at the table. The preparation was just delicious. We shared an order of tiramisu, as we were too full to each get our own. Two rum punches, two martinis, one glass of wine, and one Grand Marnier later, our bill came to US $276, plus additional tip.

We are of a mixed opinion whether we thought the meal was worth the money. I thought it was a lovely evening, and my salad was perhaps the most perfectly dressed salad I’ve ever eaten. My mom had a hard time understanding our server (I think it was the owner) and thus didn’t realize she was ordering an arugula salad, which she doesn’t much like. DH said his carpaccio was the best preparation of swordfish he’d ever had, and we all three enjoyed our fish entrees. However, we were one table away from a couple who were smoking, which bothered all three of us, and the night was very still (borderline stifling) with no discernible breeze coming off the water and no ceiling fans to create any artificial air movement. The music was a little intrusive and a little chaotic in the choice—it meandered from a Frank Sinatra-type crooner in Italian to a lively little number you might expect at a Greek wedding, to an operatic number to a mournful sounding ballad. My husband was a little disappointed overall, but I have nothing to regret from our evening’s choices. Would I go to Luna Rosa again? Probably, and I’d go early enough to have cocktails while watching the sunset. But I wouldn’t order any specials without asking for a price ahead of time.

NB: the credit card machine wasn’t working here, either, which wasn’t a problem since we had the $200 voucher and collectively had the additional $100 to (barely) cover the rest. But if we hadn’t been dining with the voucher we wouldn’t have been able to pay for the meal. The owner graciously mentioned that if we didn’t have the cash that night we could come by the next day to pay, which is one of many reasons to love Anguilla, but it struck me that it must be hard to run a business with such unpredictable service. If we weren't already on island time we might have felt a bit put out not being able to use my debit card to pay in three different places.

Finished reading J Maarten Troost’s Getting Stoned With Savages, a sequel to the author’s first book that I read and enjoyed in June. It’s nearly as funny as the first book and full of interesting little insights in his expat life in Vanuatu and Fiji.

Came home to two bedrooms blessedly equipped with a working a/c unit!

Day Three

Woke up early. So nice to awaken refreshed and well-rested. Decided to take a walk down to the neighborhood beach but got deterred by some rather aggressive-looking dogs that didn’t seem keen on letting me walk past them. Instead just walked back and fixed breakfast at the villa. MSM and DH were a little slow getting up this morning, so we putzed around until we were all ready to leave for the day. We decided to head back to Elodia’s for the day, this time taking the long way around to see more of the island we hadn’t seen before. I wanted to look at Ocean Breeze and Ocean Terrace since they were places I’d considered booking, and based on their outward appearance, I’d happily book them in the future.

DH wanted to drive out to East End to see if there was a vantage point from which we could see the Atlantic and Caribbean meeting. We didn’t find the road we were looking for, but we did spy the road for Nat’s Place, so we thought, Why Not? I’d read on the forums that it was closed, but the sign read Open, and what’s more, it promised that Happiness Awaits, so how could we pass it up? When we got to the end of the road we could see it was all boarded with nobody around. Unless the local rooster is named Happines, I’m afraid it was false advertising, but we got out and walked ‘round to the point to make some photos and feel the first strong breeze we’d felt since arriving on the island.

From there we drove through Island Harbour, stopped to take a few photos, and then made a beeline for Elodia’s to claim what we now fondly think of as our cabana. Carol was there again and remembered us, so we chatted with her for a bit before settling in to our books. We had driven through either two separate squalls or the same squall twice in our meandering around the island, so we weren’t at all surprised to see that the surf was livelier at Shoal Bay than it had been two days before. We enjoyed bobbing about in the waves and body surfing, but it was a comedy of errors trying to get DH and MSM out of the water without their tumbling backwards into the surf again.

MSM and I walked up the beach to have a drink and check out Tropical Sunset, or at least that’s what our intention was. But by the time we got to Uncle Ernie’s it was hot, we were thirsty, and the drinks sounded inviting so we stopped there instead. $5 each for a frozen drink. They only had pina coladas, which were fine, but not special. Certainly not as yummy or as large as the ones Carol had served up to us at Elodia’s. (Really. They overflow the already generous-sized cup, and what’s more, she pours a float of Mt Gay on top for an extra wallop).

Walking back, we passed the first of probably a dozen women that afternoon who were walking topless along the beach. I was a little surprised to see it, and also a little surprised to find myself feeling put out about it. It’s not that I’m opposed to toplessness or even full nudity on the beach—I’ve engaged in it myself where it wasn’t inappropriate—but I don’t like it when tourists flout local custom.

For lunch we had one hamburger, one cheeseburger, one shrimp salad, two sodas, one mango colada and one passionfruit colada. Everything was tasty, especially those coladas! A couple of beers, the cost of a cabana and three chairs brought our total for the day to US $95, plus an additional tip.

We had wanted to sample dinner at Lucy’s when we were here in June but time got away from us and we ended up not going there—thus, I was very happy to insist upon it for one night of this trip. We drove there through the driving rain, with huge standing puddles of water splashing up on either side of the car. Lucy was as gracious as could be, hurrying us in from the rain to a choice table. We were the only diners there that evening and I wasn’t sure whether to feel guilty for making her stay open or good for giving her our custom. We immediately felt right at home, talking with her and the bartender, Sanda, and chit-chatting about this and that. We really had a good time there that night and took lots of pictures to post about our experience. The food was as delightful as the service and we were loathe to leave at the end of the meal. We had the chicken soup (yummy, and full of veggies), green salad, goat creole (quite good, but DH wished it had been a touch spicier), and grilled crayfish with garlic butter and veggies (excellent, and Lucy was good enough to give me two extra tails’ worth so I could share with DH and MSM). Two gins & tonic, two martinis, one large bottled water and one bread pudding set us back only US $124, plus additional tip. We had a much better time that night than we did at Luna Rosa, and while I, at least, mightily enjoyed our time at LR, the food and the conversation at Lucy's certainly made it hard to justify spending more than twice as much elsewhere.
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Oct 20th, 2009, 07:06 PM
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Here's the next installment. Thanks for reading!

Day Four:

MSM and I headed out to find some breakfast. We couldn’t find any pasties for love or money, but we did pick up a fresh baguette at Gee Wee’s for only 75 cents, and then we made our way to Valley Bistro to order some food to go. Two orders of pancakes, a side order of sausage, and one slice of peach pie came to US $15 plus tip. Very cute place.

We ate breakfast at home and then, despite the unpropitious morning, made our way to Meads Bay to see if the storm clouds would abate. We toted our own chairs and thermos full of ice water and set up shop under the tree by Malliouhana. Some employees chatted with us as they made their way around the grounds, but mostly it was quite quiet. There was quite a bit of erosion since our time at Carimar in June and I was amazed at how deserted the beach was. Besides the various employees, only one couple came and went during our morning there. The sky cleared up and the beach looked just beautiful in the sun, and we were happing to linger there for a few hours, just reading and walking the beach.

Eventually we got hungry and decided on lunch at Ferryboat Inn. Little did we know that it was closed on Mondays (or at least I should’ve known but probably forgot), but a woman (presumably Marjorie) walked out to greet us when we pulled up and profusely apologized for not being open. Too bad, as the sun was shining on St. Martin and the breeze was lively—it would have been perfect to linger there over lunch. Since we were already so close to the villa, we went back there to eat leftovers instead. No sooner had we pulled in, though, the skies opened up again and poured for the next two hours. So we had a leisurely lunch, opened a bottle of wine, and read in the living room with the three sets of French doors opened wide to catch the sounds of the lashing rain.

Around 4:00 we headed over to Sandy Ground to take a tour of the Pyrat rum factory, but upon arrival we learned they weren’t giving tours that day. So we settled for free rum samples and did a bit of damage in the giftshop instead. That 40 year old aged rum is some kind of fine sippin’ drink, but I couldn’t let my husband spend $180 on it. I just couldn’t, though we were both tempted by how smooth it was. We did buy a couple bottles of the orange liqueur that’s allegedly sold in Anguilla and nowhere else.

To ease the pain of not buying the 40 year-old rum, I talked DH into going to Elvis’, where we had some mighty fine rum punches—a little too sweet for my taste, admittedly, but who can argue with the wallop they pack? MSM opted for a couple of mango coladas, and we all enjoyed our late afternoon pick me up. One of the patrons was drinking some fresh coconut water and was kind enough to share one with us. We ordered a rum to sip with it and felt quite at ease. We also chatted with DJ Kat, with whom we lamented that we wouldn’t be able to enjoy his fine tunes. He personally promised to play our requests the next time we were visiting. Kat, I’ll hold you to it! We didn’t try the Mamawanna, though we did ask about it. Looks rather like the nasty bois bande we’ve seen on Grenada, and I’d prefer to leave its legendary qualities to the imagination, thank you very much! My mother was having a great time, taking photos of Elvis and his bar, asking him to pose with a Chicago Cubs jacket he had rolled up, and in general dancing in her chair. After her two mango coladas, she was starting to eye the table tops and evaluating their sturdiness upon which to dance, which was my cue to pack her up in the car to head back to the villa. On the way back we hit an ATM to get enough cash for our departure tax and the tip for our housekeeper, Lyn, but we made a mistake and took out a little more than we’d intended. Oops! It’s a good thing that Irie Life was just up the road to take a little of that extra cash off of our hands.

For dinner we decided upon Veya, and am I ever glad that we dined there for our last meal, as it was simply wonderful from beginning to end. The cocktail menu is fun and interesting, so MSM tried the Sandy Ground, which is a tart raspberry-Hypnotiq-vodka concoction, and I stuck with my old favorite, the Lockrum, chock full of rum-coconut water-lime-gingery goodness. DH, of course, stuck with his Beefeater on the rocks. A rum punch at Elvis’ was enough frou-frou for him for one day.

Our server came out with an amuse-bouche of tuna tartare with diced tomatoes, some lime juice, and I think fresh basil, all served on a plantain chip shaped like a spoon. It was so yummy I could have eaten nothing but a long succession of them. Veya was offering a Monday night special 3-course prix fixe for $50—conch soup with bacon and crayfish, followed by coconut curried conch, with fresh pineapple in a sweet ginger-mint sauce—that DH decided to try. I opted for the grilled watermelon, poached shrimp with mint and candied pecans starter, followed by another small plate of lettuce, steak, avocado, and pickled onion wraps, while MSM chose the 5-spice pork tenderloin with christophene gratin.

Well, everything was delicious. My mom said that it was the best pork tenderloin she’d ever tasted. My two dishes, which I’d had back in June during my first visit, were every bit as yummy as I’d built them up in my memory. But I think the piece de resistance was really my husband’s soup. Thick with cream and corn, that conch chowder was fantastic—a hint of heat, the smokiness of the bacon, the sweetness of the corn & crayfish added up to something much larger than its components.

To end our meal, MSM and I shared the rich, dense, moist coconut cake with ice cream and caramel sauce and we all sipped on the smooth El Dorado rum that DH ordered to accompany his pineapple. We were in complete agreement: Veya was the finest meal we had experienced on this trip, and in fact DH and I have decided that it’s our favorite fine dining restaurant of all the places we’ve been to in the Caribbean. Grenada is still probably the top island in our heart, but there’s not a single restaurant on that island that can hold a candle to Veya. Chef/owner Carrie has, over the course of our three visits, demonstrated a caliber, consistency, and inventiveness (without being over-the-top) that outclasses every other fine dining experience we’ve had in the Caribbean. Owner/host Jerry makes a point of visiting every table and welcoming each diner personally. Clearly he and Carrie make a great team, both professionally and personally. And all of this, plus one large bottled water, for US $209, plus additional tip. We paid much more at Luna Rosa for a lesser experience in every way.

TBC...
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Oct 21st, 2009, 12:27 PM
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Wow! How awesome you were able to go back to Anguilla again. I am loving this trip report, of course, and the photos make me want to plan a trip there. YSM (your sweet mom) sounds like she had a blast. I'm looking forward to the continuation of the report.
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Oct 25th, 2009, 06:02 PM
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Another great trip report. I always look forward to trip reports for islands I've visited and can relive through someone else's eyes.

By the way, the fish you had was branzino.
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Nov 3rd, 2009, 06:34 PM
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Thanks so much for the wonderful trip report. We were there on the island at the same time, and had the same credit card problem that you had. It seems that sometimes the transmission through the phone lines causes problems, but we have usually had success when we insisted that the cashier try the card again.
Also, re: Luna Rosa dinner. As in many other areas, grilled whole fish are a high cost menu item in Anguilla. In general the cost is about the same as lobster.
Looking forward to more details!
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Nov 10th, 2009, 06:02 PM
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love your trip report. Thanks for sharing with us!
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Jan 28th, 2010, 10:55 AM
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Too bad you missed Palm Grove Bar and Grill, aka Nat's Place. They open up sometime around 11:30 or noon, at a very leisurely pace. The food is good, not necessarily great, but the friendly service and decent snorkeling more than make up for it!
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