When I was in my-mid 20s and single, one of the ways I entertained myself, in those pre-internet days, was to browse magazine stands. I’d walk into a store, page through the magazines that seemed most alluring and buy a couple of them to take home and read.
One night I came upon a Travel and Leisure with a cover that said, simply: ‘Most Beautiful Beaches in the World’. Anguilla was featured prominently and the lead picture was of Shoal Bay East – a long and nearly empty sweep of white sand with a few palm trees at the far end.
I remember thinking at that moment: I’m going there some day. I just need the right girl to take with me, someone who loves the beach as much as I do – and someone, I’m sure I hoped, who would look ravishing in a bikini as we walked on that powdery sand. I did find her, and we got married. She already had a child, and then very quickly, we had one together and then another. So it took us several years before we got to Anguilla.
I can’t say that Anguilla ‘saved’ our marriage. But it enhanced it and shaped it. We started visiting when our kids were still young, when home life was busy, our careers were demanding and money was tight.
We left the kids behind and well tended. Anguilla was where we reminded ourselves why we had gotten married in the first place — why we were “at this game,” as we liked to say.
We could only stay for five or six days in the beginning, though one year we did steal a little more time by sending word back home that we needed to stay on island one more day to hear our favourite band at the Pumphouse, the dearly departed juke joint that perished in hurricane Irma.
We spent many late hours there and prided ourselves on always being the last tourists amid the post-midnight crowd of Anguillians. We have stayed mostly on Meads Bay, at Carimar, but we always rent a car and over time have gotten to every corner of the island. Yes, it’s small, but you’d be surprised how much there is to see.
What we discovered early on, and what delighted us, was that with a little effort and some good water shoes, we could make our way to a beach that was literally deserted, where our footprints might be the only ones from that day – or even that week.
I always tell people: If you want to visit Anguilla, it helps if you like to walk – the soft sand on my feet feels like physical therapy – and it also is good if you like to read. Most importantly, I think you have to dig the person you’re with, to use a phrase from the magazine-rack days. My person is Ann Gerhart, above.
When we first started visiting, we would meet these ‘old’ people who said they had been coming for 20 or 30 years, and we would think: how strange. Why would you keep coming back to the same place? But that is us now. We’ve been visiting for a quarter-century, often more than once a year. The officers at immigration, when they look at our passports, always say, ‘welcome home’.
In an ever-noisier world, we crave Anguilla’s sense of peace, and the togetherness we always find for ourselves here. We treasure its civility. We walk the same familiar beaches but always discover something new. And, yes, she still looks ravishing in a two-piece.