To anyone who’s ever dreamed of cashing it all in and taking off to live a simple life on a tropical island, Melinda and Robert Blanchard’s memoir “A Trip to the Beach” will read like a cautionary tale. Nothing is as simple as we dream it to be.
Fed up with the corporate entanglements that have overtaken their once successful Vermont specialty foods company, Mel and Bob decide to pursue their long time dream of opening a burger shack on a beach on the Caribbean island of Anguilla. It quickly becomes clear that the cost of doing business in Anguilla renders their plan unrealistic. Soon, their dreamed-of burger shack has escalated into a 5-star restaurant.
Once there, they face a surprising number of unforeseen obstacles. Who would have thought to ask in advance if they would have to import everything, from building supplies to ingredients for their menu, from Miami, paying a ridiculous warehouse fee for each item? Add to that the learning curve they face in dealing with the local way of doing business, and success seems nearly impossible.
But nothing, whether it be a drug dealing employee, overpriced ingredients, hard-to-please diners, or a deadly hurricane, will stand in the way of the Blanchards’ success.
From the start of the book, I felt like I was along for the ride. The likability of Mel and Bob, paired with their never-quit attitude and their obvious love and respect for each other more than make up for any slow moments in the story. Once I was into the book, I felt like I myself had succumbed to “Island Time”.
A highlight of the story for me is getting acquainted with the local characters, who all clearly supported the Blanchards in their vision. I love the inclusion of recipes that Mel uses at the restaurant. In fact, I found a copy of the restaurant’s cookbook, “At Blanchard’s Table”, and I’m anxious to try some of the dishes. That’s as close as I’m likely to get to a Caribbean vacation in the near future.
As leisurely as the pace of most of the book is, the final section, where Bob flies back to Anguilla, intending to help protect the restaurant against a major hurricane and leaving Mel back in Vermont to wait and watch the Weather Channel, reads like an action thriller. I love this book, and I’ve recommended it to friends who love to travel, and to read about the power of hard work and determination. Mel and Bob inspire me. If they can create a successful 5-star restaurant in spite of the obstacles without flinching, my own dreams don’t seem quite so elusive.
Visit the Blanchards’ website at: http://www.blanchardsrestaurant.com/index.html
“A Trip to the Beach” is available in paperback:
And on Kindle: