"A Trip To The Beach"

A Trip To The Beach by Melinda Blanchard and Robert Blanchard

It feels like a long time since I read a really good travel book. Or maybe it's just that it's the end of February and reading about a warm, sunny island felt like such a relief. Whatever the reason, I loved this story of a Vermont couple who move to Anguilla to open a restaurant and make a life for themselves there.

This is the kind of travel book I like best, the ones where the writers have done more than just vacation in their chosen spot - they have lived there and because of that they can give the reader a much richer experience. They immerse us in the culture, let us get to know some of the locals and see a bit of what their lives are like, and show us both how great and how difficult operating a business in this paradise can be. It's so much more than "a trip to the beach".

The Blanchards tell their story beautifully. I was completely absorbed. They put me right there on the island of Anguilla feeling the hot Caribbean breeze on my skin and breathing the salt air. I laughed with them over the cultural idiosyncrasies that sometimes tripped them up, shared their frustrations with the legal hassles and the laid back island attitude toward time, and grieved with them when they were victims of that enemy of tropical existence - the hurricane.

While telling their story the authours share some of their recipes in the book, including Grilled Tuna With Coconut Rice Cakes, Gazpacho, Cornbread, Crisp Tai Snapper and Banana Bread, a mix of Island and Vermont staples. They know food. Melinda Blanchard grew up cooking and perfecting her own recipes, and together they run, in addition to their highly rated restaurant, a successful business selling gourmet dressings and sauces.

As a last bit of enticement I'll leave you with these few lines from early in the book when they had made the decision to move and were sitting on the beach making plans for the restaurant:

"We had trouble paying attention in Anguilla. Unencumbered by walls, our blue beach umbrella created a delightfully distracting office. We forced ourselves to concentrate - to work in a spot where the rest of the world comes to play. We sketched floor plans, our toes wriggling deeper into the sand as each new idea struck. Fat lizards puttered around us, their tails creating intricate patterns in the sand. They snatched tiny bugs with the tips of their long, long tongues - we were hypnotized. Concentrate, we told ourselves, concentrate."

I most definitely recommend "A Trip To The Beach". I finished it a week or so ago and already I'm eager to read it again. It would be the perfect I'm-tired-of-winter book to soak up every year. If I can wait that long.


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