I accepted a generous invitation from my daughter, Charmaine and her husband, John to join them on their family holiday, planned mainly for relaxation.
The location chosen was ideal! From the moment we set foot in Antigua we found ourselves in a different world–a warm, welcoming, carefree world, where hustle and bustle was not the order of the day, and time was of little consequence.
The views from our villa in Antigua Village on Condo Beach were truly serene and inspirational. The gentle waters of the calm Caribbean Sea lapping the shore, lined with coconut palms growing in unspoiled splendour. While all around us, the tropical gardens, lush and luxuriant, were enhanced by the richness of colour. In my mind’s eye I can still see the many varieties of multicoloured crotons…the climbing, ornamental bougainvillaea, their long, slender arms displaying masses of flowers enclosed in paper-like bracts in varied shades and hues from red to deep magenta…hosts of spectacular canna lilies standing proud and tall…plants and shrubs, oleander, hibiscus, spider lilies, in full-blooming profusion–intermingling with heavily laden fruit trees: banana, lime and pomegranate, to name but a few. Palms gracing the area around the freshwater swimming pool–while the large, spreading flamboyant flame tree invites us to shade from the burning sun, under its sheltering branches. At sunrise, when the sun was at its kindest, we decided on our own individual choices to start the day: a dip in the warm sea, a cup of tea on the beach, or an extra lie-in. I spent the early hours imbibing the fresh sights and fragrant smells of the gardens on a new day, while watching in amazement the aerobatic antics of petite exotic birds and hovering humming birds. Faithful dawn visitors who came to sip the nectar from the flowers and drink the fresh juices of the hanging fruit, which they pierced with their sharp beaks. A very healthy breakfast indeed!
Antigua has had an historic, turbulent past–
Names that will last–
The Cenotaph in the St John area is conspicuous–a memorial to the men who lost their lives in the two world wars. We shopped in the Arcade, and bargained with street traders in the area around Redcliffe Quay, which was once part of a large slave-holding compound.
The silent windmills stand in mute testimony at Betty’s Hope. The sight brought to mind poignant memories of vast sugar plantations and slave labour. Betty, in the long ago, had hoped that no slave in her charge died after the torturous practice of branding!
We visited Nelson’s Dockyard in the heart of the National Park–once (1700) one of Britain’s main naval bases. Landlocked bases formed within an old volcano cone with a narrow passage to the sea. Now, a major Caribbean yachting centre, placid and picturesque.
We were treated to an interesting fifteen-minute show at the Dow Hill’s Interpretation Centre, where we gained an enlightened insight into Antigua’s history, people and culture.
We drove to a high point in the National Park, Shirley Heights Lookout. Once a British signal station giving warning of approaching enemy ships, named after General Shirley, Governor of the Leeward Islands 1780. The impressive vista was breathtakingly beautiful–but thoroughly enjoyable was the non-stop music provided by the Caribbean steel band with barbecue, jump-up and ambience, held in the Ordnance Building where once shot was stored!
To stand on Devil’s Bridge and witness nature’s handiwork over the centuries, we went out to an extreme eastern point of the island. We climbed high up over the rocks and gazed in awe at the amazing spectacle: powerful, thunderous Atlantic breakers swept in at the end of a 3000-mile fetch from Africa, with enormous swells and pounding energy. The lower part of the rock has been worn away and a natural limestone arch has been carved out with spectacular blowholes created, through which the spouting surf crashed out onto the rocks. We can only gaze and contemplate the wonder of it all!
We came into contact with many local people from different walks of life. Our impression is that they are a very agreeable, very helpful, deeply religious people who lead simple, uncomplicated lives. On a Sunday morning, places of worship are full to capacity with families young and old in the Sunday best. We chose to join the congregation in the Catholic Church. It was a happy, uplifting experience!
At sunset time, in the cool of the evening, on most days of our vacation we took our ritual, leisurely, family, mile-long walk along the pink Sands of Dickenson Bay in the cool sea breeze with the sea at our feet. We talked about the events of the day as we walked down to the cliff at the end of they bay and back again to Antigua Village–the climax to each day.
Antigua–a little, peaceful island lying in the Caribbean, bathed in sunshine, beauty and simplicity, where one can value the quiet moments of one’s life, and balance one’s lifestyle with true contentment.
In the words of the poet William Blake:
To see the world in a grain of sand
And heaven in a wild flower;
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour!