Wednesday, April 1, 2015

You Say AnTEEgwa I say AnTEEgah


Long story short, Mike was right, Antigua, the island in the lesser Antilles is pronounced Anteegah, not Anteegwah.  I think the people trying to convince me otherwise were thinking of the city of Antigua, located in Guatemala. I guess I should have believed the guy who lived within a short flight of the island for 18 years, but I was also led astray by the evil internet.

We spent a week on this small island that boasts of 365 beaches - one for every day of the year.  I think we visited 11 altogether.  We spent most of our mornings sight seeing and our afternoons lying for an hour or two under a green umbrella on whatever the nicest beach was in the vicinity.


This Fourplex (bottom left unit) was our home in Jolly Harbour, a resort on the south-ish west side of the island.

English Harbour taken from Shirley Heights.

The following photos were taken in Nelson Dockyard







Back at Jolly Beach...



As it neared six o'clock each evening,  we took the two minute walk to the beach and watched the sun set around 6:16.  Some nights we carried a cold Caribe with us, other nights we enjoyed a cocktail from Castaway's, the bar that was literally on the beach, with a daily  happy hour from 4 to 7.

Antigua is a small island and you can drive around it easily within a day.  The roads can get fairly bumpy and there are many surprise potholes, but compared to Dominica it was pretty smooth.  One morning we visited the St. John's Market where there wasn't too much going on.  Even though the market is open every day, Saturday is the big market day but we were leaving Saturday and wanted to check it out.  We did end up buying a few veggies.


We headed down to St. John's port to check out the cruise ships and stumbled into an area that gets considerable care and upkeep, I imagine due to the thousands of tourists that pour through this area on their way to their day trips.  Many of them end up on the beach at Jolly Harbour.  If  you're a beach kind of person it really is a beautiful spot.



As we drove through many run down areas of Antigua, where houses and businesses seemed to be abandoned, half built and severely weathered I couldn't help but wonder how an island with millions of dollars coming into the country through tourism, showed so much evidence of poverty.  When I thought about it later I realized that the abandoned and weathered buildings were really the only evidence of poverty I saw.

In terms of the residents,  I didn't see any children that looked sick or uncared for.  Many of them wore the popular brand names and trendy clothes we see in North America.  During the week we saw groups of teenagers in pristine school uniforms.  Adults were friendly and helpful including those hawking their wares on the beaches and streets.  Women were stylish, bejewelled and manicured.  I guess I was carrying a few pre-concieved prejudices that were soon dispelled. 

After St. John's we headed around the bay to visit Fort Barrington, which ended up being our first hike.
It was fairly steep and a rocky scrabble, but the view was worth the climb.





Sadly we couldn't find our way to that pristine stretch of sand and headed south to  Galley Bay Resort where we hoped to have lunch and spend the afternoon on the beach.  We were told by the gate keeper "You Shall Not Pass!" Or maybe she said it would cost us 95 EC's each for a day pass to the resort.  No thank you.


A little farther south was Hawksbill Resort boasting the lovely Hawksbill beach. There was no gatekeeper and at the resort desk, we explained we weren't guests but hoped to be able to have lunch at their restaurant.  The clerk directed us down the stairs and along the beach where we discovered the Tamarind Restaurant.  The menu was more of a dinner menu and had no prices on it.  Through observing the guests around us we noticed a buffet as well where you could have a traditional Caribbean meal of chicken, rice and beans, salads and desserts.  We opted for the buffet which was excellent.

As we neared the end of our meal we realized the resort was all inclusive and being a little more upscale nobody was wearing those plastic bracelets.  Nobody knew we weren't guests of the hotel.  We joked about just leaving without paying and it was awfully tempting.  "What would T and J do?" I asked.   T and J are friends of ours who are wise and very experienced travellers and have been known to crash the pools of some of Kelowna's resorts.  In the end I wasn't really sure what T and J would do as they are fairly upstanding citizens with morals, and sneaking into a pool is a little different than doing a dine and dash. Being upstanding moral citizen ourselves, we asked for a bill.  It actually took a fair bit of time and figuring to get us one.  Once we paid we walked a few feet away from the restaurant and enjoyed an afternoon of relaxing in the shade and swimming in the sea.

The photos below were taken at Betty's Hope, one of the more important Sugar Mills on the Island in the 1700's.




Photos below were taken along the rocky wave swept shoreline where the Devil's Bridge can be found.



Devil's Bridge

Handsome Devil


On this afternoon we found our way to Grand Pineapple Beach after having a terrible burger and fries at the bar next to the beach.


Back to Jolly Beach for sunset.

A walk along Valley Church Beach the next morning.

Meanwhile, I'd been following the traumatic happenings on Facebook, involving the friend of a friend who had sold one of her donkeys and shipped it somewhere in the states only to have the driver disappear and cut off all contact.  They then heard the poor thing had spent several days at the vet.  As a result I was inspired to visit Antigua's Donkey Sanctuary, where they care for over 100 donkeys.  It wasn't difficult to get Mike on board. We ended up adopting Pumpkin (who might be the brown guy pictured below).  


Below are photos of the Saint John the Divine Cathedral located in St. John's.  They've been restoring the Cathedral for quite some time, and it looks like quiet an undertaking.  The interior is down to the bare bones as termites gutted the place.




Looking north on Half Moon Beach where I lost my snorkel and Mike got to see some boobies.  I leave it to you to decide whether it was the birds or the body parts.

Looking south on Half Moon Beach



One of the beaches in Dickinson Bay 

This sweet stray took a shine to us (hubby is an animal magnet) and followed us on our walk along the beach.  We had no treats to offer him but he visited the sea a few times to drink. We tried to discourage him and hoped he would follow us to the car so we could give him a drink from the water bottle we kept in our cooler.  He did follow us and even though we gave him a good drink, I really felt bad leaving him behind.  It's easier to understand how people end up adopting dogs when they're on vacation.  Especially since this guy had a face much like Pitou.


This photo taken near Dennis's Hideaway Restaurant is for Rose Sexsmith, who's alway's posting photos of things that look like hearts. The other photos were taken near the restaurant as well.





Antigua was the first island of three on our three week visit to the eastern Caribbean.  We spent time on Guadeloupe and Dominica as well.  On our way back to Canada we had to spend another 36 hours on Antigua where we fit in quite a bit considering the short time.  We had a delicious dinner  at Trappas Restaurant in English Harbour where we had the best Caribbean curry of the entire trip.


We stayed at Harmony Hall which was a bit off the beaten track, but has a beautiful setting at the top of a point overlooking the sea.  We had hoped to take their shuttle to nearby Green Island to enjoy the secluded beach but sadly it wasn't running.



Instead we made a return visit to Grand Pineapple Beach



We ate lunch at an Italian restaurant above the beach.  After many attempts by both of us over the past three weeks, Mike captured a nice shot of one of the brilliantly iridescent colibri, or hummingbirds.  They're much larger than their North American cousins.


Back at Harmony hall I got a few shots of this little yellow bellied bird.  Not sure what it's called but we saw them all over the islands and some of them were quite bold, eating crumbs off our table on occasion.



The next day we ate a lovely breakfast that was included with our stay at Harmony Hall:  On offer was fresh fruit, croisants and rolls, eggs and bacon and a pot of real coffee (hard to find on any of the islands).  We packed our bags looked around the lovely grounds and art gallery and made many attempts to do our online pre-board using the sketchy wifi.

Slowly, we made our way to Cecilia's High Point Cafe located very close the airport.  Lunch was spectacular (both the food and the price).  I had some incredible mushroom ravioli on a bed of the most tender basil I've ever eaten. The location made for an easy and stress free wait before we had to leave for our 3:00 flight to Toronto, and prevented us from worrying much about dinner.





As I mentioned there were a lot of run down buildings in Antigua.  It seems they spared no expense on the airport however.  The photos below are taken on the airport property which is beautifully landscaped.  They are in the midst of building a new terminal and it should be quite impressive when they're finished.  When we were in Dominica at the IGA, we happened to run into the owner of the company doing the electrical work on the project.  He was a friendly Texan who apparently invented LED lighting (or was it Post-it notes?).



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