Book Review – A Trip to the Beach by Melinda and Robert Blanchard

Of all the books that I have read about moving to the Caribbean, A Trip to the Beach has probably been my favorite. I was skeptical about reading it for a couple of reasons. First, the couple in the book, the Blanchards, were moving to Anguilla, and I was trying to accumulate information about moving to the US Virgin Islands. I reconciled this difference by realizing that many of the obstacles that exist when moving to islands must be similar on every island. Second, I had read several scathing reviews of A Trip to the Beach on Amazon. The reviewers called the Blanchards arrogant and self-absorbed. One reviewer said that the Blanchards were “quite charmed with themselves”.

I’ll admit that when I started reading the book, I also found them a little snooty. When they were deciding what type of food to serve in the restaurant that they planned to open, Mel contemplated French food but argued, “how much salmon mousse and foie gras can you eat?” I don’t even know what foie gras is so that tells you my level of sophistication. However, as I continued to read, I was charmed by their relative naivete.

Starting a restaurant in any location seems to be a daunting task, but starting a restaurant (or any business for that matter) on an island where challenges await you at every turn seems almost insurmountable. Where do you get your food? Where do you find good help? How do you train them where their way of life is so different from your own?

The book spans approximately ten years. It shares an intimate view of Anguilla, both of its landscape and its people. One of the reviews I read claimed that the book did not conjure up images of island life. I disagree. Despite the odds facing the Blanchards, Mel’s descriptions of the island made me want to pack my bags. Even the story of Hurricane Luis made me realize that even with this threat to placid island life, the trade-off is worth the risk. Living everyday on the laidback pace of island time with the beautiful scenery as your backdrop more than makes up for the possibility of damaging weather.

Another aspect of the book that I found to be an added treat was the addition of several of Mel’s recipes. What better way to sell their Caribbean cookbook than with inclusion of tempting recipes like the one for Banana Bread? (Okay, I haven’t bought the cookbook yet, but I will one day!)

A Trip to the Beach is a success story. Not just financial success (even though Blanchard’s is one of the premier restaurants in the Caribbean) but also or personal and emotional success. The Blanchards found a way to turn a trip to the beach for a vacation into a lifetime of happiness. Good for them, and their story gives me hope that we can do the same.