June 2010 Anguilla Trip: Days 4 and 5

On my fourth morning in Anguilla, I was feeling downright slothful -  juuuuust the sort of feeling I aim for when I come to this island. I really had zero inclination to do anything or go anywhere which, as it turns out, was just as well because somewhere around mid-morning, it started pouring down rain outside.

When I took a look at the weather forecast, I saw that they were referring to this storm as a “strong tropical wave” and I really had no idea what that meant.  You see, I had been spoiled by the weather in Anguilla on previous visits because, usually, rain on the island gently falls for 10 or 15 minutes at the most, and then it’s gone. This storm, however, was not so calm.  Instead, it was almost scary with the loud and violent bursts of thunder and incredibly strong wind gusts. I was afraid that some of the trees around the house were going to fall over and/or blow away (I was thankful that they survived seemingly unscathed.):

Anguilla rain storm

Anguilla rain storm

The storm only lasted about 30 or 45 minutes, so I just waited it out at home and relaxed. My only plans for the day were to meet a friend of mine for drinks in the evening, so I was in no rush anyway.

When I finally decided to head out somewhere, I figured that Elvis’ Beach Bar was just as good a place as any to go. So, I drove west to Sandy Ground where a handful of Elvis’ regulars were hanging out around the boat-shaped bar. I sat down, ordered a frozen blended fruit drink, and just chatted away with Elvis and the other customers.

A group of young local children were playing in the area and it made me happy to watch them enjoying the simple pleasures of chasing each other across the sand and enjoying tasty treats:

Enjoying a mango

Enjoying a mango

After a little while, I told Elvis that I had the munchies and asked him if he had any snack-type finger food that I could order. He nodded and said “Sure, I’ll go make you up some plantain and breadstuffs, ok?”. I nodded back, too embarrassed to admit that I had no clue what “breadstuffs” were, but I figured that I liked plantains and well, how bad could breadstuffs be, really? Elvis was gone for a little while and came back with a plate of beautifully fried plantains… on a hamburger bun.  Hahaha! I laughed at myself for being a tad worried about what the mystery portion of the dish would be and that it turned out to be so harmless. We just don’t use the term “breadstuffs” at home but hey, it’s always good to learn something new, right?  My new young friends were very excited when they saw my snack, so I divided it up equally among us all and we shared the yummy treat.

I just passed the afternoon away there at Elvis’ and never really had any urge to go anywhere else. I was happy. Why mess with a good thing?

At some point, afternoon turned into evening and it was time for me to go meet my friend for drinks at Mango’s Seaside Grill even though I could just as easily have sat at that boat-bar all night.  But, I was looking forward to spending some time with my friend, so I paid my tab and was released from Elvis’ only after promising to come back later in the night. (Yeah, twist my arm, why don’t you?)

I drove myself further west and found Mango’s not too far away from the Viceroy Anguilla Resort. My friend was already there chatting with her friend who tends the bar there and we greeted each other with happy hugs and smiles. I always look forward to catching up with this particular friend because she’s been around the island for a while (well, her whole life) and sees things from a different perspective than a lot of the younger folks I know on island.  She’s been though her share of life’s ups and downs but still manages to live her life to the fullest, and I absolutely love that. She is an inspiration to me and talking to her is always one of the highlights of my Anguilla visits.

We shared the latest happenings in our lives over fizzy lemonades and Mango’s delicious lobster cakes.  She works a day-job at one of the local hotels and, in addition to that, takes care of both her son and her aging mother. I know she works hard at all of it, but I have never once heard her complain. Like I said, she’s truly an inspiration.

We hung out there for a couple of hours, but eventually we decided to head out.  We agreed to meet up again before I left and so we said good night.

Since I had made a promise to return to Elvis’, I went back there after leaving the restaurant. It wasn’t very crowded, but there were enough people there to make for a fun atmosphere.   Captain Rollins of the Chocolat (a catamaran on which he sails his customers on day-trips to neighboring islands – I sailed on the Chocolat on my first trip to Anguilla and I highly recommend doing a Chocolat trip!!) showed up, and those who have ever been in his presence know that he is truly hilarious! He’s quite a jokester and there are NO dull moments when he’s around, let me assure you.

The crowd grew a bit and I found myself talking to all sorts of people, both visitors and locals.  One group of people that I chatted with included a local gentleman who everyone seemed to know. I made the island-faux-pas of reverting back to my east coast mindset (You know, when people just equate your profession with who you are?) and asked him what it was that he does on island. Without a moment’s hesitation, he had the perfect response: “I drink rum.”  That answer made me smile, laugh and most importantly, it reminded me that what people do doesn’t matter nearly as much as who they are.  Anguilla is the perfect place to learn that lesson.

I also met someone whose job brought him to Anguilla every few months. I asked if he was hiring but unfortunately, he was not. Whenever I meet someone who has accomplished something as impressive as doing regular business in paradise or even living there, I always ask a million questions about how they did it. It’s amazing how many different routes people take to achieve their goals, and I enjoy hearing about as many of them as I can. Those conversations always give me my own ideas about what directions I decide to head towards in my own life.

Before I knew it, it was well after midnight and my exhaustion had caught up with me rather abruptly. I said my goodbyes to everyone, drove home, and I’m sure, fell asleep within seconds of my head hitting the pillow.

I woke up the next morning, on day 5 of my trip, not feeling 100%.  I thought that I would take it easy and stay home until I recovered, but when a friend called to invite me to lunch, he insisted that Smokey’s pea soup was exactly what I needed to cure my ills. He said it in such a way that I couldn’t really say no, because he was so sure that this would fix me so that I was as good as new.

So we went to Smokey’s at the Cove, a great restaurant on the beautiful beach of Cove Bay – one of my most favorite spots on the island.  I was happy to find that the Musical Brothers, a fantastic local band, was performing for the lunch crowd.

Now, the weather in Anguilla is usually so warm that I would never think  of ordering a hot soup there. But, since it was recommended so highly to me, I asked the waitress for a bowl, still not fully convinced that it would help. But lo and behold, not only was the soup delicious, but I felt much better after eating it! I felt well enough, in fact, to order and scarf down an entire cheeseburger afterward! I guess the soup IS a magic cure-all. Who knew?

I ran into several acquaintances at Smokey’s, including the businessman I had met at Elvis’ the night before. Small islands are great for that kind of thing.

After hanging out at Smokey’s for a while, my friend and I decided to head down to Elvis’ because I just hadn’t spent enough time there so far this trip (haha!).  We just hung out enjoying ourselves while shooting the breeze and doing a whole lot of nothing. Again, I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

I got a call from a group of friends who work at one of the restaurants on the island, and they invited me to come over to hang out later that evening. I was happy to accept the invitation, as I try not to show up unannounced while they’re trying to do their jobs.  With those plans in mind, I decided to head home and rest before going out again that night.  Socializing and wandering aimlessly around paradise is hard work, after all, so I needed some time to relax from my strenuous…err…relaxing.

I had a great nap at home and, despite the fact that it was raining when it was time for me to leave again, I braved the weather and drove to my friends’ restaurant. Luckily, that rain storm was the usual light and quick kind, so by the time I had made it to the West End, it was done.

I walked in the front door to the restaurant and was so happy to see my good friends’ smiling faces again. I sneaked in a few hugs as some of them were passing by, and then I sat down at the corner of the bar so as to stay out of everyone’s way. It was close to closing time, so I just sat around being psychoanalyzed by my bartender friend (he said he likes to practice his bartender-therapist role with people like me) while things wound down.

I find it interesting to watch my friends run a restaurant in many different roles, from the managers to the dish-washers, and cater to the specific needs of their customers. Their jobs definitely require a lot of patience and yet they seem to handle it so well with their characteristic laid-back island attitudes while, at the same time, being attentive to their guests. I can’t imagine the crazy situations that they’ve likely encountered in their line of work but I bet they handle it a lot better than I would. I’m grateful for the lengths to which they’re willing to go in order to make their customers happy, and I can only hope that most of the customers recognize that as well. They don’t deserve to be taken for granted, but I’m sure they often are.

So, that night we all sat around chit-chatting long after the last customers had left. This particular group of friends are a bunch of clowns and never fail to make me smile.  I can’t even recall what we talked about, but I just remember laughing to the point of tears several times within just a few hours there.  Those are the special times that I cherish the most on my trips to Anguilla. It’s a great feeling to go on “vacation” to a place where you have friends that make up a sort of family away from home. I’m not sure if Anguilla is unique in its ability to make it so easy to form friendships with its residents, but at this rate I may never find out since I can’t bring myself to go anywhere else!

After another fun-filled day and evening, I called it a night, made it home safely and I fell asleep in a perfectly contented and happy state of mind. I know that a lot of people focus more on things like shopping, restaurants and spa treatments when they travel but, for me, Anguilla has changed all of my expectations for a “perfect” vacation. I find that I’m happiest after I’ve spent time in the presence of good people, even if we are literally sitting around and doing nothing. The activity itself is not as important as the sense of well-being that comes from surrounding yourself with friends and loved ones because that’s where the happiness lies. Sappy but true, people… at least for me, and I learned that in Anguilla.

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