Anguilla News: June 1996

News reports from on the island, as they were posted to the Net:

[Cotton Gin]

The Old Cotton Gin Ice Cream Shop

If you have been having trouble tracking down the El Gelaterooo truck to get some of the Italian-style ice cream that Ranny and Joe make here in Anguilla, your troubles are over. Now your can get ice cream any time you have a craving, right in downtown The Valley. (See my previous review about how good their ice cream is--I don't want to appear to be ranting.)

Ranny and Joe have opened a fantastic ice cream shop in the old cotton gin building. You will find them next door to the tourist board and across the street from the Catholic church.

In the truck they usually carry only ten of their flavors, but in the shop they have all 24, including Mango, Soursop, Passion Fruit, Tangerine, Papaya, Lemon, Rum Crunch, Hazelnut, Pistachio,Glanduja (hazelnut and chocoloate) , Malaga, and Nougat (made with crushed nougat candy). Oh yeah, and chocolate and vanilla. But that isn't all. Now they have sundaes, and milk shakes, and slushies, and banana splits (a first for Anguilla). And they server expresso, cappuccino, and cocktails including exotic European specialties. And also they make ice cream deserts like Strawberry cake (it was delicious), Proflitteros, Canoli, Tiramisu and a special French dessert of light pie crust with extra-rich ice cream and chocolate chips.

Next week they start serving light, elegant sandwiches so you can have a quick and tasty lunch too. From your table you can study the ancient cotton gin equipment that dates back to when cotton was a cash crop on Anguilla. The place has been nicely redecorated and is pleasantly cool. Give it a try. 809-497-5676.

Jeep Raffle Raises $30,000

The Rotary raffle of a Red Suzuki jeep is over and the proceeds have been counted. Over 300 tickets were sold, at $100 US per ticket, raising over $30,000 to build a fourth playground on the island. This one will go at the West End Primary School. This is an annual event usually held at Christmas, but delayed this year due to the hurricane. This year's lucky winner was David Kenworthy.

Our Female Softball Team Beats Statia

According to The Daily Herald the Anguilla female softball team defeated Statia (officially known as St. Eustatius, a Dutch island just beyond St. Martin) 2 to 1 in a 3 game series over the weekend. Yeah team!

Lydia Semeria

Surprise. Today I received a fun art work as a birthday present from my wife. Created by Lydia Semeria, it is a whimsical tropical painting on hardboard, with palm trees, fish, and a hammock projecting in relief from the picture. Lydia's art studio is in Sandy Ground. Watch for the sign on the left just before the turn for Mariners hotel.

Service Charges in Anguilla

Here is an email question that came in recently:
"We were in Anguilla in May, and it was the best vacation we've ever had. However, we were a little confused when the tabs came at restaurants, it had already added 15% service charge...was that tipping they added themselves? Do we need to tip another 15-20% on top of the service charge? at Xxxxxxx [name censored by sensitive editor] we waited over an hour for our food, and the 2 tables which came 10 minutes after us had their order taken and served before us, so we did not tip on top of the service charge. Cap Juluca we did, the service was impeccable. Overall we LOVED Anguilla, and planning on our return soon... Thanks for your hints."
Hotels in Anguilla add a 10% service charge to the bill for the staff. This is required by law. If the service is wonderful, I always give something extra directly to the person who helped me (the formula for allocating the 10% is complex and depends on the persons job category).

Restaurants usually add a 10 to 15% service charge, which is for the staff as well. Whether to tip more is your choice. If you felt the service deserved 20% and the restaurant added 15% then throw in an extra 5%. The cost of living is high and the wages are low in proportion, so be generous and make yourself feel good. Some restaurants and bars (especially small, locallly owned ones) do not add any service charge so you have to check each bill.

Lots of Questions and Comments

While I was off-island on vacation, Griffin Webster, who works for me, was holding down the fort at my computer lab. Griffin is an Electrical Engineer with a lot of experience and accomplishments in computers and software too -- I was very lucky to get him.

The following questions came in a long email message while I was in Phoenix and I forwarded them to Griffin as I didn't know the answers (and I was trying to co-opt him into being a junior cub reporter--I'll think you will find him a good writer). So here is some local information from a local.

"We spent two delightful weeks at La Sirena in early May. It was our second visit to Anguilla. The weather didn't cooperate so well (lots of rain) for the beach, but as it was cooler we did more exploration than we would have otherwise. I want to thank you for the information you provide on your Web Site. I printed all the pages out, and took them with me for reference. It really appreciate your insights, and how much you helped us get to know the island better.

"Our explorations led to some more unanswered questions--which I'm hoping you can tell me about.

1) What were (are) the "concrete works" at Savannah Bay? Is this a project that was started and never finished? Someone told us it was the foundation for a restaurant, but that seems unlikely from the way it was laid out. Also didn't really look like it was poured as a breakwater either. H-m-m-m-m? Snorkeling is nice at Savannah Bay at high tide.

The wall was constructed by Ronald Webster, former chief minister, who's only purpose was to divide his property from a neighbour. If you notice, the wall turns in towards the land at the most easterly tip. This is the eastern boundary of Mr. Webster's property. The other boundary is near to the beach on the opposite end of the wall.

2) What is the name of the plant which grows in otherwise barren fields? Obviously even the goats won't eat it (must be poisonous?). It usually takes the form of a single stalk about a foot high, with a single yellow flower at the top. Occasionally I saw it growing over taller bushes like a vine.

The name of the plant that grows in otherwise barren fields is "Lice Bush". I do not think it is poisonous, but it is not very pleasant smell or taste.

3) Where is the chicken ranch that houses 3,000 chickens? [Ed: this person really reads these web pages thoroughly.] Can't imagine how we could miss it in our travels, but we did. Also, where do they raise the delightful lettuce and herbs.

There are two chicken farms, mostly for eggs. One is in Welches, there used to be a sign near the ball field in that said "Rocky Hill Poultry Farm". The other one is in Cauls Bottom, I don't think it has a name. The Rocky Hill farm was the biggest.

The lettuce and some of the herbs are raised in green houses at Sandy Ground. They use a hydroponic system to grow the lettuce. The herbs are mostly imported from Dominica, but check out Koal Keel; they grow their own herbs in a little section off the main dining room.

4) Can you tell me anything about the "food trucks" that appear alongside the road in the evening (sort of the Anguillian equivalent of McDonalds or Kentucky Fried Chicken)? What sort of food do they serve? Are these mostly people who have day jobs, and this is a sideline, or is this their main form of support. It seemed like they opened too late to attract the "crowd" on the way hom from work, and some of them located under a street light seemed to be sort of the neighborhood gathering spot.

Food trucks have always been a part of Anguillian culture. As long as there has been sail boat racing in Anguilla, there has been people who sell food off the back of pickup trucks, vans, anything that works. In the last ten years, these "gastrono-mobiles" have become much more sophisticated, and yes, some people actually do make a living doing this. Check out Orelia Connor the man responsible for the gatherings under the street light. His local dishes include Chicken and Chips, Goat Water, Spare Ribs and Rice, Stew Chicken, Stew Goat, Ox Tail... and are served at lunch time and again from 7:00 - 11:00 PM.

5) In so many places we saw magnificent dry stone walls. They are real works of art. Often the stone wall was really much nicer than the house it surrounded. Is there a special history about the dry stone walls, or is there someone (or many) especially talented stone masons on the island, or does everyone build their own?

There are two varieties of stone walls. If you are asking about the walls which are dull looking piles of rocks that appear to be very old, then these were built back in (too long for any of us to remember), and are solely to divide property. If you are asking about the walls that look like the rocks were sculpted and fitted in place, then you are looking at the work of art of a few craftsmen who know just how to break a rock so it will cleave in the right place to fit into the jigsaw puzzle. Check out David Smith (Rasta Labumba), he just recently completed the stone work at the new Caribbean Commercial Bank. It took almost 6 months to complete this magnificant piece of work.

"Interesting conversations overheard during our stay:

1) There was a beach wedding at Sea Grape Beach Club on Meads Bay--150 guests from St. Marteen. They were really amazed at home much progress Anguilla had made since the hurricane compared to what their island has accomplished. They said it was a real pleasure to visit somewhere so much more cheerful than their own island. [Ed: Orelia mentioned above provided the catering service.]

2) We heard architects and developers planning a big new development next to the Sonesta (250-400' to the South of their pool, and outdoor dining area). Also heard rumors of another development next to it (between the concrete block "ruin" on the salt pond, and the "round house". Supposedly a French/Italian consortium building 100 units. I was really surprised by the amount of new building that had gone on since we were in Anguilla a year ago. I thought the hurricane repairs would have taken most of the resources, and not left much for new projects.

"Comments on marketing strategies:

1) Serenity Restaurant needs a sign (maybe even a menu) on the beach side of the building. It took us a few trips down the beach to figure out it was open to the public and not someone's very lovely private home. I'm sure all the "locals" know what it is, but us "foreigners" aren't so quick to figure it out. [Ed: they now have one.]

2) I think Unique T-Shirts might find their advertising more effective if it read "Free 'fine leather' Keychain"--instead of "Free Goat Skin Keychain". Somehow I didn't find the idea of goat skin all that appealing. Clever idea though!

3) Will be interested to hear what develops at Coccolobo. It was really spooky to walk around the "blown out" remains of the place. [Ed: A group of doctors has announced plans to invest in it to create a wellness spa/resort. See earlier news report.]

"We really enjoyed our stay at La Sirena--very nice clean room, good food, pleasant service, excellent beach, and price is a good value. Next time we're taking our German/English dictionary so we can communicate better with the other guests! We enjoyed the buffet breakfast at the Sonesta a few mornings. Pretty expensive, but a nice view, and a fun change of pace. Very "New York" glitz which one has to be braced to tolerate! We enjoyed the walk from La Sirena on the cooler days. Also enjoyed dinner at the Old House. And, of course, Koal Keel was fabulous! The chocolate fondant dessert is heaven itself! I wish Koal Keel had been open for breakfast when we were there--would have liked to have tried it.

"Another thing I really wondered about is the huge house above Fountain Beach hotel on Shoal Bay. I wondered who owned it. I also wondered if all the major work they were doing on it was as a result of the hurricane, or if the owner was just taking the opportunity to do a major renovation and spent lots of otherwise unused money! (I had read that wood construction seemed to withstand the hurricanes the best but that house--which appears to be wood, seemed to have the entire front section ripped away.)

[Ed: I answered this one, not Griff.] The complex on the hill is actually two residences. To the east is Nick Douglass' antique Thai house. It is over 300 years old. He had it taken apart in Thailand (just before it was due to be destroyed to make way for modern construction) and reassembled above Shoal Bay. In order to get an export permit and to satisfy the Thai gods he had to have a specialist from Thailand come and ensure that it was put back in exactly the same arrangement of buildings and then ritually clean it.

The house to the right belongs to a family from New York. It is also from Thailand, but is a modern replica in the ancient style. Behind Jerry's house is 200-year old Thai rice barn that was taken apart in Thailand and reassembled in Anguilla.

Both houses came through Luis amazingly well. They lost tiles on the west side of the very steep roofs and in both complexes one building was destroyed (either especially exposed to the winds or built first and without adequate bracing).

"I think the people of Anguilla can be justly proud of themselves. I was really impressed with how much work had been done. I also heard about how the employees of La Sirena got together and got the place up and running again in just a few days. They realized it mattered to their jobs if they reopened the hotel, and so they got to work and made it happen. I think that's a pretty rare attitude anywhere in the world today, and perhaps especially rare in the Caribbean."

Dive Shop Anguilla

Based on almost weekly scuba dives, Terry Watkins, manager of the Scotiabank here, recommends Dive Shop Anguilla in Sandy Ground (809-497-2020). He found them very professional, with a very stable dive boat (twin hull motorized catamaran). $50 for a 1 tank dive. $70 for 2 tanks. Plenty of great dive spots around Anguilla: Frenchmen's Reef, Anguillita, wreck of the Commerce, etc. Terry feels the diving is better here than in the Bahamas or St Croix. Send him email at terry@candw.com.ai if you have any more detailed questions.

Get Your Red Hot Anguillian Web Site

Vince Cate has one of the three full-time Internet connections in Anguilla (the other two being myself and Cable & Wireless), and is the person in Anguilla who knows the most about the Net. Vince has created web sites for many of the local lawyers and hotels. Vince would be a good person for any small business to call if they are curious about the Web. His prices are reasonable and, if you have something he needs, Vince is willing to barter. He has even arranged to fax people their email messages while they are waiting to get a computer hooked up to email at Cable and Wireless. Check him out at http:/www.offshore.com.ai or call 809-497-3255.

Anguillian Language Lesson #4

Agricultural terms.

From the Dictionary of the Anguillian Language: Eat - Used as "taste". Or, to pertain to texture. E.g., "Da pumpkin eat good?"

Web Page for Our House

My wife Mary Ann Green has started a web page for our building project on Anguilla. Visit it to see our site and partially-designed house plan. We are looking for suggestions and comments. http://www.news.ai/beachshack.html

. . . continue virtual vacation (preceding month)

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