A-list destination at a bargain price
Photo: Allan Montaine/Lonely Planet
Not all of this A-list destination has succumbed to bright lights and scary price tags, writes David Whitley.
WHERE Lloyd's, Anguilla, Leeward Islands, the Caribbean.
HOW MUCH From $US75 (about $94) a night.
WHY GO In the fickle world of "it" places to be, Anguilla is basking in the A-list glow. A tiny strip of an island inhabited by just under 14,000 people, it is seemingly besieged by Hollywood stars, pop favourites and movers and shakers in the business world.
To cater for all that money, some shockingly expensive resorts and villas have sprung up on the island, and those who have bottomless pockets can have every whim catered for. At the real top end of the scale, villas can go for $30,000-$40,000 a night. Ouch.
Those of us who would just like to see what the fuss is about without having to fritter away the life savings do have an option.
This is where Lloyd's comes in, and it is a bed and breakfast joint that manages that perfect combination of history, character and understated quality.
Lloyd's is the oldest hotel on the island, dating back to 1959 when the glitterati would not even dream of visiting. There was no electricity back then, let alone paved roads or telephones. But politician-cum-carpenter-cum-mason David Lloyd decided to build a modest establishment, figuring that some folk would need to stay on the island every now and then.
Others followed suit, but the smaller, more basic places are in decline on the island. Everyone has seen the big money coming in and is converting their guesthouses into something a little more lavish.
Lloyd's has made some concessions to the sands of time - there is cable TV and air-conditioning - but the emphasis is still on the family-style environment. Indeed, the establishment is owned by the children of the original owner, and members of the extended family help out on occasion.
The bright yellow building still looks, to all intents and purposes, like a family home. It is perched on Anguilla's biggest hill (a whopping 70metres), away from the touristy epicentre in the west, but still close to a few mighty fine restaurants. Up from the driveway is a veranda with a couple of cutesy little chairs. It feels like they should be inhabited by a fat grandmother knitting and a buck-toothed boy playing a banjo but it seems as though the sleepy, entirely useless guard-cat takes up permanent residence on one.
Inside, you are straight into the common area. There are matching chairs spaced around a television, supplemented by a bookshelf and magazine rack.
Shortly after arriving, I meet Rita, a Lloyd's fixture. Originally from Kansas City in the United States, she liked the place so much that she now lives there.
"I originally came here because I was a big fan of Chuck Norris," she starts somewhat bizarrely. "He had a home on the island, so I thought I'd come and see what it was like. We ended up becoming good friends."
Characters like Rita - along with staff who have been there for years - make Lloyd's. It attracts an extraordinarily diverse bunch, a contrast to the American-heavy clientele the rest of the island gets. Kiwi wedding parties, Swedish backpackers, Italian families and Trinidadian health workers all sit around and swap stories. And most will come back.
FREE STUFF Usually the breakfast part of a bed and breakfast is pretty grim, but not here. It is served on immaculately laid-out glass tables, and with an extraordinary range of options for somewhere so small. You will give up trying to remember the amount of fresh juices on offer after they have listed seven or eight, and then make the choice to have your eggs done differently every day.
BONUS Anguilla's main attraction (apart from its array of fabulous gourmet restaurants) is its beaches. All beaches on the island are public, so the best free entertainment you can get is bodysurfing the waves on the Atlantic Ocean at the world-renowned Shoal Bay East. And if the startlingly white sands and impossibly turquoise waters there get boring, there is more of the same on the Caribbean side at Rendezvous Bay. Satisfyingly, you can roll up on the sands here right in front of one of the island's top hotels - the CuisinArt Resort and Spa. There is nothing they can do to stop the plebs enjoying the view, too.