The Adventurer Next Door - My Friend Leslie in Antigua
By Susanne Pacher
My good friend Leslie recently had a chance to go on a trip to Antigua. Although on a package deal, she managed to get in a few adventures off the beaten track and explore the island in her own ways. Here's her story:
1. You went to Antigua very spontaneously. How did that come up?
The decision to go to Antigua was perhaps not as spontaneous as was the timing of our departure. A coworker friend approached me one day in late 2004 to say that she was thinking of visiting her mother, who lives in Antigua, and wondered if I might be interested in joining her on the trip. We briefly discussed travel time frames and agreed that Mar/April would probably best suit us both. The first week of Feb, this same friend appeared at my elbow on the Thursday evening to say that she had just seen an incredible "last minute deal" and could I leave on Monday? (Apparently, I could!)
2. What was your first impression of Antigua? What is the island like in terms of size, main towns and landscape?
One of my initial impressions of Antigua was an unusually green one as the country had received a high volume of rain in recent weeks; the island was just lush! The terrain is hilly boasting a rain forest area and 365 (I can only assume from the handful I experienced) beautiful beaches! It takes about an hour to drive from north to south across the island and we did a four-point tour of pretty much the entire island, complete with lunch and "locations of interest", in about five hours.
The main town, St. Johns, had a visitor's core but was a little confusing once you ventured outside the main tourist area (an area seemingly designed to persuade the many cruise ship passengers that dock there to part with their vacation money).
My very first initial impression of Antigua, perhaps unfortunately, was of the area surrounding the airport itself. Directly around the airport has been built up by an American (?) who is purchasing large portions of the island. The area/ architecture/ impression, although very luxurious, is not really representative of the rest of the island.
3. Where did you stay? Did you go on a package vacation?
We stayed in Dickenson's Bay at a resort called Rex Halcyon Cove. Our package included flight and accommodation only, no meals. (Rumour had it that the food at the resort was uninspirational anyway.) Our first evening, we stumbled around a bit looking for a convenience store to buy some supplies for the room (crackers, pop, etc.) and a place other than the hotel to eat. We were just turning back from an unsuccessful search when we found a tiny store and a fabulous beachside restaurant, called ironically enough "The Beach", which we frequented for the rest of our stay. The rooms at the hotel were very clean and the front desk staff was extremely friendly. Unfortunately, where our room was located was very noisy; we backed on to the service area of an adjoining resort.
4. You mentioned that your trip felt almost like 3 vacations in one. Please tell us more about that.
The trip seemed to have multiple components to it based on the activities we enjoyed and the company we kept. The first two days were very touristy; we explored St. John's and roamed our resort area.
The next two days, we (just my friend and I at this stage as grandmother and granddaughter had gone off together) made some connections with the locals and fell into a wonderful tour of the island with a sweet, young Antiguan man. He took us to his sister's restaurant, on one of those gorgeous Antiguan beaches, for lunch and then that evening, he offered to take us along to hear his brother-in-law's band play at another resort down the road from our hotel. Lastly, our final days were spent in English Harbour sleeping on a sailboat and communing with all the ex-patriots living around Nelson's Dockyard.
5. For a few nights you stayed on a boat as well. How did that come about and what was it like?
Living on the sailboat for a few days was a very unique experience - three adults, one child, two cats and a dog all in a confined space! My coworker's mother has been living in Antigua for 14 years now and her boat is her home. We used little, two-man dinghies to paddle to and from the shore each morning and each night. Although fully equipped with galley and head (toilet), accommodations were a little tight to spend too much time on the sailboat particularly as it rained for the better part of our stay at the harbour.
Now, the head on the boat was an experience in itself - happy thing I am not claustrophobic! The toilet was a tiny closet that you had to step up into from within the cabin of the boat. I was instructed (and good advice at that!) to step up and in with my left foot so that when my right foot followed suit, I would automatically be swung accordingly to 'take a seat'. This process caused me to knock my head on several occasions on the inside roof of the toilet and at 5' 8", I am not as monstrously tall as that might make you imagine me to be! Closing the door once seated simply became optional given the warmth (and sorry but toilets and heat virtually always equal smell) of the tiny cubicle and the lack of knee space - it was simply easier to leave one leg dangling out the door. Modesty went pretty much out the window!
My first night on the boat, with not much persuading, I slept snuggled up in a sleeping bag on the back bench in the cockpit of the boat. It was fabulous to sleep under the stars! I didn't even much mind when it started to drizzle in the early hours of the morning. What was a little harder to ignore was the accumulation of drizzle that began to drip off the rigging and torpedo my head. Torpedoed or not, it was a fantastic experience!
That first night on the boat, we also experienced a rare treat. The harbour waters were so still that night that the lights from the other boats around us could be seen as near mirror images on the surface of the water. My coworker's mother was so excited when she discovered this view that she ran around the boat and woke us all up to see it. It was a lovely sight.
6. You also had a chance to interact with some of the locals. What did you learn about life in Antigua?
One of the most interesting things that I learned about Antigua was the closeness of community. The stories I heard while staying in English Harbour were often about the community rallying together to do good by one of their own or about local business men and their successes. On such a small island, the locals seem to know almost everyone.
7. What is your favourite memory of this trip to Antigua?
There are many very good memories of my trip to Antigua but my favourite remembrance of my holiday is a feeling. It is a warm, sunny feeling I experience when I remember all the things that we did and the people we met over the course of our stay.
Thanks, Leslie, for sharing all those pleasant experiences with us. Good luck for your next adventure (one of which will be our kayaking weekend this summer..)
Susanne Pacher is the publisher of http://www.travelandtransitions.com. It deals with travel to foreign countries and is chock full of advice, tips, real life travel experiences, interviews with travellers, insights, cross-cultural issues, and many other features. Participate in our travel story contest http://www.travelandtransitions.com/contests.htm and win great prizes, a fabulous cruise to the Amazon. Life is a Journey - Explore New Horizons.
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Views expressed in the article are those of the author and are not necessarily the opinions of CaribbeanChoice, its staff or members.