The following trip report file is from the Library of The Caribbean Travel Forum of CompuServe where Jamaica Jim Jordan is the SysOp (System Operator).
In 1969, a force of British paratroopers, marines and London "Bobbies" invaded the tiny, obscure island of Anguilla to "quell" a rebellion -- a rebellion over Anguilla's status as a colony of Great Britain. It should be noted here that Anguilla lost the revolution and retained it's status as a colony (though it's now a self governing British territory and is known as a British Associated State) -- which was exactly what the peoples of Anguilla wanted!
In 1997, an obscure traveler invaded the tiny island of Anguilla -- still a colony of the British crown -- to see if all he had read and heard of this island was true. And, this traveler can say unequivocally that he found it to be everything -- and much, much more! (Please note that despite having previously visited more than half of the Caribbean countries, I fell totally and completely in love with Anguilla, whatever it's governmental status!)
Anguilla - At First Look
As the plane dropped down and began its approach into St. Maarten's Princess Juliana International Airport, I looked out the port-side window and glimpsed my destination on the horizon. It lay upon the calm blue of the Caribbean like a sea serpent, causing me to recall that on his second voyage to the New World, Columbus had so aptly named it "the eel" -- Anguilla -- because of its eely or reptile-like appearance. It snaked its way to the northeast, low on the horizon -- the highest point on the whole island is just a scant 213 feet above the level of the sea around it -- with soft, sugar-white beaches looking like precious pearl necklaces ringing around the edges.
While the name conjured up by Columbus still remains today, Ol' Christopher wasn't actually the first person to "discover" the island. There have been archeological finds on the island that give evidence that it was inhabited as far back as two thousand years ago by Amerindians who called the island "Malliouhana". This name has been perpetuated in modern times, with it being adopted by shops and at least one resort.
I had read and heard much about this most northerly of the Leeward Islands and now I was finally going to have my maiden initiation to this island -- one who's inhabitants still today firmly fight to hold back the exodus toward modernization that so many other of its near neighbors have simply accepted, and which has irrevocably changed not only the face of those islands, but has changed the total ambiance of them as well. And, I found the reluctance of those people to rush hurly-burly toward a plethora of strip shopping centers and a gaggle of gambling casinos and a herd of high-rise hotels, has afforded retention of a charm that's seldom seen in the Caribbean today.
Fine Friends Are Hard To Find
I had the good luck to know someone who had searched the islands of the Caribbean to find that "perfect spot" to ultimately be his retirement home and he had graciously invited me to experience the lazy island life firsthand. He had said, "Jim, you've spent a lot of time in Jamaica. Now, I want you to come and see MY island! I think one visit will provide you with a new knowledge of what Caribbean islands 'used' to be like -- and I don't think you will ever be able to look at other islands in the same way again."
So, here we were, flying into the St. Maarten airport, there to meet our host who was scheduled to arrive just a scant fifteen minutes after my plane touched down. He was flying from Toronto, while we'd taken a flight that originated in Charlotte. I looked forward to seeing him again, since it had been more than six months since we initially met in his hometown of Toronto at a gathering -- a "bash" -- of CompuServe members and staff of The Travel Forum and The Caribbean Travel Forum.
Daryl Gurvey is imposing. The very first time I met him, in his office in Toronto, where he oversees his many companies, I was immediately struck by the fact -- to my eye -- of how much he resembled a young Ernest Hemingway. I commented on this and thereby immediately christened him with the nickname of "Papa" -- a name that has become part of his on-line persona as the section leader on The Caribbean Travel Forum of CompuServe.
Traveling To St. Maarten
The flight down wasn't necessarily an experience -- just a routine trip to the Caribbean. We -- my wife, Nina and I -- had gotten to Charlotte on time and the transit from our arrival gate, via a commuter plane, was just up the escalator and across the hall to the international departure gate. Our US Air flight was right on time and we had gotten seats on the exit row, though we sat across from each other in aisle seats. The weather en route was calm and as pretty a day as I have ever experienced. St. Maarten Our arrival at St. Maarten's airport wasn't a problem, but we did encounter the most exasperating and time consuming immigration check-in I have ever experienced anywhere in the Caribbean, or the rest of the world, for that matter. (Unbeknownst to me, that was to be the prelude to yet another excruciating experience -- departure from that selfsame airport a week later.) There was one bright spot -- there was absolutely no customs inspection whatsoever. Therefore, once past the immigration officer's perfunctory stamping of our passports, we only had to fight the crowd -- it was almost a mob -- clogging the luggage recovery area. (That provides yet another reason why folks shouldn't check luggage on a Caribbean trip.)
Daryl's Air Canada flight had touched down while we were waiting to clear customs. But he didn't actually reach the terminal until we had exited the luggage area, so we simply waited for him to walk out through the final gate -- and there he was! We shook hands warmly, I introduced Nina to our host and my friend -- and we hurried for a taxi van to travel the short distance to the ferry docks -- in the separate country of St. Martin. (I'm always intrigued that two completely different countries can have a presence on such a small island. Dutch St. Maarten has all the gambling -- but French St. Martin has all the nude beaches!)
When we got aboard the taxi van, a pretty young lady was already there and an inquiry resulted in her sharing the information that her new husband -- they had been married just that morning and were to honeymoon on St. Martin -- didn't have proper documentation and the airlines had absolutely refused to allow him to fly until he got it. So, the bride was all alone and the groom wasn't expected to arrive until the next morning!
It was too bad, since I understood from the girl that her husband did have an expired US passport and most countries do accept those, as long as the expiration is within a reasonable time -- a year possibly. The van dropped the new bride off at a small, downtown Marigot hotel and we were off to the ferry dock.
By Ferry To Anguilla
Upon our arrival, the next ferry was just about to depart, so the three of us hurried aboard for the short five mile, twenty minute, ferry ride across the Anguilla Channel from Baie Nettle to the Anguillian port of Blowing Point.
A note to anyone who plans to travel to Anguilla by ferry -- make certain to fill out the Anguillan Embarkation/Disembarkation Form prior to the boat fully leaving the Marigot Harbor! The waves can get rough in the Anguilla Channel -- if there is a stiff wind blowing and it's difficult, if not almost impossible, to write with one hand and hold on with the other!
I had purposefully purchased a really good bottle of a local wine from the vineyards of the Biltmore Estate, in the mountains of nearby North Carolina, to take to Daryl. I knew he was something of a wine lover. As we started to pass through Anguillan customs at Blowing Point, the customs inspector asked if I was bringing in any gifts. Not wanting to spoil my surprise gift, I leaned over and whispered in her ear, "Yes, I have a bottle of wine and it's a gift for our host, who is standing next to me."
She smiled and waved us through. And, when she did, Daryl was waved through right behind us, without her asking him any questions! But, as our government says, "Don't ask -- Don't tell!" Despite Daryl being Canadian -- he utilized that approach and walked right on. (Now, before anyone gets the wrong idea, he wasn't smuggling in anything -- it was just that it was a funny experience and we all laughed about it after we had cleared the port!)
Immediately after exiting the gates at the port, we were met by Daryl's very charming and beautiful wife, Gayle. A Canadian, Gayle opted to live on the island in the double villa she and Daryl purchased a few years ago. She stays on-island most of the time, with trips back to Toronto in the mid to late summer. In addition, Gayle has a really nice, upscale boutique located at South Hill called "Curiosity" and she travels to the States and Canada on buying trips occasionally. Daryl has a number of companies in Canada and must be in Toronto much of the time to oversee these operations. He flies down to the island about a week a month. They plan to live full time on-island as soon as Daryl retires.
Bayberry And Chinaberry
The double villa was originally built by an American ex-patriot woman and as soon as Gayle and Daryl saw it, they decided it was exactly what they were looking for -- having visited many Caribbean islands in search of "just the right place" to settle down. I must admit, their villa is something to behold!
The villa is located just a few minutes from Blowing Point in an area that is known as Cul de Sac. Actually built as two separate buildings joined by a common courtyard, Bayberry is the main house and Chinaberry is the adjoining guest house. The two houses provide two sides for the courtyard, while a beautiful Spanish wall stretches across the front and a raised parapet walkway, connecting the two structures across the back, completes the enclosed area. Gayle has done a masterful job of decorating both houses, as well as overseeing the gardenscaping of the tiled courtyard and all of the landscaping of the yards outside the walls.
We spent the week in Chinaberry. It contains a huge living area, with a king size bed replete with ceiling-hung netting to ward off the stray insect from making a morsel of an outstretched leg or arm. There is a compact, yet fully functional, kitchen and breakfast area and both the living area and the kitchen had ceiling fans -- and the breezes completely eliminate the need for air conditioning. There is a day bed that doubles as a couch and a lounge chair and settee of rattan complete the seating. In addition, there is a television set connected to the local cable.
There's a beautiful step-down bath and toilet area with an open-air shower. The living area opens out upon the parapet walk, with its own outdoor chairs and a round table with an umbrella, to provide shade from the tropical sun. The walk looks out on Rendezvous Bay to the west and the sunsets viewed from this vantage point are as magnificent as any I've ever seen anywhere.
Gayle And Daryl - Hospitable Hostess And Host
I can't say enough about the gracious hospitality of Gayle and Daryl. We had occasion to dine with them a couple of nights, and Gayle invited us to a delicious dinner on our first night on-island. In addition to us, they had invited Barbara and Roger, a charming British couple who have lived on Anguilla for some years now.
While the others were inside enjoying a cool drink, I chanced to chat with Roger on the parapet and he enthralled me with his knowledge of the history of Anguilla. He is controller and general factotum at the Anguilla Great House Resort. In addition, in the past, he has performed in the capacity of tour guide from time to time at Great House and has a wonderful knowledge of the evolution of the island and, more recently, the revolution that Anguilla staged against Great Britain -- a totally bloodless revolution that Anguilla completely won, following the "invasion" by British para-military units -- a a classic example of "the mouse that roared"! I was especially enthralled with his accounts of the history of the island and the revolution.
An Anguillan Legend
The following day, I had an opportunity to actually meet one of the men who was part and parcel of the revolution - one Jeremiah Gumbs. Jerry is the person who built one of the original resorts on the island -- Rendezvous Bay Resort -- and he still lives there and, though he was to celebrate his eighty- fourth birthday on February 18, 1997, just a scant week following our meeting, he still is hale and hearty. He sports a full beard and has been called the "Anguilla Santa Claus". There was a photograph of Jerry on the cover of the current Anguillan Life magazine, showing him tanned and bearded, swimming in the waters of Rendezvous Bay, something he does every day.
An Interesting Sidebar
I enjoyed my conversation with Jerry and found out all of the contributions he had made to his native island. While we were talking, Jerry mentioned that he had served in the US Army and been stationed at a "Camp Croft." I hastened to tell him that I knew exactly where Camp Croft had been, in Spartanburg, South Carolina! I think he was completely surprised to find somebody who actually knew of the long-gone army base.
He said that for some years he had been trying to find somebody to help him contact someone who he had known as a young soldier -- a lady named Hortense Potts, who had lived in East Flat Rock, North Carolina. He had never been able to find a single soul who had even heard of East Flat Rock! I told him that I not only had heard of it -- but that East Flat Rock was no more than 45 miles from where I lived! I used his phone and called directory assistance for that area and obtained a phone number, but when I called it, there was no answer. I promised I would make an effort to locate Mrs. Potts -- if she was still alive -- and put Jerry in touch with her.
As Paul Harvey would say, "Now, the rest of the story!" A week after my return from Anguilla, I drove up to the mountains of North Carolina on a sunny, Sunday afternoon. I thought if nothing else, I might be able to find if someone who could either put me in touch with Mrs. Potts -- or tell me what might have happened to her.
I happened to stop at a country convenience store along the highway and asked the clerk if she knew of a Hortense Potts. She appeared to be more than a little apprehensive about telling a stranger anything about anybody in those parts, but responded that she did know of such a person. I asked if Mrs. Potts was still living, whereupon she guardedly volunteered, "She was -- when she was in here last week!" I then explained why I was attempting to find Mrs. Potts -- for my friend on a tiny Caribbean island. The clerk then quickly detailed exactly what roads I should take and which turn-offs to make and said, "Mrs. Hortense lives in the first house -- a yellow one -- on the left after the curve!"
I followed to the instructions, found the house just as it was described, drove up the driveway and went to the door. A beautiful lady opened the door and said, "Hello. What can I do for you?" I replied, "Are you Mrs. Hortense Potts?" When she affirmed that she was indeed, I told her I was looking for her -- to put her in touch with Jeremiah Gumbs! She said she was delighted and that her sister had just that morning been wondering what could have possibly happened to Jerry, after all those years of not having heard anything about him. Suffice to say, when I later called Jerry and gave all the information to his son, Alan, I got my just reward -- a warm feeling that I had done something good for somebody!
First Impressions of Anguilla
It's difficult to express in words what I felt when we first arrived and to try to fully explain what Anguilla is like, would take a much longer time than I currently have for this account.
I was impressed with everything I saw and every person I met on Anguilla. It is, as Daryl had said, just the way most Caribbean islands were or had been in years gone by -- laid back, unhurried, friendly, interesting, historic -- and with a total ambiance that I have never experienced on any other island or in any other country in my travels.
There is little of the apparent abject poverty that is so prevalent and noticeable on other islands in the Caribe Basin. Chalk that up to the fact that the people of Anguilla are very proud and very conscious of their homes and property. In addition, the people of the island are very religious and on a Sunday, few folks will be seen out and about -- it's a day of rest and a time for families to be together.
Most of the houses are well maintained and have well tended yards. The roads, while in need of some minor repairs -- as in most places, there are the inevitable potholes and it seems that that is something that the locals are very verbal about - are for the most part far above the roads on other islands.
Probably the most noticeable thing about Anguilla is the lack of the lushness of tropical plants. There are a few stately palm trees located in out of the way spots and along Savannah Bay and Junks Hole Bay and there are a couple of sparse groves of these stately trees swaying in the winds. But, for the most part, the vegetation is low scrubby bushes and short trees reminiscent of very dry islands, such as Cozumel.
Thanks to Anguilla's location near some of the best fishing spots in the entire Caribbean, the island has an abundance of local catches. The most notable are large quantities of crayfish and spiny lobsters, both of which are delicacies and are well known as local specialities in all of the island's restaurants and resort dinning rooms. (I don't like to expound on meals in a trip report, but I had a lobster at Roy's Place -- situated on the beach at Crocus Bay -- that was so large, that even I couldn't eat it all! And, believe you me, it was not only delicious, but as tender as it could be!)
Anguilla - Locale, Weather, Size And Stuff
Anguilla is a scant 16 miles long and only 3 miles wide at it's widest point, and it gives a visitor a much different experience from visits to the much bigger islands of the Caribe Basin. While many, if not most, of the islands of the Caribbean have some sort of rain forest, Anguilla has scant rain, except for the occasional occurrence of a hurricane. While I was there, though, we experienced a couple of short showers -- just enough to wash the sky clean and provide a sparkle to the air that only seems to happen in the Caribbean.
The island experienced a triple whammy in 1995 when Luis and Marilyn arrived back-to-back and then in 1996, the island caught some of the fury of Bertha. The island's inhabitants effected rapid recovery from all three storms, even in the face of winds that had wreaked near havoc on the island. And luckily, these natural weather disasters don't usually come along quite so frequently.
In addition, most of the islands in the Caribbean archipelago tend to be volcanic in origin. However, it's quickly evident that Anguilla was born from coral, which explains it's lack of mountains and tall hills, that on most other islands evidence extinct activity in now eroded volcanic mountains. I was told that Anguilla might be thought of as actually being a coral island that is virtually floating on it's seamount.
Anguilla, lying as it does at the northern extremity of the Leewards -- it is almost due east of the British Virgin Islands and north of all the rest of the Lesser Antillean Archipelago -- the island comes under the balmy "trade winds." These winds derived their name from the fact that it was these northeasterly winds that enabled early explorers and merchants from Europe to easily sail to the islands and thereby begin trade in everything from sugar to slaves.
I spent a number of days on beaches, with names such as Rendezvous Bay and Maunday's Bay and Shoal Bay. On the Atlantic facing-side, the easterly winds kept trying to unseat The Tilley Hat I wore, but the fine folks at Tilley Endurables had taken care of that -- they included chin and neck straps for just such winds. Even on the lee, northwest-facing side of the island, which tends to be sheltered from winds on most other islands, there was a strong wind most days. Luckily, there was usually a blissful wisp of wind to cool us at night.
The lack of rainfall has resulted in little being grown in the way of crops, and almost everything must be imported from outside the island. Additionally, the tropical vegetation that is so prevalent on most of the islands in the area is virtually non-existent here. There are low, scrub trees that are more reminiscent of arid locations -- Anguilla isn't a desert island, but it's pretty close to being one.
There are few if any wells on the island and most of the water that is used, is caught in cisterns when there is rain. This really didn't present us with any problems while visiting -- and the water did not at all taste bad as I would have thought. In fact, the water was very soft and we noticed that it had a totally unexpected effect -- gold rings, bracelets and watch crystals actually looked as if a jeweler had polished them, they shone so much. It appears that was due to the water!
Having Gayle and Daryl as friends conferred on us the friendship of other folks who have similarly moved to this escape from the rest of the world. We had the pleasure of meeting many of the Anguillan "ex-pats" (ex-patriots) who have come to know Gayle, through her boutique, and Daryl, from his frequent trips to the island. I've already mentioned Barbara and Roger earlier in this narrative. We also had the distinct pleasure of meeting Jo-Anne (an artist of world renown), Suzanne and Lee (Lee owns the cable TV operation on Anguilla, as well as cable TV companies all over the Caribbean), Jacquie (formerly the owner of the Tropical Penguin) and the enchanting and delightful Freida, who runs a very exquisite and very exclusive, gift shop at Cap Juluca.
Anguilla's Many Resorts
Anguilla has every kind of resort and accommodation one could want or hope to find on such a small island. There are accommodations that range from those that are truly regal (and which have undoubtedly hosted royalty) to those slightly less magnificent, but equally as good, if you're comparing them to similar resorts on most islands of the Caribbean. Then, there are the still smaller places, which by their very size are excellent places to spend a Caribbean vacation.
The sheer number of extremely high-end resorts, which in my travels around the Caribbean, is far more than most islands and exceeds all of those on near equal size islands, amazed and awed me. I had read of resorts such as Cap Juluca and Malliouhana. These are truly world class resorts in anybody's travel guide books! I can well understand why these ultra resorts are so well touted, and yet in some instances, these self same resorts would just as well be less known -- so their guests won't be hassled by the hoi-polloi!
Since we didn't stay as guests at any of the resorts, I can only provide my observations and comments on a few below:
Cap Juluca Hotel, Maunday's Bay -- This resort is, if not the finest I've ever had the pleasure of seeing, certqinly one of the true world class resorts anywhere. Its location is somewhat sheltered from all but a direct south wind and it has a stunning beach.
Malliouhana, Meads Bay -- Located along a hillside, Malliouhana is also a world class resort. It too is somewhat sheltered from all but a west wind and the beach area is gorgeous.
Sonesta Beach Resort, Rendezvous Bay -- Sonesta, with its pink and green, Moorish architecture, might be out of place anywhere else in the Caribbean, but it seems to fit right into the landscape on Anguilla. The beach is grand -- and long. Formerly the Casablanca Resort, it was reopened in 1996 as the Sonesta, following extensive repairs from hurricane incurred damage.
Rendezvous Bay Hotel, Rendezvous Bay -- The first real resort on Anguilla (and the home of the original developer, Jeremiah Gumbs, mentioned above) was Rendezvous Bay Hotel and it still has a certain charm to it. Located on the southwest-facing shore of Rendezvous Bay, it has a delightful beach and a choice of the older rooms near the main building or the newer rooms directly along the beach.
Anguilla Great House, Rendezvous Bay -- This gracious beach side resort was not what I expected from its name. (It isn't a "greathouse" in the tradition of the greathouses of Jamaica and Barbados. It's gone through two iterations in that it originally had the same name it does now, but it was named the Pineapple Beach Club for a time.) The rooms are in separate buildings that are located around a central garden. The beach, on the south- facing shore of Rendezvous Bay, is as good as it gets.
Anguilla's Great Restaurants
For its tiny size, Anguilla is home to a real plethora of places that serve everything from true haute cuisine to meat patties! I sampled a fair number and I can say, without fear of contradiction, that Anguilla's eateries are among the best I've tried anywhere in the Caribbean. I won't attempt to enumerate all, but the following are ones that stand out and which I would definitely recommend:
Palm Grove, Junk's Hole -- This was one of the first places where we dined out and combining the view of Junk's Hole Bay, with it's breakers tumbling against the shore, with the scrumptious grilled lobsters and bread patties, downed with a cold beer was as close to perfection as I had ever experienced.
Ferryboat Inn, Blowing Point -- While the Ferryboat Inn is slightly off the beaten path -- you really need to "want" to get there in order to find it (it is located just west of the real ferryboat landing about a hundred yards, on Cul de Sac Road, the first road to the left as you leave the landing, headed inland) -- the food is superb and the views of St. Martin across the water makes a meal here one to be enjoyed. By the way, their hamburger is "to kill for"!
Roy's Restaurant, Crocus Bay -- I've been a lot of places and eaten in places that most folks never get to. But, Roy's Restaurant is one place that I would heartily recommend to everybody. The ambiance is nice, what with the outward appearance that the place has somewhat "grown like Topsy," and there seem to always be a number of locals who "belly up" to the bar here. The view of the bay is great, and if you're lucky, you might see the WindJammer 'Polynesia' drop anchor and ferry its passengers ashore. But, it's the food that really caught my fancy. I can truly say that I had a grilled lobster at Roy's that I couldn't finish, it was so big!
Chatterton's on the Beach, Cap Juluca Hotel, Meads Bay -- We had a delightful lunch at Chatterton's and I heartily recommend it to anybody. It has two levels and you can order a la carte or serve yourself from a wonderful buffet which contains more items than anybody could eat.
Palm Court, Cinnamon Reef Resort -- We had the pleasure of dining at Palm Court on evening and the food was excellent. It's somewhat difficult to find unless you know exactly where it's located -- take the road at the red light to the west of Wallblake Airport towards Little Harbor and follow the signs. You won't be disappointed.
Old Cotton Gin Ice Cream Pallor, Old Factory Plaza, The Valley -- For a cool place to grab a quick sandwich and have ice cream, the Old Cotton Gin is my choice.
Landing Strip, Wallblake Airport, The Valley -- Yet another place to have a quick sandwich is the Landing Strip, the airport restaurant. I had thought that an airport restaurant would be like those the world over, but this small grill has sandwiches and drinks that are both good, quick and inexpensive.
Hibernia, Island Harbor -- You just can't find a better restaurant than Mary Pat's Hibernia! It's small and intimate, it's classy and the food is out of THIS world! It's not just a meal -- it's truly an experience! I don't think I have ever had any food better prepared or better presented than the dinner we had on our final night on Anguilla. I think it's most fitting that Gayle and Daryl saved the very best for last. Yes, it is a bit pricey -- I picked up the tab that night, much to the chagrin of Daryl! But, it was worth every cent to delightfully "dine" rather than "eat out".
We didn't do a lot of touristy shopping while on Anguilla. In the first place, we have tourist trinkets from previous trips and have now decided we just don't need any more "junque" to lug home and end up later either throwing it away or giving it to others. Therefore, this trip we really didn't buy much in the way of keepsakes to take home.
The Boutique at Maliahouna-- We were invited to an "event" at this elegant shop and found that it was without a doubt the most upscale shop on the whole island. They were having a jewelry show and sale, but the prices were much above my meager assets!
Curiosity, South Hill -- As noted previously above, this is the shop that our friend and hostess, Gayle Gurvey, runs and while I'm not normally a devotee of boutiques, this has something for everybody. It's located conveniently along the main road on the left as you head toward The Valley.
L'atelier Art Studio, North Hill -- Both the home and the studio of Michele Lavelette, this is a place to get prints that by a well known artist, albeit more known in Europe than in the United States. Michele has excellent prints and she is a charming hostess to visitors to her shop.
I have always had a bent for exploring new places and Anguilla provided me an opportunity to do just that. We drove our rental car literally from one end of the island's 16 mile length to the other -- and almost every possible place in between.
The main roads, as noted above, are good and much better than those on many Caribbean islands. There are places where the roads are not paved and in some few places, the paved roads have some pot holes, but these are the exception rather that the rule.
The only place we found where a vehicle may encounter problems are the unpaved roads beyond Junk's Hole, extending to the northeastern end of the island. These dirt roads tend to be located in clay soil and the pot holes hold water, making mud holes that can be a major problem, given that there aren't many folks driving up that way. A tourist getting stuck in one of these mud holes, would be in a real pickle. However, the area does have some interesting places such as Captain's bay, where somebody is constructing either a really big private residence or a new resort -- I wasn't able to find out which.
Back to St. Martin
All too soon, our week on Anguilla drew to an end and it was time to look toward returning home. (Sigh) But, suffice to say that our stay was one that neither of us will ever forget! And, we attribute that to three things -- the graciousness of Gayle and Daryl, the beauty of Anguilla and the many delightful people who call this island home.
We had made prior arrangements to leave the rental car at the ferry landing. Our US Air (now US Airways) flight departed earlier than did Daryl's Air Canada flight, so we decided to head on over to St. Martin ahead of him. We had agreed to try and hook up at the airport.
We got our tickets and boarded the ferry, but we were just late enough that we were among the last passengers to embark. That meant that we had to settle for what seats were left -- which were inside the lower cabin. Take my advice -- try to be early enough to board early and select the better seats in the upper, rear cabin -- at least there is more air there and less pitching! (I hated it, and Nina experienced a bit of mal de mer and that's not something that is to be wished on anybody!) We disembarked at the dock in St. Martin and hied a taxi to take us to the airport. The ride was uneventful -- until we arrived at the airport, that is!
I've traveled through a lot of airports all over the world, but the crowds that we encountered at Princess Juliana Airport in St. Maarten were the worst I have ever experienced. The lines at the ticket counters were long, there was little or no air conditioning and the air line employees were the slowest I've ever encountered. After finally getting our boarding passes, we went into the departure lounge, only to find it completely mobbed. It appears that every single flight leaves within a short time frame and that means that passengers simply have to put up with chaos.
Return From Paradise
The flight back to Charlotte was comfortable. But, as the plane made its takeoff roll and started climbing from the tarmac, I looked out one last time at Anguilla. It's low profile and sparkling white beaches stood out from the azure of the sea surrounding it. I could just make out the villa in which we had spent out week in paradise. I could see the roads we had explored and the villages where we had met the friendly, yet reserved Anguillans. And, as the plane turned toward the continent, my views of the island were cut off, to remain only in my memory. But, the memories of our week on Anguilla will always be as clear as the waters that surround the island and we will forever think of Anguilla as "the way the Caribbean used to be!"
Copyright Jamaica Jim Jordan [74777,2574].