This small haven can offer laid-back upscale escape or a low-key lovely leisure. Balm trumps buzz. Not being seen is more important than being seen. Recharging is more important than charging.
Unless, of course, you time your visit to Anguilla in May, when The Jollification Literary Festival provides extra stimulation. Then, you can enjoy reading and writing, as well as eating and riding (waves, horses, and parasails).
This year’s gathering is May 19-22. This fifth year of the annual events will feature mystery, according to one of its leaders, author Stephanie Stokes Oliver. Among the crime writers scheduled to illuminate and entertain are Kate White (former editor of Cosmo), Alafair Burke and Valerie Wilson Wesley.
Last spring, I enjoyed being a bookworm and beach bum, when my first visit to Anguilla combined tourist pleasures with the festival’s mental fuel and social experiences. “Jollification” is a Caribbean term referring both to a time to pull together for a shared aim and to a gathering for celebration. Last years’ Literary Jollification featured panels and parties with luminaries from the publishing world, including Leah Haber, Book Editor of O Magazine; Jessica Strawser, the editor of Writer’s Digest; and the more local talents from the House of Nehesi, on the island of St. Martin.
Memoir writing was a dominant theme, and the festival encouraged access to captivating authors who shared tips and readings, including Benilde Little (My Nervous Breakdown), J. Ivy (Dear Father: Breaking the Cycle of Pain), Elizabeth Nunez (Boundaries), and Krista Bremer (A Tender Struggle aka My Accidental Jihad). Each of the books was about opening your heart in different ways.
Local school children, tourists and distinguished Anguillians enjoyed the panels, question sessions, and mingling opportunities including a cocktail party with local artists and poets, and the HE Governor of the Island Kristina Scot. While the writers helped and inspired attendees, Anguilla also inspired the visiting authors. Bremer, visiting Anguilla for the first time, was moved by the beauty around her and quipped, “I always thought those posters were photo-shopped. I can’t believe those colors are real.”
This West British Islands’ motto, "Tranquility wrapped in blue. Find your shade of blue,” poses a lovely challenge in a realm where blues and turquoises stretch out to the horizon and down in warm seas. Which beach has the best blues? What is your favorite way to experience the blues? Sit on the powdery sands? See sunlight sparking new shades as you swim with tropical fish?
For the actress Annie Potts, also a part-time Anguillian, you could say the right shade of blue was the hue of her swim goggles. She lent them, years ago, to a local boy who couldn’t speak. That started a friendship that inspired her to write Kemarlay of Anguilla and illustrate the story with her own bright drawings. Proceeds go to the Arijah Children’s Foundation to help young people with special needs.
Caribbean Travel expert and writer Sue Campbell likes to immerse herself. She actually became a mermaid for a day at Anguilla's new Mermaid School International first of its kind in the Caribbean.
I loved immersing in liquid blues on horseback. Tonia, at Seaside Stables in Cove Bay, takes riders along the coast, through fields, then into warm bay waters while on the horses. If the winds are up, the horses may hesitate; but when it’s calm, riders get wet enjoying views of Cap Juluca. I also enjoyed floating on the blues before a lobster feast on Sandy Bay Island, thanks to the boat tour of Shoal Bay Scuba.
Anguilla is a limestone rock that provides powdery soft sand beaches, and unfertile soil. The island was largely unsuccessful with plantation crops like sugar cane. Without sugar to make rum, a key cause for the long history of slavery that shadows other Caribbean islands, profits didn’t grow on Anguilla, and, I was told, many Brits left the island to their former slaves, who couldn’t leave.
The island is a territory of the U.K., and English is the dominant language, but Anguilla enjoys its own culture. Generations of Anguillian heritage are celebrated in local community festivals throughout the year. When I was there, the literary festival was followed by Welches Festival. The sounds of live music and children laughing mingled with the slapping percussion of fast-played dominoes.
Last year’s “LitFest” was held in the beautiful location of Paradise Cove Resort. Many guests stayed at the nearby, luxurious CuisinArt Golf Resort and Spa, with its seaside activities, pampering, upscale pool, and multiple eateries.
The less-expensive Anacaona Boutique Hotel offers some good rooms for under $200 a night. This west-end resort has tropical gardens, two pools, and good food on the grounds.
Most travelers to Anquilla arrive by ferry after flying into St. Martin, a Caribbean island that is part Dutch and part French. To make sure I began my Anguilla time rested, I spent a night on St. Martin at Mary’s Boon Beach Resort and Spa, a colorful place full of character and characters.
If you are looking for literary characters, the upcoming Jollification Literary Festival is a place to pursue your joys, whether you are seeking mysteries or mermaids. Once you’re there, you also can seek your own shade of blue on any of the thirty-three beaches of Anguilla.
ANGUILLA JOLLIFICATION LITERARY FESTIVAL
ANGUILLA HORSE BACK RIDING http://www.anguilla-beaches.com/anguilla-horseback-riding.html
ANGUILLA TOURIST INFORMATION: http://ivisitanguilla.com/
ANACAONA BOUTIGUE HOTEL http://www.anacaonahotel.com
CuisinArt Resrot http://www.cuisinartresort.com/index.php?catID=33
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