In 1980 Anguilla gained its independence from an awkward federation with St. Kitts and Nevis and has since been a self-governing British Dependent Territory. The British government is represented by the governor, who is responsible for a good deal, including foreign policy. There is an elected House of Assembly and the chief Anguillan elected official is the chief minister. Public holidays, including Anguilla Day (May 30), the Queen's Birthday (June 18), and Separation Day (Dec 19) honor both Anguilla's ties to Britain and its independence from St. Kitts and Nevis. Most government offices are in the Valley, Anguilla's capital, where most of the island's banks, groceries, and shops are also located. While you're in the Valley, be sure to drive up Crocus Hill and see some of the island's oldest and most charming Caribbean gingerbread cottages.

Recommended Books

The Caribbean has produced numerous fine authors, including Nobel Prize laureate Derek Walcott (St. Lucia), V. S. Naipaul (Trinidad), Anthony Winkler (Jamaica), Jean Rhys (Dominica), and Jamaica Kincaid (Antigua). Alas, none of the islands in this guide boast noted native writers. But there are a few literal "beach" reads worth mentioning. The Captain's Fund by Raina Wissing Harris, a very purple "romance suspense" novel of murder, heiresses-in-distress, and black market diamonds, is notable for its St. Maarten/St. Martin setting with such familiar landmarks as Friar's Beach Café, the Horny Toad Guesthouse, and Joe's Jewelry International. Celebrity chef/author Anthony Bourdain's comedic crime novel Gone Bamboo is also inspired by St. Martin.

Melinda and Bob Blanchard's A Trip to the Beach: Living on Island Time in the Caribbean is the true-life restaurateurs' hilarious yet sympathetic, ungarnished version of Herman Wouk's riotous fictional account of an American hotelier in the Antilles, Don't Stop the Carnival. The Blanchards' most recent guide is Changing Your Course: The 5-Step Guide to Getting the Life You Want. Murder in St. Barts is a passable Gendarme Trenet novel by J. R. Ripley (note that teasing last name, mystery aficionados), better known for the Tony Kozol whodunits. Jimmy Buffet's Tales from Margaritaville offers fictional short stories of West Indian life, many based on his years of St. Barts residency.

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