Monday, May 28, 2012

A Good Read : The Allure of Anguilla

Melanie Reffes 

It was nirvana for literary lovers over the Memorial Day weekend when the Anguilla Literary Festival was the hottest ticket on the island. The four-day fete, hosted by Paradise Cove Resort, celebrated the best and the brightest wordsmiths from Anguilla, USA, Canada and Caribbean with readings, workshops, panel discussions, scrumptious breakfast and lunch buffets prepared by the hotel’s creative chefs and a welcome reception at the swishy Viceroy resort .

Paradise Cove ( credit: M. Reffes ) 

Tables were Anguilla-festive at Paradise Cove (credit: M. Reffes ) 

Officially dubbed the ‘Anguilla Lit Fest: A Literary Jollification,’ the auspicious festival featured best-selling author and keynote speaker Terry McMillan of ‘How Stella Got Her Groove Back’ and ‘Waiting to Exhale “fame who although did not read from her own work, did offer a treasure chest of tips for aspiring writers and hard-core fans during her workshop, “So You Want to be a Bestselling Author? The Real Deal.” 

“Write as if your work will not get published “, McMillan told the crowd of fans, “this way you use your true voice when telling a story‘. Holding court under the white tent at Paradise Cove, she was enthralled by the young writers in the crowd who came from local high schools. “On a personal note, “she added, “a good story is like an itch you just have to scratch.”

Author Terry McMillan ( credit: M. Reffes) 

Terry's books were a big seller (credit: M. Reffes) 

Other fan favorites included Tony award winning actress and author Sheryl Lee Ralph who extolled the virtues of being a diva as she read from her acclaimed book ‘Redefining Diva: Life Lessons from the Original DreamGirl. 

Sheryl Lee Ralph read from "Redefining Diva " (credit: M. Reffes  ) 

Diva wannabees snatched up Ralph's book ( credit: M. Reffes)

Prolific St. Maarten poet, author and House of Nehesi Publishers founder Lasana Sekou opened the Festival with a spirited reading from his ‘Brotherhood of the Spurs’ delighting the early morning crowd with an excerpt about the drama of the cock fighting tradition in French St. Martin. “There is Caribbean life beyond the sun, sea and resorts, “ noted Sekou, “ this Festival adds excitement to a Caribbean holiday as so many travelers these days want an experiential vacation and will time their trip with an event that appeals to them, like Anguilla’s Literary Festival. ”

Lasana taking five at the Festival ( credit: M. Reffes  ) 
(credit: M. Reffes  )
Sekou's books were hot sellers at the Festival ( credit: M. Reffes ) 

Other five-diamond writers included American Hill Harper, author of ‘Letters to a Young Brother: Manifest Your Destiny’ and the wildly popular ‘The Wealth Cure: Putting Money in Its Place’ who entertained with his unique take on the upcoming USA election, Antiguan author Marie-Elena John, St. Martin’s children’s book author Stella Simmons and beloved Anguillan storyteller David Carty who delighted festival goers with his tales of the island’s history.

Acclaimed writer Hill Harper  ( Credit: M. Reffes ) 

Aptly named hotel packages offered for the Festival included Paradise Cove’s “Lit Talk Anguilla”; Cuisinart’s “Invitation to Exhale with Terry McMillan”; Little Butterfly’s “Lit Talk Anguilla”; and Anacaona’s “Book Binder Girls Getaway”.  Literacy has always been of paramount importance to the people of Anguilla,” said Hon. Haydn Hughes, Parliamentary Secretary , Tourism, “we look forward to kicking off this worthwhile effort celebrating the literary arts and by so doing, motivate young writers to embark on a career in writing."

Organized by a committee of book-loving Anguillians, the festival was timed to increase visitor arrivals during shoulder season. “Visiting the island in the spring can be a vacation audition by our guests who then decide to return for their winter break, “said Sherille Hughes, one of the members of the organizing committee, “we started working on the Festival in February and immediately saw a great interest from the island’s public and private sectors and from  tourists. “   

Sherille Hughes & Sheryl Lee Ralph ( credit: M. Reffes  )

With an enthusiastic turn-out, the Literary Festival was a terrific first effort with hopes high for an even better festival in 2013. “This year marked our first year which was an excellent way to entice travelers to the island during the off season, “said Candis Niles, director of tourism, Anguilla Tourist Board (ATB), “we are already looking forward to next year’s festival.”

(credit: M. Reffes )

Award-winning  journalist Bevan Springer filming the Festival ( credit: M. Reffes ) 
(credit: M. Reffes )  

Viva the Venue

The host hotel, Paradise Cove is a stylish Inn set amidst fragrant gardens with the scents of mahogany, gardenia and mango perfuming in the air.  All about star shows and tropical moons, twenty-nine suites in low-rise buildings surround a large pool and two open-air Jacuzzis with every suite enjoying its own terrace and kitchen. For the sports-minded, a croquet court, fitness center and playground are available on-site while close by; 18-hole Temenos championship golf course is the only one on the island. For a swing of a different sort, the nearby Anguilla Tennis Academy in Blowing Point offers a pro-shop, lessons and even a partner, if you forgot to bring one with you.
 Owned by Sherille and Dr. Frankie Hughes, Paradise Cove is home to the first conference facility on the island with seating for seventy-five. When the meetings are over, waterskiing, banana boating, windsurfing and parasailing and scenic glass bottom boat tours can be arranged.
( Credit: M. Reffes ) 
Also owned by the Hughes’ and picturesque on the northeast shore between the villages of Shoal Bay East and Island Harbour, the aptly named Ultimacy is the ultimate super villa with eight bedrooms, ten bathrooms, three living rooms including one with cathedral ceilings that invite the easterly breezes, recreation room with a classic Wurlitzer jukebox, Butler Ryan who happily caters to each and every whim of villa guests from organizing a private plane to and making sure the bar is stocked and Chef Shane who must be island-famous for his delectable omelettes and French toast .  “With our unsurpassed amenities; there is no need to leave the property, “says owner Sherille Hughes.
Ultimacy Villa ( credit: M. Reffes ) 

Stunning views abound at Ultimacy ( credit: M. Reffes ) 

Too Good to Miss
 Kicking off on June 1 and running through the end of August, The Prix Fixe Summer is a bargain bonanza from restaurant meals to hotel suites. Properties offering two nights gratis for a seven night booking include Cap Juluca ; Paradise Cove; Meads Bay Beach Villas; Spyglass Villa; Temenos Villas; Anguilla Great House; Carimar Beach Club; Ku Resort and Rum Punch Villa.  On the dining scene, a $45 menu will be served up at Blanchards, Veya, Koal Keel, CuisinArt Resort & Spa’s Cafe and The Old Caribe while dinner for $35.00 can be ordered at Tasty’s, Roy’s Bayside Grill, Ripples, E’s Oven and Kuyah.

Cuisinart Golf & Spa Resort ( credit: Cuisinart ) 

Ku Resort ( credit: M. Reffes ) 

Hosted by the Anguilla Tourist Board since 1997, Anguilla Summer Festival kicks off on July 29 and keeps the island hopping until August 7 with calypso competitions, boat races, and soca parties from dusk till dawn.  Influenced by African and Caribbean culture, the colorful festival is a feast for the senses with May pole dancers, Mock-a-Jumbies and sunrise street jams. Held at the Landsome Bowl Cultural Centre, the summer fete is a treat for the entire family with Prince and Princess Pageants and kiddies parades.

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Summer Festival Splendour ( credit: ATB) 
Gorgeous Anguilla at night ( credit: M. Reffes ) 

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