Traveled: December 2014
The Frangipani Hotel
Anguilla is a small British overseas territory located right off of Saint Martin in the Caribbean. It’s laid back and charming and everything two burned out people looking to escape should go. Why Anguilla? For us, the decision stemmed from multiple factors. For one, we hadn’t been on a proper vacation in years and had just been through a rough season with a new baby who didn’t like to sleep. Ever. We wanted to pick someplace to park it on the beach for a week and not feel bad about it. However, wherever we picked had to be close to home with a total travel time of 7-8 hours or less from Colorado because we didn’t want to spend more vacation time on a plane. But it needed to be someplace different than where everybody and their mother have been. The only places I’d ever been before this trip were Kauai, Hawaii and Cancun, Mexico so it was important to me that I go a bit off the beaten path. Anguilla? Check, check and check.
We arrived and got into Saint Martin late at night so we needed to stay and take the ferry over to Anguilla in the morning. The next day I woke up, ripe with anticipation and opened the curtains. It was all Pirates of the Caribbean outside— bright green rolling hills, fog, salt air, the whole thing. We walked down to a local coffee shop on the French side and proceeded to have fresh baked croissants and the best cup of coffee on this earth. I don’t even know why it was so good. The froth? How smooth it was? That is tasted straight out of a French press from heaven? I don’t even know. We still talk about that coffee. Because of that cup of coffee, Jeremy and I both bought each other outrageously overpriced espresso contraptions for our own kitchen that year for Christmas.
Down the beach from The Frangipani. Maliouhana is the white building behind me
Anguilla is completely flat like a pancake so you don’t see the island until you are about to dock. At first site, it doesn’t necessarily wow. You get off the boat and go through customs in a small building, then exit into a dirt parking lot with tons of taxi vans. It is not a polished island, so the roads are not manicured, chickens roam free and may jump onto your table as you eat, and there is this strange phenomenon of unfinished houses everywhere. Some are abandoned and left half built but others have people living in them in a constant state of construction with piles of cinder blocks in the yards.
The island is definitely spotty and it’s beauty wasn’t fully realized by me until I waked into my resort. Then it was like BA-DAM.
Anguilla is a peculiar beauty. Before I arrived all I heard or read about was how breathtaking it was was. And it definitely is, just not consistently everywhere you look. Make no mistake though, when this island shows off, it is gorgeous beyond belief. I really enjoyed the realness of a rugged island with jaw dropping scenery pocketed here and there like a gift, a peek, something to be savored like dark chocolate. It was honest and wild and free. All the best things.
We stayed at the Frangipani, this fabulous little boutique hotel with a great restaurant, The Straw Hat. The owners are fantastic hosts who are friendly and make a point to introduce themselves to their guests. As it happened, the afternoon we checked in, the owner was at the front desk, with a towel slung over his shoulder. He invited us to go on the island boat tour that was getting ready to leave 30 minutes later. Apparently, they offer this every Wednesday afternoon, and we had just happened to show up at the right time. Our room was not ready so the owner opened up their presidential suite so we could get changed into our suits and meet them in time. The boat tour was the perfect way to orient ourselves to the island and had about eight other people who we got to know better as the week went on. We are now all Facebook friends… mostly because of one afternoon when Mark pulled out a bottle of Mt. Gay Rum and we all sat around the pool drinking it until it was gone. There was also an episode where my new friends Adwowa, Kristin and I left briefly to ride a raft pulled by a speed boat. I lost my sunglasses but I don’t remember it all that clearly now.
We walked into the open air lobby, turned around to face the sea and my soul ruptured with joy. The Frangipani was glorious. I sunk into a relaxed state over the next few days that can only come from sunshine, sleep, books, beach, and cocktails with fruit and umbrellas in it.
A couple observances about Anguilla: there are goats everywhere which is super cute but then you realize…sometimes goat is on the menu and you kind of have to look away when you pass them. Also, a lot of things are personal in Anguilla that would be more formal in big cities. For example, taxi services don’t belong to a company. Taxi drivers all work for themselves and and the logo on each persons car is different. We took “Nell’s Taxi” to our hotel and “Jerry’s Taxi” to dinner later. The bus stop is labeled “Harry’s Bus Stop” and the streets we drove on were named “Jeremiah Gumbs Hwy” and “Robert Flemming Rd.”
The water outside of CuisinArt Hotel and Smokey’s
Everything you read will tell you the ocean here is icy pop blue and clear. What they actually mean is that up close the water is mostly icy pop blue and clear, in certain areas more than others. One side of the island has much more calm sparkling clear water than the other side. Except, even on the darker blue side— which from far away looked about as blue as the water in Cancun or Miami, but up close became brighter and lighter— were these coves and spots that were brilliantly clear. I couldn’t quite figure it out.
One girl who worked at one of our lunch spots brought us a coconut cheesecake on the house because she said we “just had to try it.” Then she took a picture with us to remember us by. It is really easy to make friends with the locals in Anguilla. They truly welcome tourists as treasured guests. They are proud of their island and heritage and have a sense of “I know, right?” when you compliment anything there. Our girl recommended we lunch at Smokeys the next day and I’m so glad she did. Smokeys is an idyllic laid back restaurant right on a brilliant, azure blue calm beach complete with trees and music. They claim they make the best rum punch on the island but in the end, I prefered the one at our hotel because I had been drinking them all week and had developed a taste for the fresh grated nutmeg on top.
Rum Punch at Smokeys
No matter though, it was still great and whatever they put in the rum punch at Smokeys did make me polish off my coconut shrimp plate and head straight out into the ocean to float and hope that my husband would make out with me.
On the boat tour
Almost every morning during our stay, Jeremy and I drove to this tiny bakery owned by a French woman with a thick accent who sold fat slices of creamy quiche, the likes of which I’ve never encountered before, and flaky chocolate croissants. Her coffee was amazing too. You guys, I don’t know whats going on. I am no coffee connoisseur and yet I feel compelled to tell you again just how good it was here. She had a Lavazza machine so girl knew what was up.
On Sunday we decided to venture out past our beach chairs and went on a day excursion to the other side of the island. It’s a fun little drive. On our way we past church after church with huge open air windows, and the sound of singing could be heard on the road.
My favorite afternoons on the trip consisted of nothing more than reading in my chair between walks down the beach to Blanchards Beach Shack for a idyllic lunch. Happy, bright blue picnic benches, beers on the table, toes in the sand, shrimp tacos and frozen yogurt on the way. It’s bliss defined. Blanchards also offers the most romantic setting for dinner as well- picture white twinkle lights on palms outside, candles, open air, white table cloths and sea breeze.
Blanchards Beach Shack
view from our dinner table at Blanchards
On our last night we went up for sunset happy hour at Maliouhana, a hotel right up the street from us. Maliouhana is perched above on a cliff instead of walk out on the sand. If you are into views, this is your place. It’s got a classic, retro but sophisticated style, with bright ruffled yellow umbrellas, manicured grounds and a big deck with a view of the most jaw-dropping-straight-out-of-a-magazine-stupid-beautiful beach cove you’ve ever seen. And if you can pry your eyes away from that, the sunset is pretty epic too.
view from Maliouhana
Book. Beach. Bliss.
My top threes if you go:
Where to stay
- The Frangipani – this is where I stayed and I’d go again in a heartbeat. Nice rooms, good restaurant, fun owners, and great feel right on the beach. And just a walk away from Blanchards.
- Maliouhana– The view is spectacular. located down the beach from The Frangipani.
- CuisinArt Hotel and Spa– This hotel is more commercial and big, but it’s located on the other side of the island where the calm crystal clear waters are with a view of St. Martin in the distance. The hotel restaurant was great too. Another hotel on this side of the island that we checked out was Cap Juluca. Beautiful beach.
Where to eat
- Blanchards– lunch and dinner
- Smokeys At The Cove– lunch or dinner. Bring your suit and towel
- Le Bon Pain– Breakfast pastries and the best quiche known to man. Killer cup of coffee.
These were my personal favorites but honestly every place was great. You can’t go wrong.
Quick note: the difficulty of the 25 min ferry ride over to Anguilla from Saint Martin and whether or not to take Dramamine relies solely on two factors. 1) How early you ride the ferry (earlier times are less crowded) and 2) How rough the sea is that day. On our way over, it was 9am and the second ferry of the day. It was relatively spacious and smooth sailing all the way. When we left on our way back we took the 11:15am ferry which was packed as hell and hot. Plus the sea was angry and we sloshed up and down, boat pulling hard left and right the whole way back. Go early if you can.