Shoal Bay East – A Dream Within a Dream

Dear Diary,

I’ve saved the best for last. Shoal Bay East. On an island full of beautiful beaches, this one rises above the rest. With it’s impossibly white powdery sand, warm aquamarine water that gently kisses the shore, an absence of footsteps but our own, and a shallow area of reef for snorkeling, this beach has it all.

Shoal Bay East

As I went through the images that we took there, I realize anew that photographs are the windows to which we can view our memories. A moment forever frozen in time. A tiny time machine that can transport us back to that place and be relived as often as we desire.

This is one of my happy places. This moment in time with my family on the most beautiful beach in the world. This window to a memory where I am always on vacation, my daughter is forever a child, and my husband wears a perpetual smile.

FAMILYMAN

Along the 2 mile beach, there was a place we stopped to eat. A local man was there resting his freshly broken arm. He was very friendly and I found myself in conversation with him immediately. He asked me about LA and seemed to relish in my description of life in Southern California.

I asked him how he broke his arm. He told me another local had broken it the night before. I was more than a little taken aback. I couldn’t help but ask him why someone would do that. He simply replied, “because he doesn’t like me”.

He went on to write down his name and address on a little index card he pulled out of his pocket. When he handed it to me he said, “Please think of me now and then when you are in your Southern California paradise”.

I realized then that this man was desperate to get off of this island. This place that I had saved so long to come to, this place that I was trying acutely to drink in every minute, to remember every sound and sight of.

One man’s paradise is another man’s hell. How many of these cards had he handed out?

It had gotten awkward.

We politely moved on, but the man still haunts me from time to time.

We spent the rest of the day walking, laughing, swimming, snorkeling. I couldn’t bear to leave it. But we had to, so I thought of something I could do to help me remember this place.

It was just a simple thing. I just wanted to take a little of this powdery sand with me to have a tangible reminder of paradise. If anyone ever doubted how perfect this sand was, I could whip out my little sample and let them ooh and ahhh as they ran the tiny specks of heaven through their own hand.

So I took out the only thing I had on me to gather sand in, an empty Pringles container. I filled it half full and took my prize with me back to our room.

I reluctantly packed our bags to leave. It seemed like just a memory already. The post vacation depression was already setting in and I hadn’t even left yet.  RendezvousBayview

Early the next morning we left our perfect beach that I had come to know as my own. I was a little mad that it didn’t care that I was leaving. It would go on being indescribably beautiful to someone else. Or to nobody else. It didn’t matter. I wouldn’t be here ever again, which struck me sullen.

At least I was bringing a tiny piece of it back with me in the Pringles can that was carefully packed in my luggage along with a couple of shells. Such a small token of what loomed large in my memory…and still does.

We retraced our travel back the way we came. We didn’t have to fly with chickens or an overweight plane this time though. Thank goodness.

We arrived in Puerto Rico where we had to claim our luggage and go through customs, which was on the far side of the airport. The airport in Puerto Rico makes me feel a little like a zoo animal. It is floor to ceiling glass on a single level, with everyone outside pressing their faces to the glass to get a look inside.

We dutifully picked up said luggage, made the long walk to customs and took our place in the queue to be inspected. I looked behind me (as everyone Mom does to make sure we hadn’t dropped anything) and to my absolute horror noticed on the dark floor a powdery white line all the way across the airport to my suitcase.

Oh. My. Gosh.

I pulled my suitcase forward to try and distance myself from it, but since it was coming from my suitcase, it just continued to follow me.

My face went red hot. I broke out into an immediate sweat as if I had just run a marathon.

I felt like a very bad drug mule that was clumsily trying to smuggle cocaine into the US.

I don’t do well in these kind of situations, I immediately go to worse case scenario.

Locked Up Abroad.

I knew I looked guilty. I couldn’t help it. I don’t normally smuggle white powdery sand into the US, so how was I to know how unreliable my Pringles vessel would be at transporting my stash?

Damn that Shoal Bay sand for being so impossibly fine and white!

I tried to get my husband’s attention without drawing any to myself, but he was focused on placing his luggage on the conveyor. It was too late. All I could do at this point was hope he would get a good lawyer so I could come home again.

It was my daughters turn to put her little SpongeBob rolling case on the conveyor and they waved her through.

Good they were through…hopefully they could behave as though they didn’t know me when the customs person nodded to the policia and they took me down.

I set my suitcase on the conveyor and braced myself. No matter how I set it, the sand just kept coming. All the saliva had left my mouth. My face was tomato red and I could feel my heart beating out of my chest as I handed over my passport.

I stared at my husband and daughter waiting for me, memorizing their faces.

The attendant hands me my passport and tells me to pick up my suitcase.

Just like that I am through customs.

Thank you God! Thank you, thank you God!

When we finally got home and I opened that suitcase, let me just say I have never seen such a mess in my life. It’s like I threw a few cups of flour in with my clothes, not quite sure if I was baking or traveling.

It took me a week, but I managed to salvage some of that sand with a paint brush. It now resides safely in a bottle in a shadow box along with other little baubles I picked up, and a photo of my daughter and I walking along the beach in Anguilla.

ShadowboxA window to a beautiful memory.

As for my smuggling career? Well over my friend, well over.

Until next time dearest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mead’s Bay and a Chocolat Day

Dear Diary,

I had chosen Anguilla for it’s idyllic beaches first and foremost, but not far behind was it’s rich and unique culture. How many Caribbean island nations can say they launched a revolution to be independent as recently as 1967? And won! They are still distantly associated with the U.K. as a territory, but enjoy much more autonomy than “Pre-Revolution”.

You gotta love that spunk in an island of only 6,000 people (in that time, the population has swelled to 13,000 modern day).

I had only spent a couple of days on Anguilla and I already felt a panic that time was going too quickly. When you work 51 weeks to have 1 week away…how can you not feel as though Father Time is a cruel taskmaster by it not being the other way around?

I had done my homework and booked a day tour on a Catamaran called “Chocolat”. We were picked up in a dinghy with about 6 other folks to sail and snorkel for a day. I had lived on a Catamaran for a week on Bimini when I went to swim with the dolphins (I never did get to actually swim with them, but we chased them around in the Catamaran and they chased us which was good enough), but this was a first for my hubby and daughter.

What a first it was.

Chocolat

Captain Rollins is very seasoned which was a delight as we sailed around to nearby Prickly Pear Cays where we snorkeled and enjoyed lunch. We then sailed to Sandy Island where we again took to the water.

My daughter and I with Captain Rollins (seated) preparing to snorkel. The gentleman in the blue shirt is another tourist (my hubby is behind the camera). Isn’t the clear turquoise water alluring?

Captain Rollins

Very interesting coral as shown below, but  I shall not bore you with the countless photos of fish I took.

Sandy Island Coral

Except for this guy might prove interesting.  A Barracuda, but we were not afraid of each other and he moved on (thankfully because they have a nasty bite). They are masters of camouflage, can you spot him?

Barracuda

We had to cut the day short because of a fast moving storm coming in and we didn’t want to end up like this guy. Just kidding, this ferry was picked up and dropped here by hurricane Luis that devastated an otherwise temperate island in 1995.

Beached ferry

We headed to another nearby beach on my list to see (Mead’s Bay) but the storm moved in and the surf picked up so we walked along the shore until we came to Dolphin Discovery.

The day decidedly went downhill from there.

My husband is aware of my adoration of dolphins and whales, and knew I was lost to him for an undetermined amount of time at that point.

I love pretty much any ocean mammal, but especially dolphins and whales. Dolphins are second only to humans for brain power (recent studies indicate Dolphins may actually use more of their brain than we do).

I grew up watching the wild dolphins in the ocean in Hawaii. We were fascinated with each other, from a distance. Which is how it should be.

I am always torn when I feel a rant swelling up and wanting to come out on my blog. I’m torn because I think I should let it, then I squelch it because negativity isn’t good for anybody.

But what if it were good for dolphins?

So here I am wandering around the rusted tank where the dolphins are held captive (because I can here in Anguilla) just staring at them in adoration, admiration, and raw pain. It kills me to see them treated like circus animals. In the wild, dolphins live up to 40 or 50 years old while in captivity their mortality rates are staggeringly low at 8.2 years. I can get really, really mad about it if I let myself.

One of the dolphins swims up and rolls over so it can see me. We stand like this for at least 30 minutes. I wish I could know what it was thinking. Does it know what I am feeling for it?

Dolphin

I decide to walk around to a different spot, and here it comes, following me and rolling so it can see me eye to eye again. At this point I am spilling tears. I can’t help it.

Dolpin2

People who enjoy swimming with dolphins, or dolphin-assisted therapy, often say that the dolphins themselves seem so happy. Sadly, but understandably, they are misunderstanding the situation. The apparent smile on the faces of dolphins is actually just a physicality, not an emotive response. It remains there as part of dolphin anatomy, no matter how sad, upset or ill they may be.

Does it just think I am a source of food? Apparently not, because when one of the trainers walked by, it still focused on me.

I felt so bad that it’s dorsal fin was torn from giving people rides in the water (this is a big tourist draw from the cruise ships at St. Maarten). There are 3 dolphins that give roughly 30,000 tourists entertainment a year at this facility. That is a lot of shows, and a lot of dragging large people through the water with a little dorsal fin.

After an hour I tore myself away. I would give anything to be in the water with them, but will not propagate dolphin captivity by giving them my money to do so. So I leave.

As an update to the Dolphin Discovery environment, it has been moved to open ocean water, but is kept by the ferry station and is very shallow. They are subject to 24/7 ferries and associated gas, oil, noise, and trash that accompany the busy pier.

I think it poignantly ironic the Republic of Anguilla that so deeply values their freedom, has a national flag with three dolphins that are meant to symbolize Friendship, Wisdom and Strength.

2000px-Flag_of_Anguilla_(1967-1969)_svg

I think it is only when we are standing at the throne of God will we truly grasp at what deplorable stewards we were with the wondrous resources he entrusted to us here on planet Earth.

Maybe then I can swim with the dolphins.

Until next time dearest.

 

 

 

 

The Most Beautiful Beaches In the World

Dear Diary,

Oh I know what you’re going to say, “Have you been to every beach in the world”?

You know I haven’t.

But even if I had, it’s subjective isn’t it? Still, the travel gurus (Trip Advisor, Travel Channel et al) seem to agree with me since at least one of Anguilla’s (British West Indies) beaches make their lists every year.

The truth is, I would be happy on any beach.

But this is one of those places that you just knew would be perfect, but reality even managed to surpass that expectation. And I had some pretty stiff criteria.

Perfectly White Sand Beaches

No Other Footprints But My Own

Relatively Low Crime (I was so stressed out from work, I couldn’t take a whole lot more worries)

Warm Tropical Water

No Street Traffic (Oh please God, Los Angeles is too much!)

So when I arrived with my young daughter and reluctant husband in tow (this was in 2005) after flying from LAX to Fort Lauderdale to Puerto Rico to Tortola to St. Maarten and finally to the island of my dreams…Anguilla.

Oh you know it, it’s the island Brad and Jen were photographed together for the last time, Orlando Bloom honeymooned, Jay Z and Beyoncé on the beach, Sandra Bullock with her son Luis and ad infinitum.

Because it’s just that beautiful.

But how does one on a budget go to an island that is the playground of the rich and famous? It can be done.

I knew I was in trouble though as our planes kept getting smaller, and by the time we left for St. Maarten from Tortola, some of our fellow passengers were chickens.

Nope, not kidding.

Also on that plane was a woman so large there was a plank put in the aisle so she could sit down for take off….and that is why we arrived without our luggage. They had left it on the tarmac because the plane was too heavy. Not just ours, but that didn’t make me feel better when we had to wait for 4 hours in St. Maarten for another plane to bring our luggage. But that’s part of the adventure right?

So when we were finally told that our luggage would not arrive until the next day and hailed a taxi to take us to the French side of the island so we could catch the ferry to Anguilla, how stressed out was I when the taxi driver told us we only had minutes before the bridge between the Dutch and French side closed for the night. Seriously?

To his credit and my frazzled last nerve, he drove like a crazy man and I am quite sure there were not more than a few bicyclists stuck to his grill, but we got there in time.

So after a day of travel that spanned 6 countries and more than a couple of mishaps, how do you think I felt when I opened the French doors of our room and looked out at this view?

RendezvousBayview

Blissful.

Here we were on Rendezvous Bay at the Hotel and Villas with the same name. A Rendezvous with heaven it must mean.

It was everything I had hoped. Perfectly white sand beach that went on forever with nobody else on it. I dared not breathe lest I wake up back on the plane with the chickens.

But it was real.

We shed our travel clothes and cares and dove into the crystal clear warm water where I would stay, on one beach or another, for a week.

Arriving at the destination of a bucket list item is the fruition of a dream. What makes the dream real however, are the moments in time that follow the arrival. The moments we spend in awe of beauty, in respect of other cultures, in interactions with the people in those cultures, and the time we get to spend with our loved ones away from the hustle and bustle of our every day lives.

So are they the most beautiful beaches, or the most beautiful moments?

I will expound on this island and it’s most beautiful beaches in the world in future posts, but I will leave you with some photos of beautiful moments, forever frozen in time on Rendezvous Bay, Anguilla, British West Indies, Lesser Antilles.

My daughter and I strolling along the empty beach. Priceless.

BEACHWALK2A mermaid in an aquamarine Eden.

underwater

Our upstairs villa room is the one with the towel hanging over the veranda. I think we were the only ones there. In May no less. LA seemed to be on a different planet.

ourhotel

My hubby photographing me waiting to try and photograph the perfect sunset.

meandsunset

And I got it…

perfect sunset

I snapped this as I walked along the dirt road with my hubby hand in hand to check out of our hotel. The palm trees frame the shot of Rendezvous Bay, and another perfect moment forever in my heart.

RENDEZVOUSBAY2

We say good-bye to this beach, but not to Anguilla. There are more beaches and moments to share.

Until next time dearest.