Hello! First and foremost, thank you for all the info made available here on this forum. All the posters and destination experts that volunteer their time to provide info here are priceless and much appreciated.
I've been back from Anguilla/St Martin for two weeks, eased back into reality and most importantly, took time to reflect back on my entire stay in Anguilla to make a "sane" assessment of my trip. (I usually fly back from a destination and start whining how I want to go back immediately.. but as I ease back to reality, it quickly fades away.)
As of this moment, that strong desire to go back has not faded away. I'm still questioning whether it is because I just got back not too long ago or have my husband and I finally found our "island" to go back to. I would also like to state that I only provide trip reports or reviews for places that are far superior than previous experiences.
I will provide the trip report as promised and will elaborate at the end if you're still interested to know.
My husband and I flew in to SXM direct from EWR. Taxi'ed to Marigot then took the public ferry from Marigot to Anguilla. Uneventful - it went smooth. Not much of a wait. (Might consider GB next time because the fumes were not very pleasant.)
Car Rental - Neville Gumbs (aka Gumbsie) - The most casual car rental business I've ever worked with. It was initially a bit too laid back for my type-A personality. LOL (Not having a "confirmation" or some sort of "contract" makes me nervous. But all that was put to rest when I found the car with my name written in BOLD on the dashboard and also to find the temp license in the car. All went smoothly and would absolutely recommend him.
Accomodations - James Place Apartments in Mount Fortune
Clean and more than adequate. Budget friendly and had almost everything I needed. I am always looking for budget friendly accomodations and this fits the bill. Strong wifi along with beach chairs, towels, beach mats and cooler for you to use. (Next time, I'd rent an umbrella from TravelLite just so I can go to places like Savanna Bay and not worry about shade.) Unit is available at vrbo or homeaway. I would absolutely recommend staying here. Again, this is a no frills apt but more than adequate for my vacationing style.
Day one is always about settling in and getting use to being on island time. Exploring the island and food shopping. My first impression of Anguilla was "underdeveloped".. no highrise hotels.. it is exactly what I prefer.
Day two -
Le Bon Pain - I am a carb addict and I can't get enough of fresh baguettes. I came here every morning for fresh baguettes to make egg sandwiches for breakfast (Made my own although they make pretty yummy sandwiches too!) and also I buy baguettes to pack my own lunches to the beach. I absolutely recommend stopping by for fresh baguettes or quiches if it's not too out of the way for you. They have a few tables/chairs for you to sit if you would like to dine-in. (They are closed Wednesdays)
Shoal Bay East was the #1 beach I had to visit. As much as I wanted to visit Uncle Ernies, I was turned off by the umbrella graffiti and decided to go to Elodies. It was absolutely perfect. I was short on beach towels for my stay and it was great that Elodies also had beach towel rentals for a very reasonable cost! Thoroughly enjoyed the pina coladas here! (Did not order food, therefore, I couldn't speak for the food.) Perfect weather, perfect beach = perfect sunning day!
Dinner was at On Da Rocks for their Crayfish special. It was overcooked but still delicious with their cream sauce topped with capers. 5 dollars per Crayfish! Can't beat that! Cole slaw was pretty good too.
Rendevous Bay - Sunshine Shack
Drove down to the great house and parked at the lot by the entrance to the beach. This was a marvelous day as we got to see the sails from the regatta. It was a slow day for Garvey but he said he needed the break as he pulled a late night the night before. CHICKEN AND RIBS were AWESOME! Rum Punches were also AWESOME! Carlton is funny.. I only understand every other word he's saying, but he was patient and repeated himself constantly.
(My husband and I met a wonderful couple from CT. Thoroughly enjoyed their stories and recommendations they made. I wish I remembered their names so I could give them a proper shout out. They are Great House regulars.)
In summary- this is the place i'd HAVE to come back to if I were to come back to Anguilla again. I'm all about local food and having good service from these guys just made it more memorable.
Johnno's @ Sandy Ground- this was not on our itinerary. Carlton persuaded my husband and I go check it out when we gave him a ride home from the beach shack. My husband and I love reggae so we traded E's oven for Johnnos. Johnno's was probably my least favorite place (food wise)that I dined at, but the live music and Carlton's company made up for it. And service was average but attentive.
Day 4- Tropical Sunset
We drove all the way out to Meads and I was adamant about going to Blanchards. I had to experience it at least once (the food that is..) ... I cannot put into words the euphoria I felt when I first laid eyes on Meads. Blanchards had ran out of chairs/umbrellas so we didn't stay.. we got there pretty late so I guess it wasn't meant to be. It broke my heart to leave and I didn't want to go to Straw Hat. The water was sooo calm and inviting.. I took a quick dunk in the water and left. Hubby and I decided to go to Tropical Sunset to snorkel instead. I loved it there. We devoured their curry chicken and conch ceviche. Portions were small but satisfying. 2nd best pina colada I had on the island. They also have guavaberry coladas as well! The beach chair rentals were most expensive here but the service made it all worth it. I couldn't stop ordering their Dove ice cream bars. I know I can get them back home, but dang they were extra special on Shoal Bay. Overall, loved the secluded feeling here and the snorkeling was decent.
Dinner - VEYAs
Dinner was delicious and I picked this night to go for Omari. It was overall a wonderful evening. I know they have stunning reviews, but to be honest I didn't love my entree. To be fair, it had nothing to do with the chef as it's just me that doesn't have the palate for cured duck. (I much prefer my duck pan seared in a boat-load of butter.) The flavors were great and ambiance was wonderful. I would definitely go back to Veya's as I never got to try their cigar appetizer as they had sold out.
Last Full Day - Blanchards
I truly believe everything happens for a reason. Our first attempt to Blanchards didn't work out, however, it did on this day. And my husband and I met the golden girls, (i kid!).... I hope I have their names correct but I believe it's Judy, Joan and Suzy. They were a riot to hang around with and found out they are from NJ. Hubby and I later found out they are also friends with the couple we met at Garvey's. Everyone are friends with everyone... that's how I felt.
On this day, Meads was very rough. I got knocked down by the strong undertow and was too chickencrap to go back in the water... LOL.. but the golden girls were brave and they all went with my husband. All in all, it was a great day even though a storm came in during the afternoon. The wealth of knowledge and stories told by them was like someone reading a book to me on the beach. I'm so grateful I have gotten to meet them and hope our paths will cross again one day.
Hubby and I did some last day exploring after leaving Meads. We drove to Junks Hole/Savanna Bay and went home to start packing. We decided at the last minute to go out to Sand Bar for tapas. (Not on the itinerary... I'm still kicking myself for not making it to E's or Coconos.)
How should I begin? Food was good, they were tapas but did not have a specific "theme." Usually when you go to a tapas place, it would have a "theme." Like Spanish/Latin, Italian or Asian. I don't have anything against "fusion" but this fusion was just too broad for the amount of items listed on the menu. I will also add that I was not impressed with the service. Our waitress didn't once respond with "you're welcome" nor did she seemed happy to be there. She didn't have any comment when asked for recommendations and had the audacity to write on my check that tips are appreciated. I hate ending my last night on a low note but at least the food was good.. so there's some positive. =)
Final Day- Check out day.. =(
Drove to Blowing Point, parked the car where we found it and managed to catch the ferry 5 minutes to departure. We spent the next 5 days in St Martin before going home.
At this point in our trip, we were not sure if Anguilla is our island. It was our first time to Anguilla and 3rd trip to St. Martin. St. Martin always had a special place in my heart because the food is soooo good there (specifically LOLOs). But both hubby and I don't prefer crowds, although we can tolerate it (specifically Orient Bay).
I noticed that is the number 1 questions asked by regulars of AXA. "So, are you already thinking when you're coming back?".... I see the disappointment in their reaction with my response.. and that is "I don't know if I want to come back yet. I just got here."
Now that I've had time to let everything marinade and going back to my journals of previous travels, both hubby and I agreed that AXA have surpassed Provo as our current favorite island. For the longest time, no island compared to Provo until Bora Bora, but I'm not going to count the pacific islands with the caribbean as the culture is completely different. (Although we can say that about the individual islands of the caribbean as well.) To give you our background, we have been to Mexico (all different parts including Cabo) 5 times, Grand Cayman, Puerto Rico, Aruba, Antigua, Jamaica, St. Thomas, St. Martin, Provo and Bahamas. I can now totally relate to those that have chosen AXA. It is definitely the people, but in this case, it was the local people AND the people who go back to the island. I didn't feel like anyone frowned upon my hubby and I for not staying at Viceroy/Cuisinart. It didn't matter if we had a villa or rented an apt. More importantly, the flexibility or availability of beaches at AXA. (Provo have many beaches, but you will not find a beach shack. Ok, there is a beach shack but no beach chairs or umbrellas.. ) Personally, I still love Provo and the only reason I have to go back is because I didn't try all the restaurants I wanted to the first time. For AXA, I want to go back not only because of the food, but the beaches I haven't explored and I'm super bummed I didn't go to Sandy Island or Scilly Cay. It's not just the one or two reasons, it's more than that. I can honestly say, even if I go back and not explore anything new, I'd still be ok with it.
For those who have been on both Provo and AXA - I think one of the toughest decisions or comparisons for me is the live music. I love reggae, really really do, and all that live music in AXA is awesome.... but NaDa (from provo) is like that perfect night cap to your meal. Omari was close to that, but there's just something special about NaDa.
The easy solution is to go to both places during the year... right? Nope, not really. I spent triple the amount in Provo than AXA. I was in provo for a longer trip but even after pro-rating it's still more than double. If money was not an issue, then yea, maybe. ANyway, I digress- AXA was amazing and this is the first time I'm considering going back so soon. So if the golden girls and the couple from the Great House were to ask me when do I plan on going back to AXA, I can now give a definitive answer "this July." =) I'm obsessed.... like constantly daydreaming about SBE and Meads while at work..obsessed. The kind of obsession that makes you angry that you're not still there .. on the beach... almost alone.... in my case.. with a big russian yacht in front of you no matter which freaking bay you go to. (I saw that russian yacht almost every day... in st martin and in anguilla... oy)
If you read this far, I thank you for your interest. Anguilla was absolutely divine and both hubby and I are looking forward to going back.
Have a wonderful day!
PS - there are two islands that are still on our bucket list. If you have any insight, I'd welcome it. Barbados and St. Lucia.