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Back in the US of A

June 30 – Wednesday

We realized last night that we’ve been here for a month and never visited the Arawak Cove, small private beach for the Arawak. We decided to take a quick peak at that before progressing with our day. A short walk and a slightly inconvenient climb over some rocks, made more difficult with small children, and we made it. It was kind of fun sitting there is our own tiny, private beach. However, the waves were a little strong in that cove today and the rocks made the actual water area very small so we didn’t stay long.

We headed back to the Arawak and Gabriel decided he was going to be too  fussy to allow us to go on to Shoal Bay East. So we laid him down for a mid-morning nap and started packing. Then we ate a quick lunch of sandwiches and chips, trying to use as much of the food we had left as we could. Then off to Shoal Bay East. This was the first beach we visited so we thought it fitting that it would be the last also. It also didn’t hurt that it is one of the top beaches in the world and one of our favorites on the island. Shemar, one of the Arawak staff, said she’d stop by the beach after she got off so she could say good-bye since we would be leaving in the morning before she came in. She surprised us by bring her two boys with her and they had a blast playing with Ezekiel and Gabriel one last time. As the sun began to move lower in the sky we said our good-byes.

We stayed for a bit longer on the beach and took one final dip in the ocean before loading up to head back to the Arawak. We all waved good-bye to the beach and said we hope to be back again.

At the Arawak we got cleaned up and ready for dinner. We headed up to the pool area to listen to Terry and Smoothie for our final Wednesday night music fest. We ate the grouper (pictured below on the left) and Maude’s Caribbean Chicken recipe from St. Kitts (pictured below on the right) courtesy of Maurice, the owner, and Maria, the inn keeper. It was wonderful! The idea was for us to split both meals. Shauna was served the grouper and I was served the chicken. We ate half and switched plates. We both took bites of the new dish and the flavors were so different we both decided we’d rather keep eating our original meal so we switched back. Ha! We finished the meal with the infamous Banoffee pie made of a cookie crust, layered with toffee, bananas, whip cream, chocolate sauce and a cherry. Very rich so one slice was more than enough to share. We said good-bye to Maude, the cook then went back to put the boys to bed and finish packing, trying our best to even out the weight before heading to bed ourselves.

July 1 – Thursday

We woke up about 8am and I threw on some clothes and went by Le Bon Pain one final time for breakfast. After breakfast we finished the last little bit of packing and I loaded the car and was dripping with sweat by the time I was done. Then I took my shower and put on fresh clothes. We headed up to check out and say our good-byes to Maurice and Maria. One of the local couples (moved from the US) was waiting to say good-bye to “The Family.” We found out that morning that is what we became known as. Everyone referred to us as “The Family.”

We piled into the car and headed down the road to Blowing Point to catch the 11am boat called Ms. Shauna IV – spelled exactly the same as Shauna spells her name. The lady taking down our passport info and fees thought that was hilarious that Shauna was riding on her boat. We got a random security check and Shauna went with the security guard and one suitcase while I was buying our tickets on the boat. He too, found it funny that Shauna was riding on the Shauna boat and told Ezekiel to make sure he tells Gabriel when he’s older that mommy rode on her own boat.

We were told the boat was about 10-15 minutes behind schedule so we waited in the lounge (with AC) for our boat…and we waited…and waited…and waited some more. We finally departed about 11:45am for the 30 minute ride to St. Martin where we were told to arrive 2 1/2 hours prior to our 2:25pm flight. We started our boat ride and were offered complimentary drinks (Coke, Sprite, Water, Heineken, etc.). We decided to use this boat instead of the public ferry because this takes us to the airport as opposed to the port where we would have needed another taxi to get to the airport. We arrive at St. Martin and the lady on the boat collects our passports and gets off to go to Immigration. That takes another 15 minutes and we leave there to go to the airport. We get off the boat and have to through Customs (changed countries leaving from Anguilla and entering St. Martin). Even though we are at the airport we are on the far side and that is too far to walk with all our luggage, stroller, car seat, etc. so we get a shuttle for $6 total for the 4 of us.

At the airport we check in and check our bags only to have one of them be slightly over weight. We had some things on top to dispose of if there was not room so we got those out  (partial bottles of shampoo, some extra shells that weren’t our favorites) and left them. Then the lady asked if we had any more shells in our carry-ons. I said just the small ones (not the huge, pointy conch shell that could be used as a weapon). She said they would take those out confiscate them at the security point so we start rearranging again moving shells we had carefully spread out among all three carry-on bags and moving them into our checked bags and moving other things into our carry-ons to compensate for the extra weight. We rechecked the first bag and the weight was fine. I put the second bag up and it was too heavy again! I think the lady felt sorry for us and told us it was close enough and she’d send it through without charging us extra.

So then after checking those two bags we drug everything to the far side to check the car seat. Back home we checked it at the same point, but here we had to go to a special line. Then checked the numbers on the car seat against our ticket and sent it through. Then we had to to the opposite side to go through security with our carry-ons. Already very late because of the boat delay we are hustling as fast as we can drag carry-ons, laptops, diaper bags and two boys. We get to security and take off all our shoes, take out the laptop, portable DVD player, etc., etc. Then ended up opening all 3 of our nicely jam-packed carry-ons and removed our collapsable cooler to rescan, the bottles of sand to test, and I have no idea what else. So everything was a complete mess by the time they rescanned everything. We’re going as fast as we can trying to re-cram all our stuff back into the carry-ons, grab the boys and hustle to the gate. We make it with about 15 minutes to spare so I remove my extra shirt from the carryon and go change into a fresh shirt for traveling.

The flight from St. Martin to Charlotte went pretty well.  Here is some video from our flight back. The one called sour-watch my eyes…Ezekiel was eating some candy and he looked up at me and said, “This is sour, watch my eyes.” I grabbed the camera and had him do it again. I had to watch his eyes squinch up for proof that his candy was sour.

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After arriving in Charlotte we had to go through customs and immigration coming back into the US. Regardless of whether this was your final destination or you had a connecting flight everyone had to retrieve their checked bags and then recheck them. So after going through the legal stuff and being welcomed back to the USA we got our checked bags and then headed down the hall and handed them off to someone else to recheck and get to our connecting flight. Then we had to go back through security and take off shoes, take out laptops, etc. all over again. It was like had to start all over again even though we were already inside the airport and proceeding to our connecting flight. We had a 4 hour lay-over here so we were not at all pressed for time.

We took our time, got some dinner, talked to a cute dental hygienist that was headed to Louisville to see her boyfriend in college, and got some frozen yogurt. We got back to our gate with plenty of time to board for our 10:24pm flight back to Lexington…only the board didn’t say 10:24 it said 11:05…then 11:19…then 11:46. The ticket taker announced that the flight was arriving from Newport News, VA and it takes approximately 15 minutes to deboard and be ready to turn around and be sent back out. The plane arrives without people so we quickly board passing by the female pilot (no wonder it was late – ha!) and take off at nearly midnight.  The pilot announces that this plane has been having mechanical problems all day so this was it’s first flight with passengers…good to know!!!

The boys are exhausted and quickly fall asleep. We talk a bit to the man in front of us returning from a business trip and missing his girls. He asked what our boys names were and we told him. He said,

“Ezekiel? Is that a family name or something – I’ve never heard of that before.” I patiently explain that is a Bible name and think to myself, well, we are definitely back in the USA where people have no idea about the Bible.

The funny thing was a little later he was talking to the person in the seat beside him who asked what church he attended and named one of the largest churches in Lexington. I mean, come on people, Ezekiel is not some minor person in the Bible, it is an entire book in the Old Testament and one of the longest books of the Bible!

We finally land a little after 1am and get home around 2am and collapse into bed about 2:30am after getting the boys settled in their beds.

The 4 Biggest Shocks Returning to the USA

First – air conditioning! As soon as we got off the plane in the Charlotte airport. Brrrr! Having had almost no AC for an entire month we were freezing! We went to lunch with family the next day and shivered the whole way through our meal. Ezekiel got goose bumps on his legs and we got a jacket to put on him.

Second – allergies! Back to Kentucky, one of the worst states for allergies. As soon as we got off the plane in Lexington we all started sneezing, coughing and choking after breathing this Kentucky air. Several days later we are all still puffy, snotty, and getting back onto allergy meds to survive.

Third – drive on which side? I thought it would feel a bit strange, but like riding a bike…to drive on the right side. Boy was I wrong. I found myself driving down the left side of the road in our subdivision, turning from a main road onto a smaller road and headed toward the left side before mentally checking myself and moving back to the right. It took all day Friday, Saturday and most of Sunday before driving on the right became automatic for me again.

Fourth – dag on heat! Temperature-wise we are about the same as what we left in the mid eighties. However, having been back for several days the heat is starting to get to us and the AC is no longer freezing us. There is no ocean to jump into and the air here feels so stale and stagnant. We always had trade winds and ocean breezes to cool us in the heat of the day. Here, it is just dead air and nasty heat.

Well, this has been a wonderful journey and a vacation of a lifetime. We strongly encourage you make plans to visit the Arawak. You will not regret it!

Signing off for the McDonald family,

Josh, Shauna, Ezekiel, and Gabriel.

Last Day!

Today is our last full day for the beach! So terribly sad. We are, of course, looking forward to seeing family, but not at all ready to leave this beautiful island. In a dream world, we’d rather stay and have our family come here! Today we plan to stay close and finish out the trip at Shoal Bay East, one of the top beaches in the world and favorite on this island. The property owner is here in Anguilla (arrived yesterday) and he offered to give us dinner tonight on the house during the Wednesday night music so we wouldn’t have to worry about cooking or going out for our last meal. We’ll probably do one more post after we get back to put the finishing touches on the blog (we are saving all of these entries in a journal to remember this trip).

June 29 – Tuesday

After our late date night Monday night the boys were exhausted. They woke up at the normal time, but by 10:30 or so Gabriel was ready for a nap…he slept until 2:30pm! Shauna and I took turns in the pool with Ezekiel – the whole time hoping Gabriel would wake up so we could get to the beach! I went out and picked up lunch from Hungry’s food van. Then we fed Gabriel after he woke up and took off for the beach! We went to the western side and returned to the Viceroy Beach club on Meads Bay. We spent a little over 2 hours there, met a nice middle-aged couple from Dallas, TX with their Texas accents. She is a school principal so when we told her about the Arawak she started making mental plans for next summer to spend her summer vacation at the Arawak! We had a really nice chat with them and shared some of the high points of our trip and answered questions they had. Which reminds me, if anyone plans to come to the Arawak next summer or any time in the future, we will be happy to come as you personal tour guides and all you’d have to do is pay for our family to come back. Ha!

After the beach we ran by the store and picked up a rotisserie chicken for dinner and some more drinks (didn’t quite have enough to finish out the last couple days). After dinner we walked up to the pool area and the boys had popsicles and we chatted with Maria (inn keeper) and Maurice (owner). It was a nice preclude to tonight’s final dinner.

From Dinner Theater to Sting Ray

June 24 – Thursday

We did a little pool time in the morning, ate lunch and then did a bit more shopping today hunting for those last minute things. Then we came back and got cleaned up for the dinner theater. Yes, a dinner theater in Anguilla! This was on the west end of the island at a nicer hotel. The buffet was $35/person and we, of course, brought our own food for the boys (even at half price Ezekiel & Gabriel combined don’t eat $17 worth, let alone each).  The buffet had salad with thyme dressing, potato salad, a sweet cole slaw with raisins, black bean soups. eggplant parmesan, mahi mahi, stewed conch,  BBQ chicken & ribs, steamed veggies, fried plantains, and probably other stuff I’m forgetting.

There was some music during dinner and then the singers/dancers came out to perform as things were settling down. This was the” Mayoumba Folkoric Theatre” – first and oldest on the island having started in 1972. Some of the original members are still with the group. The lighting was really dim so the video quality isn’t the best. The guy in the middle would do a brief narration that introduced the next song. It was really neat the boys enjoyed it too!

Here are 5 video clips from the theater:

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June 25 – Friday

We spent a little time back at Shoal Bay East today, one of our favorite beaches on the island before it clouded up and started to thunder and some lightening. Thinking it probably wasn’t a good idea to be in the water during a storm we packed up, stopped at the grocery, and went back to the room to make dinner.

June 26 – Saturday

We headed out pretty early today and went to the Viceroy Beach club on Meads Bay. This is probably our other favorite beach on the island. They were short-staffed so we didn’t get to go sailing or snorkeling. Just normal beach day with the added complimentary waters. I met a couple from North Carolina, who luckily were not basketball fans so we got along OK. :) They were staying at the Viceroy hotel for 4 nights @ $2300! Craziness to pay all the money for flights and only get to stay 4 nights and pay that much for the hotel.I also met several couples from Puerto Rico, but didn’t talk much.

While in the water the group from Puerto Rico was situated a little up the beach from us. I saw all the women run out of the water in a hurry and all the guys  looking down into the water. I hollered to ask what they were looking at and they said a sting ray. I called Shauna over after it made it down to where we were and had her keep an eye on it while I ran to get our camera. Shauna had also filmed some birds diving into the water for fish.

Here are the video of animals we saw.

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3 Beaches in a Single Day

We have gotten a bit behind so I’ll do a couple days today and a couple more tomorrow to catch us back up. Shauna is at the pool with Ezekiel and I volunteered to stay behind while Gabriel took an early nap.

June 21 – Monday

Today was pretty simple. We returned to one of our favorites, Shoal Bay East. Just quality R&R on one of the top beaches in the world. We went back, got cleaned up and ran to the grocery to pick up some fresh ground beef I had seen at one store earlier in the week. Well, they were out so I had to buy frozen beef any way. We needed that to make our Old El Paso burrito kit. Typically, we would not even buy these little kits, but with limited fridge and storage space we used this. Back home we eat Mexican probably once a week at least. We haven’t had any since May (before we left) so we craving Mexican something fierce! They do have 1 Mexican restaurant on the island, but it is on the  extreme western end and a little pricey so we decided to do our own. This silly little burrito kit tasted soooo good!

June 22 – Tuesday

Today looks like a good beach day and we are bound and determined to take advantage of it. Go away rain! With no rain in the sky we decided to visit three different beaches in a single day! Cove Bay, Maunday’s Bay, and Shoal Bay West.

We set out for Cap Juluca, another expensive resort property on the island that was situated between Cove Bay and Mauday’s Bay. The main beach for the resort is Maunday’s Bay, but the back side of the resort as you go down the drive from the main road passed Cove Bay Beach. We stopped, got out and took a few pictures. It was fairly barren. No people, no chairs, no umbrellas. There was a volleyball net set up, but the beach had quite a bit of seaweed and the waves looked a little rough. In the end, we decided not to waste precious beach time on this beach.

We continued down the drive to the other side of Cap Juluca to the Maunday’s Bay Beach. Cap Juluca wasn’t quite as fancy looking on the outside as Cuisinart so we didn’t take many pictures. Everything was very spread out, which would be perfect for honeymooners because that means more privacy between the villas. They have little guys on solar golf carts to transport guests between the different points on the property.

We had a nice picnic lunch in the grass and shade of some coconut trees. Then we went down the beach. Cuisinart, if you recall, was going to charge us $200 to use a chair and umbrella for half a day. We were told Cap Juluca was only $5. That used to be true, but they stopped doing that last year and now only guests are allowed to use the chairs and umbrellas. Non-guests cannot use them at any price. We made the best of it and played in the water and sand for a couple of hours before retreating to the shade trees. Make sure you check out all our pictures under Cap Juluca for this beach.

Next we decided to proceed west to Shoal Bay West. We wanted to see the western counterpart to Shoal Bay East. It was not nearly as nice. If we hadn’t gotten quality beach time at Maunday’s Bay I would have felt cheated. The chairs & umbrellas were $40 if you didn’t eat lunch at the restaurant there and it was about 4pm so obviously we had already eaten lunch. We found a nice big coconut tree on the beach and set up under that instead. The water was very murky compared to all the other beaches so we could barely see more than a few inches into the water. There were lots of shells, rocks and who knows what else since we couldn’t see – that we kept stepping on in the water. We spent very little time in the water here before heading back to get cleaned up and have left over burritos! Yeah! And yes, they were just as good left over as they were the first night we had them.

June 23 – Wednesday

This was our second day of rain during this month. We had just finished up laundry and hung them out to dry. I commented that it looked like ti was going to be a nice, beach day today. Not 5 minutes later the sun disappeared, it got cloudy, and started raining all over our wet clothes. Ha!

We basically repeated our last rain day last week – watched a movie and headed out in the afternoon to shop after the rain quit, but was still cloudy, wet, and gloomy. We went to a couple of nice art galleries with creations by local artists and then finished up our souvenir shopping.

NOTE: We have new pictures under “Cap Juluca”, a few under “Around the Arawak”, “Scilly Cay” from Father’s Day if you missed those, “Exploring Anguilla” including the island’s oldest building, and “Anguilla Beaches Cont”.

Father’s Day Weekend

June 19 – Saturday

Today was still a little left over rainy feeling. It was very overcast, cloudy, gloomy – in general, not a good beach day. There was a beach on our list to visit that is not good for swimming, but for shelling so we decided this would be a good day to do that so we we wouldn’t get too hot from the sun and not be able to go into the water. We started with a french pastry breakfast from Le Bon Pain again.

After breakfast we grabbed the map and set out to find Mimi’s Bay. It was slightly more difficult than some of the others since this isn’t one of the major white sand, beautiful swimming beaches. We found what looked like it should be the right road and headed down this little dirt road. We got to a fork that veered right. I noticed a sign post, but no sign. I stopped, jumped out and fit the pieces back together. Mimi’s Bay! We were on the right track. So we took the fork and arrived at Mimi’s Bay.

The waves were pretty rough and there were large rocks right off the beach so definitely not for swimming. The boys loved hunting for shells and we found a few neat ones too! There was also an abandoned life raft on the beach that we used to have a picnic lunch.

After lunch, even though the sun was not out, we decided to go to a beach and get in the water. We couldn’t stand the thought of missing beach time two days in a row! We were very close to Junk’s Hole so we went there. They don’t have chairs & umbrellas so again, a good day to go there without the hot sun. Gabriel fell asleep on the way so we pulled right up onto the beach, rolled down the windows, and left him to sleep in the car while we jumped in the water. It was cold, still a bit rough, but nice to be back in the beach water.

After beach time we headed back into the Valley to pick up Ken’s ribs again for dinner.

June 20 – Sunday (Father’s Day)

The sun came peeking through! Not full sun yet, but a sight for sore eyes! We celebrated Father’s Day today at Scilly Cay. Make sure you check out our pictures under the photo tab for this day called “Scilly Cay”. This is that little mini island in the harbor here right across from our room. The island and restaurant are owned and operated by Sandra and Eudoxie Wallace. They even have their own website (http://www.scillycayanguilla.com).

It was a WONDERFUL (albeit expensive) experience. This was Father’s Day, Shauna’s 30th birthday (April), my graduation celebration meal, and our 8th anniversary (May) dinner all rolled up into this meal. We didn’t do anything special for those occasions knowing we would while in Anguilla. It’s a good thing too because this was $75/plate for what we got! Yikes! But a wonderful, wonderful experience!

There is no electricity on the island. Early in the morning they bring large coolers over by boat with all the fresh food ingredients to prepare the meals. They offer three main entrees: lobster, chicken, crayfish or a combination. The lobster is the specialty. The fisherman go out 25 miles into the ocean and set lobster traps. They are brought back and kept alive until they are ready to cook. Talk about fresh seafood!

We, of course, had to try the Caribbean spiny lobster. Neither Shauna nor myself are big fans of lobster – during previous east coast (US) beach trips we always choose Snow Crab legs over King Crab or any lobster.  Caribbean spiny lobster is soooo different from lobster in the US – much better based on mine and Shauna’s personal tastes. According to the info I looked up they are barely even related to traditional lobster we see in the US. Caribbean Spiny lobster does not have any claws and instead has sharp spikes down its back for protection.

We were told it takes about an hour from the time we order. We were already starving when we got there! We fed the boys some chicken salad & crackers while we waited and took a dip in the small beach on this island. Our meal came with three lobsters on the plate lined with sea grape leaves (we had no idea we got that many), pasta salad, bread, and fresh fruit. The lobsters were grilled and then brushed with a special sauce (butter based I think) prior to being served. The texture and flavor was just completely different – soft and sweet, just melts in your mouth. A local band was playing and singing throughout the afternoon. This will go down as one of my all-time favorite dining experiences ever!

After lunch we laid around on the beach. The water was super shallow – we had to almost lay down to get water over our shoulders. Ezekiel came in for a bit and the rest of the time played in the sand with Gabriel. We also saw about a zillion crabs in and around the bushes. Ezekiel was catching them in a cup and bringing them down to the decorative drift wood log on the beach.

They quit serving food at 5pm and start packing up. We stayed about an hour after that until most everyone was gone. I asked Ezekiel if he was ready to go and he said, “No, not yet.” So we let him play for a bit more. I went over and asked him again and he said, “Stop asking me. I’ll tell you when I’m ready to go.” If that wasn’t so funny he would have been in big trouble!