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A Trip to the Beach: Living on Island Time in the Caribbean Hardcover – October 10, 2000

4.4 out of 5 stars 141 customer reviews

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On a vacation with the family in Barbados, Mel and Bob Blanchard (of the Vermont-based Blanchard & Blanchard specialty foods company) stumble upon a tiny restaurant/shack on a Caribbean beach:

I marveled at the ingenuity of the set-up. A secluded spot, sand like flour, customers arriving in bathing suits. The guy barely lifted a finger, cleared at least $35.00, and gave us a lunch we'd remember forever.... The man had sold us a frame of mind.
So begins the Blanchards' 10-year pursuit of the illusory notion of "island time." In a literary heartbeat, they abandon the "concrete jungle" that was Vermont and open a restaurant on a little-known island in the British West Indies called Anguilla ("rhymes with vanilla"). Narrated by Mel Blanchard, A Trip to the Beach dispels tired notions of the Caribbean--the steel drums, the lush landscapes, and acres of swaying palm trees--and instead focuses on the understated elegance and easy rhythms of the sublimely "flat, and scrubby" island. Though lacking the richness and finesse of Frances Mayes, and the wit and wisdom of Peter Mayle, Mel Blanchard nonetheless forges a new path in travel writing as the Martha Stewart of the Caribbean. A remarkably intuitive and inspired chef, Mel writes poignant passages on running a kitchen in Anguilla. Here she exposes the meat of the story, sharing her many outrageous adventures--how to cater to pampered and demanding guests, how to cook for a full restaurant in the darkest of island night with no electricity, how to prepare for recurring and utterly devastating hurricanes that wipe out your business. In these chapters the writing is as good as her cooking--inspiring, colorful, and easily digestible. Although she sometimes relies heavily on well-worn clichés and expresses naïve and rather privileged assumptions--"Why would anyone choose to live surrounded by concrete and traffic rather than fishing boats, water and palm trees?"--discerning readers will see the true nature of this tiny island--a place of simplistic beauty that struggles to maintain its independence while it depends on tourism for its livelihood. With a strange concoction of anecdotes, island politics, recipes, and sweet memories, the Blanchards seduce readers with the allure of "island time," bringing Anguilla home to the rest of us. --Daphne Durham

From Publishers Weekly

To those weary of the rat race, the prospect of moving to a tropical land and opening a bistro sounds like a dream: balmy weather, blue skies and not a care save for which number sunblock to wear. Melinda and Bob Blanchard couldn't pass up the chance to live out that dream, and their resulting adventure is recounted in this prosaic memoir, presented as a slim volume narrated by Melinda. These two Vermonters, burned out from their ownership of a specialty food company, impulsively decided to go out on a limb and move to the Caribbean island of Anguilla to open a restaurant. Upon their first foray into negotiations with the locals, they nearly scrapped the plan and returned home, but perseverance and their own acceptance of "island time" customs helped them to stick it out. The authors tell of the obstacles involved in launching a business in a place where goats crossing the road can be a town's major daily event. Chapters relate typical issues of negotiating rent, finding building supplies and locating such ingredients as free-range chicken and baby squash, always ending in a sigh as the restaurant staff wraps up yet another fabulous night at Blanchard's. Despite a moderately gripping third section that details a fierce hurricane, the action moves along at a languid pace; even with the inclusion of some savory recipes, this bland tale lacks an original and appealing hook. Author tour. (Oct.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Clarkson Potter; First Printing edition (October 10, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0609606948
  • ISBN-13: 978-0609606940
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (141 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #409,728 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Thank goodness that, in addition to Free-Range Chicken Breast with Wild Mushrooms, Melinda and Bob Blanchard can turn out a great story too. No two dimensional, "my struggle to success" fluff piece, A Trip to the Beach is a rich, spicy broth blending the Blanchard's determined efforts to establish a culinary toe-hold in beautiful Anguilla (British West Indies) with the beautiful, determined Anguillans who helped them make it happen. Anguilla is no "Disney World" stage set of all-u-can-eat buffets, blender drinks, and canned calypso. Rather it is a fiercely independent, sophisticated island culture struggling hard against pressures of the fast-buck, big money outside world to preserve and protect its astoundingly beautiful physical and cultural assets. The idiosyncracies of the culture are the attraction for the Blanchards to Anguilla and, at the same time, the source of the sometimes excruciating obstacles to executing their modest plan to open a pleasant resaurant with a good wine cellar in a place they love. With an intimate, forthright voice, Melinda Blanchard takes the reader through a highly personal journey from their Northeastern roots to the realization of their dream - feeling like a "belonger" in their beloved Anguilla. A Trip to the Beach will appeal to both beginner as well as the seasoned Anguilla "expert". I have enjoyed 6 visits to the island (and to their divine resaurant) and the Blanchard's richly portrayed characters, and colorfully detailed experiences took me that much deeper into a people I already love. Enrich someone's life by giving them this book. Or better yet, give it to your spouse or significant other (as my wife did) as bait for a longed-for trip to this special place. Or just buy it for yourself, put your feet up and lose yourself for a while in a story with a lot of heart, a lot of humor, and some really yummy recipes. You'll feel like a "belonger" too!
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Format: Hardcover
Along the "Provence" and "Tuscany" genre of books, this anecdotal book takes the reader through a year of dealing with natural and human challenges as the Blanchards try running a restaurant on the upscale island of Anguilla. Having been a visitor to the island many times, I suppose I was somewhat inclined to be predisposed to enjoy the book, but then again I could also have been more critical. It's a pretty quick read, full of local characters, and makes you realize what kinds of things you're up against when you try and do something like this. You'll want to make plane reservations to see the island for yourself when you've finished reading it. It's light reading, perfect for a cold winter day as it transports you to an island paradise that is so idyllic in the midst of today's hectic urban world.
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By A Customer on April 16, 2001
Format: Hardcover
My husband and I have been lucky visitors to the gorgeous island of Anguilla and we have eaten at Blanchard's. The restaurant is gorgeous and the food was wonderful. After reading the book and visiting Anguilla 3 times in the past year, it was interesting to meet the people in the book. Anguilla is a very close knit island of approximately 9000 people. When I read the book and talked to the "belongers" in Anguilla they told me a different story about the Blanchards. The book leads the reader to believe that the Blanchards were walking on these gorgeous beaches and just decided to start a restaurant. The truth is that the Blanchards owned a restaurant called Mangos on the island and sold it!! They made a lot of money and then came back to open Blanchards. Shabby Davis is a wonderful Anguillan who was kind enough to do several things for the Blanchards. In fact, the whole Davis family is remarkably kind and sweet. Many of the people in the book were never asked first if they opposed their names being used in the book. Unfortunately, this was not good PR for the Blanchards. They should have been honest about what really happened on the island and understood the cultural and language differences between Americans and Anguillans. I was disheartened after I found out several things about what really occurred during the Blanchards opening and running their 2 restaurants in Anguilla. Anguilla is a terrific island with wonderful people. We need to be considerate of them and not spoil their island. I found that I was viewing the Blanchards in a totally different way.... as true capitalists!!! They seem to be only out for money and themselves.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a quick reading alternative to a romance novel, this book would work. But for a literary experience this book falls short. It is an interesting exercise to read it and figure out why. First, the book has two authors, but only one voice. Melinda Blanchard's voice dominates the text. During the parts of the story where she is not around, i.e. the parts her husband Bob wrote, her voice becomes omniscient which felt wrong. I would have liked to hear Bob's voice as a co-author in the book. Second, Melinda tells us what we see instead of showing us the surroundings and everything is either Lush or Luxurious. Perhaps she lost her thesaurus among her imported tropical plants, silver and crystal. Despite a lack of description to center a reader into a place they may never have been and a need to find a synonym for lush, the lightness of the prose fits the airy vacation feel the authors wanted to give to the narrative and it works, for a beach read. What bothered me the most about the book was the prevailing voice of innocence. Not once did a reflective voice step in to deepen the experience based on what she knew now looking back or to provide greater insight or reflection on the coexistence of two different cultures, vastly different socio-economic status or an exploration of if it is even appropriate to try and become a local which would have made their story relevant and interesting. This total lack of reflection lead me to continuously question why she felt the need to tell me this particular anecdote over any of the others she could have chosen? Was it in some way integral to her learning about the island, culture or restaurant business? I'll never know because she never told us and it takes a light airy book and makes it completely frivolous.Read more ›
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