by Glenny and Liddy
Mile-long beaches and midnight blue skies are the norm in Anguilla. The laid-back lifestyle and quiet charm on this tiny island at the top of the Leeward chain seem a world away from the busier, neighboring islands in the Caribbean.
While March was trying to make up its mind across the Northeast (Winter? Spring? Winter?), we hopped a plane from New York to St. Martin in search of our own answers. Our quest was to decide this: was Anguilla the ideal place for an intimate romantic getaway, or was it the perfect place for a family seeking sunshine and lots of time together?
Our long traveling day was made shorter by our decision to catch a flight between St. Martin and Anguilla. In the past, we had opted for the 25-minute ferry run between St. Martin's Marigot Bay and Blowing Point on the north coast of Anguilla. This time we simply stepped from one terminal to the next, boarded the plane and grabbed a seat. The trip down the runway took almost as much time as the jump across the channel, and five minutes later, we touched down on Anguilla.
After a bumpy taxi ride across the flat, dry island, we arrived at the first stop on our quest - The Cuisinart Resort and Spa. The hotel is one of the most visually striking sights on Anguilla. Although much of the island is arid with scrub and cactus, Cuisinart has installed an underground irrigation system. The grounds of the hotel appear, when you first approach from the dusty road, like an oasis in the desert. Brilliant blue and deep purple bougainvillea shimmer against the backdrop of stark white buildings, while a sparkling fountain splashes from the center of a thick green lawn, and a soft periwinkle blanket of flowers coats the surrounding gardens.
We were met by wonderful, smiling staff members who immediately offered us cool, fresh-squeezed juice and whisked us away to our suites overlooking the mile-long beach. The hotel has truly come into its own. The service is outstanding and the entire resort has an air of elegance. The three-story resort, divided into three areas, is designed with dramatic yet pleasingly aesthetic Greco-Mediterranean architecture and each room has its own balcony or private terrace. The rooms are spacious and comfortable, but the real scene-stealers are the bathrooms. These spotless marble and glass tiled rooms are accented with potted orchids and thick, white towels rolled with fresh flowers are stacked next to over-sized Jacuzzi bathtubs. Each bathroom has a separate toilet room and each comes stocked with personal bathrobes and slippers. Sitting on our balcony with a cool drink in hand and a view of the beach below, we entered a state of deep relaxation for the first time that day. Watching the sea gently spilling onto the sugar white beach, Glenn sighed and said this was the difference between "getting there" and really arriving.
The Spa and Spanish Wine
As if complete relaxation wasn't enough, cocktail hour found us in the spa watching the light dancing around the blues of the sea, bouncing off the waves onto the distant mountains of St. Martin. "This is like our own personal movie," Lidy said as a beautiful young woman massaged her feet in preparation for a pedicure and Glenn gave in to the expert manipulations of the manicurist. Soft music filled the spa, which encompasses the top floor of a modern round building with 360-degree window views all around. The attention to detail was magnificent and the menu of treatments -- manicures, pedicures, facials, body wraps, full-body massage -- was decadent. For those who, for whatever crazy reason, desire more than total attention to physical repose, the building includes a fitness center and a steam room.
That evening we had dinner with the new general manager in one of Cuisinart's three restaurants. The hotel maintains a hydroponic garden on the grounds and grows its own tomatoes, lettuce and other vegetables, which it serves in the adjacent Hydroponics Café. One selection on the menu even allows you to pick your own produce from the garden for fresh salad, a real treat on such a dry island. The hotel has a grill, Le Mediterraneo, next to its enormous swimming pool where one can get pizza, sandwiches or barbecue, and a beach bar with sandwiches and light fare. The main restaurant, Santorini, is designed around groups of outdoor tables, some of which are thoughtfully placed out of the breeze for the rare chilly nights in the tropics. Dinner with general manager Rabin Ortiz was a delightful experience. After selecting an incredible Spanish wine, he advised us to choose between the grouper, snapper, and mahi mahi. Glenn went with grouper with a pesto crust, while Lidy chose the fresh grilled mahi mahi.