Anguilla? Pass the Atlas; So Just What Does the Caribbean's Least-Known Destination Have to Offer? Genevieve Fox Took Her Family to Find Outmore
Byline: GENEVIEVE FOX
ANGUILLA is one of the Caribbean's best-kept secrets. Only those in the know, the ones who can't face the tropical theme park-style resort hotels in Antigua or Jamaica, or the money and swagger of Barbados or St Bart's, seek out this tiny, unspoilt island in the British West Indies.
It may be flat, arid and lacking in all the usual paradisiacal trappings: lush rain forests, palm trees, that kind of thing.
But it makes up for this with whitesanded coral beaches and a feelgood factor based on ridiculously friendly, laidback English-speaking locals.
It's not rich and glitzy like St Bart's just across the water, nor is it a shopping and gambling destination like neighbouring St Maarten - though both are just a ferry ride away.
Anguilla's tiny runway helps keep the island low-key. It's too small to accommodate jets, so you have to fly to Antigua (eight-andahalf hours from the UK), then take another smaller plane.
The inconvenience keeps the sun 'n' sand package tourists away, which attracts the likes of Madonna, Janet Jackson, Kevin Kline and John Malkovich.
Sam Mendes and Kate Winslet got married here three years ago.
I flew in on a six-seater with my husband and two sons, aged four and two.
My husband had his head in his hands. Small planes fill him with dread.
It was only as we started descending 20 minutes later that I, too, got a little twitchy. I couldn't see a single palm tree.
This was not my idea of a tropical Caribbean paradise.
In fact, it was only when we got to our hotel, the five-star Cap Juluca, that we saw our first palm, only to discover they'd been shipped in from Florida.
A series of Moorish white villas stretch along the two-mile beach, leading past George's, where we'd have lunch, to Pimm's, a romantic eaterie overlooking the shore.
Be warned. Hotel dining on Anguilla is excellent, but it's not cheap, with lunch for four costing around $70 ([pounds sterling]38). It's better to eat locally and splash out on hotel dining occasionally, as we did one night at Altamer, a Toblerone- shaped modernist building with a razor- sharp interior.
Nobody cooks on Saturdays on Anguilla. A few of the island's 9,000 permanent residents, most of whom are pretty poor, go down to The Valley, the almost non- existent dusty 'town centre'.
We'd been told The Valley rocks on Saturdays. …