Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Antigua...My New Favourite Island! (March 20)

And here is the flag of Antigua...doesn't it look happy!
Our arrival in Antigua started with a beautiful sunrise.

And a little history...Christopher Columbus first sighted Antigua on his second voyage to the Americas in 1493, but he was busy trying to find a route to the Far East for gold and spices, and paid it little attention. The British came and established sugar cane plantations using slave labour from Africa. This prosperous industry continued until slavery was abolished in 1834, and the economy was hard hit. It did remain an important industry in Antigua. In 1967, led by V.C. Bird, Antigua achieved some independence from Britain and gained full independence in 1981. Approximately 86,000 people live on the island.

We sailed past a lot of little islands…

You could barely spot the remains of this fortress on the hill…

Lots of big houses with beautiful views…

A ship slowly rusting away…

We docked beside two Canadian frigates named Moncton and Summerside (go Maritimes!)…what the heck are they doing here??

Pretty little dock area…we had a Cruise Critic tour planned today. Jim opted out as it was a long tour and it was going to be hot. The group was large at 38 people, so when the driver announced 3 vans of 22 people, 10 people and 6 people, Barb put her hand up for the 6 and I joined in.

And we were off on our tour. A different kind of divided highway!

Here is a huge statue of V.C. Bird who was instrumental in Antigua gaining its independence. Our guide, Joyce, called him “a good guy.”

Antigua has found a market in producing sheet metal roofing which has helped with the loss of the sugar cane industry.

Ginger Fast Food…cute!

It was Sunday and Antigua has lots and lots of churches. It was nice to see the ladies all dressed up in their "church going" clothes.

These sheet metal roofs are in abundance and in many different colours.

And another church…

These are some monster homes!

And some smaller adorable, well-kept houses…

One of the remnants of the 17th and 18th century windmills used to grind and break up the sugar cane. There are 109 still remaining on the island. The island is only about 108 square miles, so imagine how many there must have been at one time!

And then we stopped at St. Barnabas church which was built in 1842 and expanded in 1989 keeping the same style.


The choir…

Lots of different materials used for the church…


We quietly stuck our heads in during the service... 

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Our next stop was Nelson’s Dockyard National Park with a bay full of sailing ships.


We went into the Interpretation Centre.

Oh, the fantastic flowers!


Some murals showing earlier Island life…

The presentation in the Centre was excellent. We sat on swivel stools and turned while movies on TVs around the room played. These figures beneath the screens lit up. It looks a little corny out of context, but it really was very well done.

Lord Nelson who was a “whipper snapper” and ended up annoying everyone…


To the things it is known for today…cricket players, beaches and Carnival…

Beautiful yachts…


You could see how this would have been a great place to spot approaching ships in early times.


One of the guides explaining the early history…

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We left this area and headed past the small ticket office.

And past the remains of forts and soldiers' barracks…



The views were just incredible…

It was a long way down without any guard rails…

This compound, which includes a recording studio, belongs to Eric Clapton.

Me with Joyce…she was such a great tour guide. Nothing was any problem and she kept us moving along, but in a nice way. She had the best laugh! It reminded me of the baboon, Rafiki, in the Lion King. Every time Joyce laughed, you just had to laugh with her.

This was “Sexy Lou” who proclaimed herself as Joyce’s friend and said we had to come and see her jewellery which we did. I bought two necklaces for $20…you couldn’t beat the price.

Joyce knew all the great photo places. You can sort of see Montserrat in the distance, which has an active volcano.

Denise and Graham from Australia, me, Barb, Christine (whom I met at breakfast one day and asked if she would like to take Jim’s place on the tour) and Ed.

Our next stop was Shirley Heights, with the best panoramic views in Antigua. Everywhere we went it was so clean with beautiful flower arrangements.

The guard house lookout was built in 1791 and the occupants were responsible for maintaining the four guns on the gun platform and the signal post.

Look at these crazy cacti…

And the yacht down below…

A picture postcard view!

Another of Joyce’s favourite photo stops…

You could see the remains of another fortress down below…

Ed and his “two” wives…

A different cactus!

Look at this bougainvillea tree with two different coloured blooms...so pretty.

The island colours…they just make you feel happy.

And then we were back at ground level again…

At this point our tour took us into Nelson's Dockyard. This dockyard was very important during the British rule as it allowed ships to be cleaned and repaired without having to return to England. This ensured that the British kept a permanent presence in the trading colonies of the Caribbean. Forts were built to protect the dockyard from French privateers who were lured to the area by the lucrative sugar cane industry. Today it remains one of the only operating dockyards from that era in its original form.


Third grade students were given a project to design totem poles using symbols of the early Arawak Indians and other tribes to describe Antigua's history.

One of the early post-boxes…

Joyce was amazing. The walk into the dockyard was uneven and it was very hot, so she ran over and got a special pass to drive into the dockyard, and picked up anyone along the way who needed a ride. Here she is whizzing past with Barb riding shotgun!

The various buildings in the dockyard now house boutiques…

This area will be filled with huge yachts when Race Week is held in April. It is a bigger party than Carnival. I can just imagine what some of the yachts will look like!

This 1855 house, for the Naval Office and Storekeeper, was one of the last to be built in the dockyard.

Tell it like it is!

Filled with mangos…

Barb and Allen taking a break…

A photo shoot was going on and two models (one wearing a yellow bikini and cowboy boots) sauntered over to these yachts. That got a lot of the men’s attention!

The house on the hill is where Princess Margaret spent her honeymoon…

Shirley was on the larger bus, and we waved to her as we left the dockyard.

Awww…look at the colours and pattern on the baby goat.

Antigua license plate…land of the Sea and Sun!

A cute name for a restaurant…Grace Before Meals!

Hee-haw!

We rounded this corner and Christine shouted “Slow Down!” She wanted to take a picture of the guy with the dreadlocks, but we started saying “Oooohhh…Christine’s in loo-ve!”

Joyce took her over to the guy, whom she had known since he was a boy, and Christine had her picture taken with him. Lots of teasing after that one!

Precious Joyce…

And then we arrived at the Devil’s Bridge…the colours of the water were so beautiful and it was so clear. Some swanky hotels in the background.

It was fun to try to catch a wave. Thank heavens for digital photography!

A little boy flying his kite.

This made for very tricky walking…

In front of the Devil’s Bridge, which is a blowhole in the rocks.

The waves come in under the ledge and spray up through a hole on the left. Depending on the wave, it can make a hollow blowing sound.

Here comes a wave…

And sploosh! Up through the hole!

The hole where the waves come up...

The Veranda Hotel and the Grand Pineapple…two resorts at the Devil’s Bridge that looked really nice.

Our last stop of the day was at Longbay Beach…

The sploosh in the water farther out was a pelican diving for fish!

Beautiful beach where we finally got to go for a swim.


Watch the pelicans diving!

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You can hear me saying “dive you crazy bird” and Christine deciding she’d like a beer!

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It was pretty amazing!

That rum punch had a real kick! We all agreed it had been a magical day. I just wished Jim could have joined us.

A game of soccer on the beach…and it was time to go.

Joyce told us that Berlusconi, the Italian PM, had a house here and took us down this narrow road to show it to us.

Where the local fisherman tie up their boats...

Look at the beautiful conch shells that were just laying there!

Another tiny church…

This house was built by a politician who pilfered $4 million from the government. The house has never been lived in. We got the impression there might be a bit of corruption on the island!

A group of cyclists roared past…

The football stadium…

The remains of one of the sugar cane factories. It is slowly deteriorating...

And then we were back in town and our fantastic day was over…

Back to the ship!

Barb and Ed after a sun-filled day!

Lovely big church in the background which we missed seeing!

That might have been the end of our lovely day, except Christine dropped by our cabin to return a whole $5 I had lent her. We invited her in to watch the sailaway on our balcony.

Goodbye to beautiful Antigua…

Barb and Ed soon joined us and we shouted “Yay Canada” to anyone we saw near the Canadian frigates. They waved…we need to bring a Canadian flag next time! By this time, we had cleaned out the mini fridge of any wine and beer!

Taken by Aeron from room service, who made a few trips with wine, more wine and crackers and cheese.

Jim and Aeron…the more we drank, the bigger the tips got! Funny how that happens...

Sailing away…

It gets dark fast! Christine and Jim discussing world affairs...

And we all headed to dinner where several more bottles of wine were consumed. All in all, a great day! Gina’s adorable penguin greeted us when we got back!

Our next (and last) stop...St. Thomas, the US Virgin Islands...

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