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The Caribbean Contessa

The Incredible Island of Antigua Continued!

sunny

We just finished up with all of the Derby activities here in Louisville, Kentucky, and what an exciting week it was! With all of the air shows, fireworks celebrations, galas, parades, brunches, lunches, dinners and tastings, I am thrilled to sit still for a few moments and provide you with more awesome information on Antigua!

Speaking of special events, April and May are very exciting times
in Antigua as well! The Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta was held
April 19-24th! Mark your calendar, because the 2008 Regatta will
be held April 18th-23rd. What an event!

The Regatta has maintained a steady growth since its 1988 birth
with 7 boats. It now hosts between 50 and 60 yachts every year and enjoys a wonderful variety of competitors including traditional
crafts from the islands, classic ketches, schooners, and many more!
For more information about the Regatta or about joining the Antigua
Yacht Club, please visit www.antiguayachtclub.com.

The sailing excitement doesn't stop with the Regatta in Antigua!
The 40th Stanford Antigua Sailing Week just wrapped up! Sailing week commenced with Race 1 on April 29th and ended on May 4th! To check all of the entries and the results, go to www.sailingweek.com.

There are several other fabulous events that are a "must see" in
Antigua, depending upon the time of year you visit.

For the tennis lovers out there, Antigua hosts Tennis week around the second week in May each year, with a pro-am tournament and
exhibition games. www.thetennischannel.com

Carnival takes place later in the summer. This is a fabulous 10-day
island wide celebration filled with music, costumes, and floats!
Highly recommended by "yours truly"! www.antiguacarnival.com

In the past, I have visited in October during the Antiguan Jazz
Festival, a celebration of Afro and Caribbean styles and fusion.
What fun!

In my last entry, we visited awesome sites on the south end of the
island. We have also discussed many of the exciting special events
held on the island. Now, let's move from the south end of the island
toward the east, to Indian Town, another of Antigua's fabulous
national parks!

It is here at Indian Town that you will discover a sight that will
leave even the most seasoned traveler awestruck. Devils Bridge is
definitely an Antigua "must see". In fact, I have been to Antigua
many times, and have never left the island without a Devils Bridge
visit. It is an amazing testament to the power of nature!

Devil's Bridge is surrounded by both the Atlantic Ocean and the
Caribbean Sea. In fact, it can easily be seen where both bodies of
water meet! The rough Atlantic Ocean battering against the
shoreline has created this awesome bridge-like structure. The deep
swells and raging waters are continuously crashing into the Bridge
posing quite a challenge for those who dare to actually walk across
it! Not recommended, by the way!

Moving a bit to the northwest, we now encounter the capital of St.
John's. St. John's is a large, neatly laid-out town that I find
unbelievably charming! It has cobblestone sidewalks,
weather-beaten wooden houses with corrugated iron roofs and
louvered Caribbean verandas!

Much of Antigua's shopping can be found here on St. Mary's Street
or High Street. You will find duty-free items including English
woolens and linens, local pottery, straw work, rum, hand-printed
fabrics and more.

My favorite is to visit St John's on a Saturday morning and make a
stop at the fruit and vegetable market at the south end of Market
Street. Oh my! You just have to try a big juicy Antiguan black
pineapple! There is not another fruit quite like it! It makes my
mouth water just thinking about it!

Okay, now it's time to get down to some serious business. Let's
talk beaches!

There is a very nice beach on the South end of the island, near
English Harbor, called Pigeon Point. The only reason I tend to shy
away from this beach is that it is often very crowded,especially
when a cruise ship is in port. However, its calm water makes it
ideal for snorkelers and swimmers of most ages and
abilities.

Dickenson Bay, on the northwest side of the island, directly north
of St. John's is my favorite! It has a very wide mile-long strip
of powder-soft sand and blissfully calm turquoise waters. You can
rent watersports equipment at a nearby hotel, and there are plenty
of refreshments available at the casual bars and restaurants nearby.

One of the best snorkeling spots, in my humble opinion, is just
north of Dickinson Bay and is called Paradise Reef. The locals
have taken a group of us to snorkel there several times, and the
coral gardens are incredible!

If you are looking for a quiet and secluded getaway, then head
southwest to Johnson's Point. It is located just below Jolly
Harbor, and though very romantic, please note that it has no
facilities.

Near Johnson's Point, on the southwest coast, you will find
Turner's Beach. This is one of the best beaches for sunbathing.
You can lie in the tropical sun and be cooled at the same time by
the constant trade winds. If the day is clear, you can also see
the volcanic island of Montserrat!

Heading east, you will encounter Carlisle Bay. Against a backdrop
of coconut groves, the calm Caribbean meets the more turbulent
Atlantic. Wow! I have never seen water such a beautiful hue of
blue! You have to see it to believe it! Gorgeous!

Driftwood Beach is directly north of Johnson's Point, in the
southwest. It is a very nice beach that sits close to villas and a
marina, so it can, at times, get a bit crowded.

In the same vicinity is Darkwood Beach. The snorkeling here is
great, and once again, you have the tradewinds to keep you cool.

If you continue north toward St John's and cut west at the turnoff
for Five Islands, you will reach the four Hawksbill Beaches on the
Five Islands Peninsula. The beaches are beautiful here- great
clear blue water for snorkeling! On one of these beaches, you can
sunbathe and swim in the buff. However, being the innocent and
naïve daughter that I am--Mom and Dad, I have no idea which beach
that is! For my readers, just email me for the name of that
particular beach!

Another of Antigua's beautiful beaches is Half Moon Bay, which
stretches for nearly 1 mile on the southeastern coast. The
Atlantic surf is usually a little rough, but that doesn't stop a
never-ending stream of windsurfers! The beach is now a public park
and ideal for a family outing.

As you can see Antigua's claim to have a different beach for every
day of the year carries some credibility! No matter your interest,
there is definitely a beach for you!

Now that we have taken a tour of the island, I would like to make
some suggestions on how you can take a similar tour when you get
there! It all depends on where you stay and what you want to do.

If you stay at one of the out of the way hotels, then you will
probably want to rent a car. If you want to hang around the hotel
or all-inclusive resort, then there is no need.

Though the public transportation is sparse, taxis are available to
get you wherever you need to go at reasonable prices.

Travel buses handled by private companies also offer transportation,
along with tour guides, between tourist locations. For those who
are unsure of where to go, or would choose to have someone else do
the itinerary planning, tour buses are an option for low-hassle travel.

If you are like me and would like more freedom in your travels or
would like to explore more of the island on your own, then renting
a car is an excellent option for you.

There are many rental agencies on the island that can help you obtain your Antiguan driver's permit, which is only $20 for 3 months. Car rentals cost about $40-$50 a day and require a valid driver's license, in addition to the Antigua permit.

Just a few words of caution when you choose to rent a car. Get
detailed directions before you leave for your destination. There
are no accurate or comprehensive maps of Antigua, and road signs
are all but non-existent. Also, the roads are in a variable state
of quality, with numerous pot-holes and areas where there is no
pavement. Beware of the wandering livestock and the pedestrians
who regard the roads as sidewalks. And, remember to always drive
on the left side of the road. Other than that, it's a breeze! Ha! Ha!

Antigua's hotels are generally small, and many are closed during
the summer. Air conditioning is uncommon except in first-class
hotels. An 8.5% government tax and a service charge of between 10% and 15%, depending on your hotel, are added to your hotel bill,
which makes quite a difference in your final tab.

Antigua has lots of expensive hotels and resorts, but there are
ways you can bring down the prices. Consider buying a package that includes numerous luxury condo and 3, 4, and 5 star hotel options in the islands.

Your choice of where to stay is crucial. Those who prefer the
trade winds, the breaking waves, and the dramatic scenery should
stay on the northwest side, north of the capital of St. John's. If
you want to spend most of your vacation at one resort, venturing
out only occasionally, try the remote southern coast. History
buffs interested in atmosphere, should try closer to the English
Harbor. If a good beach is critical, then your options are endless,
and I highly recommend Dickenson Bay on the Northwest side of the
island.

I always enjoy watching the food network to get new ideas for meals
at home and meals for entertaining. One thing I have noticed while
viewing the shows that profile master chefs is that many of the
restaurants profiled are in Antigua. Located near, or inside
hotels makes getting to awesome dining spots in Antigua easy!

While Antigua offers many varieties of food, it boasts a particular
flair for fusion cuisine, mixing tropical ingredients with
international dishes and methods of cooking. Many of these
restaurants treat dining as a whole experience and include live
music and entertainment to go with the food.

I always make a point to sample more traditional island fare. If
you have taste buds of steel, as I do, you must try some of the
traditionally prepared foods. Spicy and wonderful!

Antiguan cuisine is known for its pepperpot soup, fungi, ducana, salt
codfish, roast suckling pig, and many varieties of blackened seafood. I adore the blackened seafood!

The prices can range anywhere from $7 to $70. However, regardless of your price range, the fresh catches from the sea (including red
snapper, mahi mahi, shark, conch, and shrimp)and an array of local
produce guarantee interesting, unique and delicious meals!

I have my favorite dining experiences, which I am happy to share
here! However, for a full listing of options throughout Antigua,
go to www.everytingantigua.com.

In St. John's, my favorite casual spot is Big Banana-Pizzas in
Paradise. This is a marvelous place to get pizza, chicken
sandwiches and salads. In addition to the good food, the ambience
of the restaurant adds to the dining experience, as the restaurant
is housed in an eighteenth century warehouse originally used to
store rum. It retains wood flooring and stone archways to give
diners a feel for the old building. On Thursday evenings, a reggae
band entertains.

My favorite seafood restaurant in St. John's is a dive called Papa
Zouk. The word "zouk" stands for French Creole music with strong
African influence, and that is certainly what you get here! If you
like seafood, zouk, and rum, you've come to the right place!

Papa Zouk is known for it's extensive collection of rums. Its signature
tropical drink is called Ti-punch and is well worth a try. The
pan-fried red snapper is awesome! The house special is the
Carnival Platter, a medley of seafood such as mussels, scallops,
and shrimp!

Alberto's is one of the most stylish and cosmopolitan restaurants
on Antigua. You'll find it close to the edge of the sea near the
St. James Club, in an open-sided pavilion lavishly draped with
bougainvillea. The owner's frequent travels have inspired the
menu's satisfying medley of Italian, French and Continental dishes.

My pick is the ravioli stuffed with asparagus and shrimp! Other
excellent choices include zesty pasta with fresh local clams;
savory stuffed crabs; and fresh wahoo steak with sautéed onion,
garlic and rosemary sauce!

Coconut Grove is north of St. John's in a coconut grove right on
the beach. It has simple tables on a flagstone floor beneath a
thatch roof. This is one of the island's best! Soup is prepared
fresh daily from local ingredients like ginger, carrot, and
pumpkin. Lobster and shrimp dishes figure prominentlyl, along with
a catch of the day and a daily vegetarian special. (much to the
delight of my vegetarian friend, Debbie!) During happy hour at the
bar (4-7), all drinks are half price.

George is in the home of owner Philip George-John. In his restored
Georgian family manse, the host will feed you well and show you a
good time. Many of the daily specials are based on longstanding
Antiguan recipes.

The best time to go for an authentic experience is on Saturday, when island specialties are served, including goat water, souse, conch water, and pepperpot stew. For dessert, trythe creamy rice pudding!

You will quickly discover that Antiguans take their ribs seriously,
and George-John prepares the best I've ever tasted! The ribs are
slow roasted with a caramelized passion-fruit and pineapple glaze.
Yes, they are as good as they sound!

Lastly, The Sticky Widget can be found next to a cricket field and
this restaurant allows you to watch a match while you eat! It's
one of the islands most popular sports-oriented gathering spots!
The food is not that of your typical sports bar, as exemplified by the
west Indian pork rib plate or the grilled lamb souvlakia. The
soups and salads are always fresh and homemade, including Antiguan
lobster bisque or an East Indian curried chicken salad mixed with
toasted coconut and fresh fruit.

In my next entry of "The Island Lover's Guide to the Caribbean", I
will take you to the islands of Barbuda and Montserrat. They both
make wonderful day trips from Antigua!

Posted by Contessa 08:17 Archived in Antigua and Barbuda Tagged luxury_travel Comments (0)

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