A Valentine's Day Getaway

Regular visitors insist it's the accommodations: The huge bed was dressed with luxurious linens by Frette, L-shaped banquettes were accented with colorful silk pillows, overhead fans whirled, the soft sound of the sea swished outside. Oriental rugs dotted the stark-white tile floors while lamps softly illuminated the room at night.

Certainly it was the bathroom. The bathroom? The sensual travertine lavatory beckoned with a huge bathtub for two, complete with two headrests. This would be filled with a luxuriating pink bath oil and, at times, sprinkled with hot pink bougainvillea petals. Beside the tub stood a huge shower. Celeste Pradel, my masseuse, said the couple's massage lesson given in the room, for example, was designed for the couple to shower together and scrub each other off. It boasted thick glass doors leading to an outdoor solarium and a furnished roofless patio, where lovers may see the sky but no one else may see them.

Or it's the view through the dark, Brazilian walnut-shuttered louvers to our balcony, furnished with two chaise lounges, a large round table and four chairs. The balcony was the scene of our freshly baked breakfast delivered each morning on our linen-covered table, where the enticing scent of freshly brewed coffee once lured a banana quit - a tiny yellow-breasted bird - as well. The view was beyond the blooming hibiscus blossoms, past the pearly white sand to the ever-changing aquamarine and cerulean blue water. And, six miles beyond, the mountains of St. Martin.

Later, we lay staring at that hypnotizing water, side-by-side on beach lounges under an umbrella. If we felt warm, we merely hoisted the little red flag and an attendant would hasten with a cold drink or moist face cloth. Those who wish to indulge within the water will find all the usual water sports available.

Sometimes we strolled hand-in-hand at the water's edge, warm gentle wavelets tickling our toes. We passed the complex of whitewashed buildings of the villas featuring arches and domes and towers, creating the illusion of a Moorish village. When I first heard of this concept plunked down in the Caribbean years ago, I though it was incongruous. Yet when I saw it, I recognized the genius of the concept.

One afternoon, in my suite, I indulged in a delicious rice and spice Jamu ritual, a massage using clay, rice and different spices. (This sample treatment will be available when the new spa opens in April with Balinese-themed treatments and Balinese therapists, a two-story hot tub and a space for pilates; it will replace the current spa and fitness center.) The tub was prepared at the treatment's completion with bougainvillea petals. Oh, what service.

Bob was blown away by the service in general. "If you asked any staff person a question," he said, "it was always answered with a smile. Or they would stop what they were doing and lead you to the spot you were seeking." No wonder Travel+Leisure voted it the No. 1 hotel for service in the Caribbean, Bermuda and the Bahamas for 2004.

The service in the restaurants paralleled the food. I first raved about Executive Chef George Reid's talents years ago at the former Cinnamon Reef, but he has been displaying them to full advantage here for eight years. We sampled his artistry in several venues. One evening, we ate at Kemia (the North African word for tapas). Following the au courant mode of tapas-like appetizer dishes, yet inspired by Asian and American influences as well, we found trouble in paradise. What to choose? Our favorites were phyllo-wrapped shrimp, which didn't arrive like shrimp in a purse but in a non-greasy, crispy skin, mated with a fresh pepper and mango chutney; and an extraordinary lump crab cake accompanied by a heavenly curried mussel sauce.

Kemia is located above the coral rocks in an open-air setting, the ceiling a tent-like affair that continues the Arabian nights mood. The surf splashed beneath, as floodlights illuminated the water below.

Contiguous is the more elegant restaurant Pimms, also open to the sea and views of the lit Moroccan village. The night we dined there, the surf crashed on the rocks beyond the pillars, creating a dramatic backdrop to the linen-draped tables and delicate china. Cocktail hour is sunset central here. We started sensibly, with simple salads, anticipating the lavish entrees to come. Yet the salad was like none we'd been served before, arriving within a circular wall of thinly sliced tomatoes. I indulged in delicate broiled crayfish, accompanied by potatoes with woodsy cepes mushrooms and edamame (a green soybean), while Bob did justice to a perfectly prepared 14-ounce roasted veal chop served with navy white beans, steamed vegetables and foie gras with veal jus.

For that really special dinner, a couple may arrange dinner "a deux" in the wine cellar or on the beach.

We tore ourselves away from the resort for a meal and spent an afternoon at Scilly Cay. The free ferry zipped us over to the tiny island, now with a substantial roofed building, bandstand and palapas outside. Originally opened in 1986, all was leveled during Hurricane Luis in 1995 and rebuilt. I'm always impressed by seeing affluent snowbirds and general managers of Anguilla's upscale hotels lunching there. They return for the gracious hospitality of Sandra and Eudoxie Wallace and the secret recipe for three lunch items: grilled 2- to 2 1/2-pound lobster, crayfish or chicken. The Wallaces' sons Alexander and Brandon often help out, and "we are grooming them to eventually step forward," Sandra said.

Our taxi passed through The Valley, the former sleepy downtown now home to offshore banks, past the 1787 Wallblake House - a plantation house currently serving as a museum - and St. Gerard's Catholic Church. The East End Preserve offers birders a look at flamingoes. And Cheddie's Carving Studio still entices with the artist's sculptures created from local woods.

But we were anxious to return, like most couples seeking romance, to spend more of our vacation time at Cap Juluca.


American Airlines flies into the newly reopened Wallblake Airport on Anguilla.

Cap Juluca, (888) 858-5822, log on to www.capjuluca.com or call your travel agent.

Cheddie Richardson, Main Road West End, (264) 497-6027.

Molly Arost Staub is a freelance travel writer.

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