Girl in Transit
Find me one, just one nice thing to say about eels. Bet you can’t! So let’s not even go into Animal Planet’s description of this creature. Trust me, it’s not pleasant. Let’s think instead of the description of Anguilla, the British overseas island territory that is tucked away in the northern Caribbean and nestled around unrivaled white beaches and deeply turquoise seas. Anguilla is casual and easy, a blend of high style, low-key elegance - and perhaps one of its very best features - the people themselves. Anguillans are genial and friendly; they take pride in their rich culture, their home and the pleasure of sharing it with visitors from around the world.
Throughout my visit, it was not unusual to hear Anguillans greet me with a friendly “hello” and not long after that, we often got to know each other by name. Aunt Bea is a name I won’t soon forget - a well-known presence on Shoal Bay, this adorable lady is often found under the shade of the sea grapes across from Uncle Ernie’s where she sits and sews the colorful handmade dolls that she sells on the beach. I bought a pretty doll attired in yellow, green and pink, my favorite memento of both the place and the lady. And where and what is Uncle Ernie’s ? It’s a well-known Shoal Bay beach bar, one of the most famous eateries in Anguilla. The bar dates back to 1984, opened by the late Ernest Benjamin (Uncle Ernie) and today it remains a family affair now operated by his daughters and a nephew. I had the BBQ Chicken and their world-famous Rum Punch. Yes!
Anguilla is a mere 30 minutes away by ferry from bustling St. Maarten and a few minutes by plane from high and mighty St. Barths. Comparisons are futile because Anguilla is, well, different – in a good way. Just three miles wide and 27 miles long, the country is flat and dotted with scrub and small salt ponds; wild donkeys and goats wander freely, adding their particular earthy charm. The island traces its ancestry back to the time of the Arawak Indians and their spirit continues to offer a haven of laid-backness that is hard to come by on most other Caribbean islands. It still enjoys the reputation of being somewhat under the radar, serene among its touristy, trinket-hawking neighbors - and this despite the fact that there have been some changes made – actually plenty of them within the last decade.
This serenity has not come about haphazardly, thanks to a forward-planning government intent upon protecting its culture and beaches. Anguilla banned large cruise ships and towering hotels and, although it’s a haunt for bold-faced names like DeNiro, Gere, Malkovich and Sarandon, you wouldn’t know it. Locals are remarkably unfazed and treat glitterati like everyone else. The original, small airport’s runway has been lengthened to handle private jets and a large port has been built to accommodate yachts like the SeaDream and SeaBourn. The country’s construction continues with the addition of luxe resorts such as The Viceroy and CuisinArt Resort.
As the island continues to develop, it is not on its way to becoming the Caribbean Southampton anytime soon. We can take comfort in the fact that some things never change! Its water is still azure and crystal-clear, its sands white and powder-soft, the sky remains an impossible, robin’s-egg blue, and the Anguillan people - still kind, gracious and eager to welcome you to their special island paradise. In fact, they have a saying here: Feeling is Believing. I’ve felt Anguilla’s soothing sun as I lazed in a hammock, I’ve felt its sparkling ocean breeze as I walked the beach, and I’ve definitely felt the good vibes of its people. I’m a believer.
If You Go:
Anguilla Tourist Board
Calypso Charters (ferry from St. Maarten to Anguilla)
Barbara Barton Sloane is a Pelham-based Travel Editor/Columnist who writes for a number of both national and international publications. She delights in sharing her global travel experiences.