Anguilla on $1000 a Day

R.A. Hettinga rah at
Sat Feb 26 04:17:08 PST 2005


The New York Times

February 27, 2005

High: Anguilla on $1000 a Day

N hour after arriving on Anguilla in early January, I was soaking in the
hot tub at an exclusive resort, sunglasses on, eyes closed, sun warming my
pasty Northeastern face.

Ah, Anguilla, a quiet island that has recently become "the next St. Barts,"
a hedonistic hideaway and magnet for members of the boldface set. At the
northeast corner of this narrow isle, Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt spent
New Year's in a villa on Captain's Bay. On its southwestern coast, Jay-Z
and Beyonci had cuddled on the sands of Shoal Bay West. Down the beach from
my resort, Uma Thurman had kicked back at a local bar.

Just as I began to imagine that I, too, was a star on an
escape-the-paparazzi trip, reality interrupted. A foreign object crashed
into my hot tub and sent water slapping against my face. A small boy and
his father were throwing a ball wildly.

 The father's next toss bounced off the boy's head and against a woman's
forehead. The father laughed. The woman smiled. I growled and thought,
"This doesn't happen to Jennifer Aniston."

I left in a huff because I had no time for distractions. This was serious
business: I had to figure out how to get by on $1,000 a day.

Though Anguilla is a relatively undeveloped island where goats might
outnumber residents, $1,000 a day at a chic resort amounts to roughing it.

 At the Cap Juluca resort, the cheapest room in high season cost $936 a
night, including the 20 percent tax. Malliouhana Hotel offered a garden
view room on the first floor for $744.

 If my best friend, Rose, and I were to eat, drink and even think of going
to the spa on my $1,000-a-day budget, the only high-end resort I could
afford was the CuisinArt Resort and Spa, which sits near the island's
southwestern end on Rendezvous Bay's beach, one and a half miles of
flour-soft sand, blindingly white.

 The turquoise ocean water was as clear as Evian, and you could see fish
near the sea floor. The cheapest rate, $550 plus $110 tax - but including
Continental breakfast - would allow us to pretend we belonged at this
beautiful place.

 The resort's grounds were simple and elegant. Eggplant-colored
bougainvillea climbed the whitewashed stucco buildings that looked as if
they had been plucked from a Greek cliff. In a nearby garden were trees
heavy with guavas, fig bananas and star apples.

 As we looked from the lobby onto a series of rectangular pools cascading
to the beach, a receptionist said we had been upgraded from the main house
to a suite in one of the 10 three-story villas clustered along the shore.
"We hope you don't mind," she said, unaware that I was a journalist.

 No, we didn't, and certainly not after seeing the room. The upgrade, to a
junior suite that would have cost $120 more a night, allowed us to hear
waves from our patio.

 Our "suite" was a cheery, not fancy, single room, but at 920 square feet
was nearly as big as my Manhattan apartment. A navy couch broke up the
space into sleeping and lounging areas. Two double beds with wicker
headboards faced the porch and a walkway to the beach. Paintings of Greek
fishing villages and bright bedspreads splashed color against the white
walls and tile floors.

A brochure called the bathroom "your own private sanctum," large enough for
an oval tub for a honeymooning couple's bubble bath. But nothing was that
private, considering one wall was made of warped glass. While on the
outside walkway one day, I gasped when I saw a fuzzy version of Rose
heading for the shower.

 At the resort's free reception on our first night (with food and drink),
the manager, Rabin Ortiz, told us, "Do not make plans for your weekend." We
quickly learned why. There are no plans to make because, on Anguilla, there
is basically nothing to do. And that's the point.

At CuisinArt, stay away from the main pool (where ball-tossing children
congregate). Instead, sit on the beach and take delivery of homemade lemon
sorbet from waiters whose goal is to fill you with fruity rum drinks. After
sundown, submit to spa treatments like the Anguillan coconut pineapple
scrub, which smells good enough to eat, and the hydroponic cucumber and
aloe wrap, using ingredients grown on the premises.

Night life is minimal. (At 10:30 on Saturday night, only one couple was at
our resort's bar, where a trio sang "Endless Love.") Sea kayaks, sailboats,
catamarans and tennis courts were available and mostly unused. For casino
or dance club action, it's a half-hour ferry ride to St. Martin.

Still, after too many games of boccie and gin rummy - or perhaps not enough
gin and rum - we searched for some fun. Down the beach was Dune Preserve, a
delightfully mellow bar inside a wooden shack owned by the local reggae
legend Bankie Banx. A CuisinArt bartender said that Uma had been there the
night before.

 We followed the shoreline to get there. But then, as if the local gods
ordered punishment for all $1,000-a-day cheapskates, two stray dogs charged
us in the darkness. We couldn't see them, but they barked and snapped like
rabid Rottweilers, sending us running back to CuisinArt. So much for Uma.

Cowards that we were, we rented a car the next day for $55 (including $20
for an Anguillan license) and that night drove 60 seconds to Dune Preserve,
only to realize we were too full for a drink. Because, on Anguilla, what
you do is eat - often.

 Our gluttony had begun at Santorini, which, like CuisinArt's other
heavenly restaurant, Cafe Mediterraneo, uses food grown in the resort's
high-tech hydroponic garden or its old-school organic one. There, Rose and
I went to a class led by CuisinArt's executive chef, Daniel Orr, formerly a
chef at Guastavino's in New York City.

 Neither of us is a great cook. (My fridge at home contains two bottles of
seltzer, nail polish and AA batteries.) But we are great eaters. We stuffed
ourselves with a tangy serving of stingray, a dizzyingly delicious
chocolate souffli and yellow lentil bisque so good we were tempted to lick
our bowls.

 Afterward, I was shocked at the $75 charge, well over the advertised $55 I
had budgeted (it had just gone up). I next heard my whiny voice telling the

 "You don't understand. I cannot afford this extra $20."

 The concierge rolled her eyes, but, hey, I needed $110 for the seaweed
scrub later.

That evening, we took a cab ($13 each way) to dinner at Blanchard's, a
top-notch restaurant in a quaint cottage. Most of the 23 tables were
arranged on the main floor, but we sat on a lower patio overlooking
fountains and gardens and the sea beyond. The only disappointments were the
rubbery lobster included in the $56 Caribbean Sampler and the waiters'
rushing us through the meal. Total for my dinner: $110.40.

 Perhaps the management could sense that we were not the stars of our
imaginations. I asked the man at the bar if any real stars came in. He
reeled off names of those who had been there "just yesterday": Denzel
Washington. Johnny Damon. Liam Neeson and his wife, Natasha Richardson.
Courteney Cox Arquette. And, of course, Jennifer Aniston.

The next day, though it was dry season, it poured. So on that rainy Sunday
we rented a car and checked out Anguilla, which didn't take long. It is
only about 16 miles long and 3 miles wide. We found it pleasingly devoid of
cheesy T-shirt shops and fast-food joints but plentiful with road-roaming
goats and the smiling people who own them.

 We lunched at Gorgeous Scilly Cay, a primitive restaurant on a tiny island
off the northeastern coast. With no electricity, it's open only from 11
a.m. to 5 p.m. To get there, you stand on a dock and hail a boatman.

 Normally, patrons sun themselves there on lounge chairs between courses,
and get foot rubs from the restaurant's masseur, said the owner, Sandra
Wallace. But not on this rainy day. On the boat over with us, she wore a
garbage bag to stay dry; the masseur stayed home.

 Still, a calypso band played upbeat music in the main house, which had
about a dozen tables and was open on all sides. Outside, there were several
palm-covered huts, each with a few plastic tables and chairs, where I
ordered the crayfish and chicken plate for $45, as sweet as their rum punch
was dangerous. My lunch, with tip, came to $74.

 We found no famous people there, either - we were managing to repel them -
though we did hear that Sharon Stone had recently rented out the whole
island. And Jennifer Aniston (her again) had been there the week before.

 That evening, I had my second treatment at the Venus Spa - a place without
much character or Zen - at CuisinArt. (In the thumbnail-size locker room, I
awkwardly rubbed elbows with someone's naked grandmother.) The Caribbean
warm stone massage ($115, plus $22 tip) was a step up from the seaweed wrap
of the day before - better called the seaweed chill.

That one began with me shivering in the treatment room. The masseuse said,
"If I told them once, I told them 20 times, this room is freezing."

 Then she spread cold seaweed gook over my goose bumps. I groaned while she
mummified me with towels. Under those coverings, wrapped inside foil, I
felt like a hypothermia patient.

But relief came with the warm stone massage. As the smooth rocks rolled
over my muscles it felt oddly soothing, as if I were being seared by a
giant stick of roll-on deodorant. I felt so much at ease that later I
splurged on a smoothie for Rose, at $8.05 the only thing I could afford to
buy her all weekend.

When the sun came out on our last day, I passed the hot tub and saw that
same annoying family with their dreaded ball, this time being tossed
between two strollers. So I headed for the beach.

 I bobbed around the water for a while, then moved my peaceful self to a
lounge chair. There I sipped on my own smoothie until it was time to get
back to the real world by way of the St. Martin airport.

At a terminal newsstand, I finally saw Jennifer Aniston - on a magazine
cover. How terrible - her Anguillan experience included suffering greater
than my seaweed chill - she and Brad had broken up.

"Hey lady!" the cashier yelled. "Did you see the sign? You can't read the
magazines until you buy them!"

What, she thought I looked rich? I had already spent my $2,000. So I
dropped the $3.95 magazine onto the shelf and walked away.

TWO-DAY TOTAL: $2,000.35

Visitor Information

Getting There

Several United States airlines run flights to Anguilla, but most operate in
connection with other carriers. Most flights go through San Juan, and the
cheapest fares (from about $646 round trip for late March) can require an
additional connection in St. Martin. If you fly into St. Martin (from about
$561 round trip), you can take a 20-minute ferry to Anguilla ($24 round
trip plus $2.75 departure tax from St. Martin and $3 from Anguilla).
Ferries run every half hour from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

 Where to Stay

Cap Juluca, (888) 858-5822,, is tucked away on the
secluded beach at Maunday's Bay, making it a favorite hideaway for
celebrities. Doubles start at $780 a night in the high season, from $445 in
April, and $345 from May 1 through mid-November. (Add 20 percent in taxes
to all rates.)

Malliouhana Hotel and Spa, (264) 497-6111,, is the
perfect place to see an Anguillan sunset: it sits atop a cliff facing west
over the crystal blue waters of Mead's Bay. Doubles start at $400 from
April 1 to 30, and $290 from May 1 to Nov. 19; ocean-view one-bedroom
suites are $825 and $660.

 CuisinArt Resort and Spa, (264) 498-2000,, is
perched on Rendezvous Bay. Rooms start at $550 a night from January through
March, $395 in April, and $350 from May 1 to mid-December.

 Lloyd's Guest House, (264) 497-2351,, has 14 rooms on Crocus
Hill, in walking distance of Crocus Bay. The spacious rooms, some recently
renovated, go for $65 to $85, with breakfast.

Where to Eat

Blanchard's, (264) 497-6100,, has a romantic
setting overlooking Mead's Bay, and serves food with a Caribbean flair.
>From mid-October through May, it opens for dinner at 6:30 p.m. and is
closed Sunday. June through August, it is closed Sunday and Monday. Closed
Sept. 1 to Oct. 20. Entrees from $34.

 Gorgeous Scilly Cay, (264) 497-5123, is an open-air restaurant on its own
island, with free ferry service from Island Harbor. It is open on
Wednesday, Friday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Since there is no
electricity, all food (chicken or seafood) is grilled. Live music on
Wednesday and Sunday. Entrees start at $25.

 Roy's Place, (264) 497-2470,, is a charming
beachcomber's joint overlooking Crocus Bay, with a lively beach bar and an
Internet connection for guests (including wireless). There is a Friday
happy hour with dinner specials for $12. The Sunday specials are prime rib
($20) and lobster ($38). Lunch and dinner served daily, except dinner only
on Saturday.

 English Rose, (264) 497-5353, a tavern in the central business district of
The Valley, serves generous portions of comfort food at reasonable prices:
burgers from $4, salads from $6. Closed Sunday.

Tasty's Restaurant, (264) 497-2737, offers chic-casual Caribbean dining in
South Hill: dishes like stewed creole-style lobster for $30, and
coconut-crusted filet of parrot fish in banana rum sauce for $20. Open for
breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, except Thursday.

Trattoria Tramonto, (264) 497-8819, has open-air dining and a beach bar on
one of the island's prettiest beaches, Shoal Bay West. The Italian menu
emphasizes game and seafood, including wild boar filet mignon ($35) and
spaghetti with crayfish, clams and shrimp ($30). Lunch and dinner except

 Uncle Ernie's, (264) 497-3907, is a quintessential beach shack on Shoal
Bay East; open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

 What to Do

Taino Wellness Center, off Spanish Town Road, South Hill, (264) 497-6066,, offers massages (from $40 for 30 minutes),
manicures and pedicures (from $15), facials (from $50), and body treatments.

 Devonish Art Gallery, the Cove, West End, (264) 497-2949, shows works of
local artists, including those by Courtney Devonish, a woodcarver and
ceramicist. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday or by appointment

 Horseback riding with  El Rancho del Blues in Blowing Point, (264)
497-6164 or 497-6334, starts at $25 an hour.

JULIET MACUR is a sports reporter for The Times.

R. A. Hettinga <mailto: rah at>
The Internet Bearer Underwriting Corporation <>
44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA
"... however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity,
[predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to
experience." -- Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'

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