Thursday, July 23, 2009

Vacation Archives: Antigua part 3. Nelson's Dockyard and Shirley Heights

   Knowing absolutely nothing about Nelson's Dockyard except that it is Antigua's  premier tourist attraction and that it is a restored Naval yard, James and I excitedly set out in a hired taxi to go check it out.  when we got there, again we were the only tourists in the whole dockyard.  (see figure a. below for full effect. Here you will see James, the only person in sight, in front of the Copper Lumber store. Built in 1789, it was used for.... you guessed it! Storing copper and lumber which were used to repair the ships.  It now functions as a hotel.)  We told the cab driver to pick us up in 4 hours, not knowing that all could be seen in a matter of 1/2 hour.  Don't get me wrong, it was a beautiful area. The Yacht marina was very picturesque. The splendidly restored Georgian stone buildings along with the scattering of antique ship anchors against the backdrop of the electric blue water brought us back to another time.  but after an hour, we had walked around twice taking our time and admiring the scenery. there was only one thing left to do....

                                                                      figure a.

So we headed past the massive pillars that once belonged to the old Boat house and Sail loft and over to the Admiral Inn, which used to be the Pitch and Tar Store.  Here we drank the most Amazing Banana Daiquiris amidst the most peaceful (partly because we had it all to ourselves) patio bar overlooking the lush greenery, crystal blue harbor, and the only remaining Georgian Dockyard in the world.  When we decided it was time to call the Cab driver to pick us up early, he told us that he had been waiting in the Parking Lot because he knew that we would be sooner than 4 hours.

I wish I had remembered this cab driver's name. I can't really even call him a cab driver, he was more of a tour guide really. He told us all about the history of Antigua as well as his personal history as he drove us past all of the houses in which he used to live.  After Nelson's Dockyard, he brought us to Shirley Heights, an old Military complex and lookout, which stood high above English Harbor and Nelson's Dockyard, to shield it from attack.  As you can see from the photo below the view was like none other and this photo does not even do it Justice.

Below Shirley Heights is Blockhouse Hill which overlooks the south side of the Island and contains a large gunpowder store.  This area is a National Park and has been left wild. Above you can see our guide/cab driver explaining the Century plant to us. You can see one in this picture in the distance between James and our Guide. It is a relative of the Agave plant and was named "Century" plant because it was believed to flower every 100 years. Later it was found out that they actually flower about once every 28 years.  I happened to be almost 28 while the one in the background was flowering.

Blockhouse Hill also had many wandering goats or so I thought. It turns out that these are actually native sheep although they closely resemble goats.  You can tell the difference because the sheep keep their tails down while the goats keep their tails up.  Thank goodness for this because I have very bad luck with goats as I was once chased half a mile on my bicycle by an angry goat when I was twelve-years-old.  This was the day that I discovered my amazing knack for Goat imitations. While stopped with my bike to see the animals at the farm down the street from my house, I called the goat over to pet him with my very best "bah".  This "Bah" must have been a very bad word in Goat-speak as it angered him to the point that he came charging towards me, leapt the fence, and chased me down the street while I pedaled like I was training for the Tour de France all the way back home. We did not have this experience in Antigua and as James was aware of my experience with goats, i was given strict orders to keep all animal noises to myself.

Vacation vault: Antigua part 2, St. Johns

Before I begin this post, I should tell you that I'm really not one of those gullible tourists that more savvy world travelers often scoff at. so please don't judge me for the following incidents.

St. Johns was a very interesting experience for us. I think we went in the afternoon on the 2nd day of our trip and did not go back after that. It's amazing to see how much the town relies on tourism. at the time we were there, there were no cruise ships in the harbor so it was like a ghost town. It was strange to be the only non-locals walking around. The Areas that were designated for tourists were creepily deserted. This guy in the below 2 pictures must have been desperate for some naive cruise ship patron to swindle. Instead he got me. I was actually in a cigar shop with James when this man came in and commented on all the mosquito bites I had on my arms and legs (this was before I had tanned enough to get rid of them.) He was holding an Aloe plant by the roots and he said he wanted to show me something outside that would help my bites. I don't know why I agreed. I may have been tipsy, or just curious. Partially I think I did it just for the photo op.

we went outside the shop and I let this lovely Rasta man rub an aloe plant on my legs and arms as you can see below. This was not my finest hour. After all was said and done, the man looked at my Boyfriend and said, "That will be twenty dollars U.S." we came to find out that everything in this town was "twenty dollars U.S." Not my most intelligent moment either. I certainly learned my lesson, never let strange men rub plants on you. Although, I could make a fortune ripping up aloe plants on the side of the road and selling them to unassuming tourists. If I'm ever in a situation where I have no job and I can't afford to pay my rent, I may just set up a hut down there and do that.

I thought I should throw in a photo of St. Johns Cathedral the Anglican church in St. Johns. The church in this photo was built in the Neo-Baroque style in 1845 after the previous two constructions were destroyed in earthquakes in 1745 and 1843. What makes this church most famous are the 2 bronze St. John statues, St. John the Baptist and St. John who gave the church it's name, which are on top of the church's southern pillars. These were supposedly stolen from French Warships during a battle in the mid 18th century.
Again... we were the only people there. It was kind of nice, yet strange. The Cathedral was located well into the town atop a big hill far from any other tourist destination. The doors to the cathedral were wide open and a couple of nice dogs came running out to greet us and as you can see from the image below, they were extremely friendly and followed us around the grounds for the entirety of our little visit to the Cathedral..... Yet not one other human was there.... very strange.

The picture Below is from one of James' moments of shame. At the time this was a very dramatic experience for us but I had to take a photo for posterity and as a reminder to him to never get caught in this situation again. We were walking through the streets and passed a sign for a Casino. as you can see from this picture. It was a hole-in-the-wall , very shady place. This lovely man in the white shirt with the chest hair's sticking out, was fully decorated in gold chains, watches, and rings. I assume to him they were the equivalent of a badge or a victory medal that a soldier would get for winning a battle. James' eyes lit up when we saw the run down building, to which I immediately interjected with a very stern, "NO". This did not work as he already had his wallet out. The game was some sort of Keno with an air machine full of little numbered balls floating around. You had to keep shelling out money to pick more balls. I'm sure the whole thing was rigged and the winning numbers were weighted so that they would never get pulled. He let James win a few rounds to get him hooked and then proceeded to take all of his money and some of mine. I think we lost about $250 US, and I kept saying, "James this is a scam lets go!" finally when he asked me for more money, I refused and was really rude to the slimy casino worker as I physically dragged James out of the Casino. Once we were outside in the sunlight, it was as if James was under a magician's spell and he just came to his senses again, as the words, " Oh My God, I can't believe I just did that" spilled out of his mouth. With hung heads we dragged our feet back to the taxi station and headed back to the resort, neither of us uttering another word for the rest of the trip back.

Vacation Archives: Antigua, May 2008

Last May, My Beau, James, and I ventured out for our first vacation together. After a far too extensive amount of research on the Caribbean Islands, James decided on Antigua and I readily agreed having become exhausted with the search. We chose Hawksbill by Rex Resorts. This Gem of a resort is set within 37 acres of lush tropical forrest with 4 private beaches to choose from. The above photo was our favorite, "Seagrapes beach" aptly named for the Sea Grape trees that provided James with shelter from harsh Caribbean Sun. I, on the other hand, spent the majority of the first 3 days trying to get as brown as humanly possible. One of the joys of being half-Indian is making my freckled friends jealous of how amazingly tan I can get.

Because of James' aversion to the sun, he spent most of the time in the water working on his new-found love for snorkeling. Watching him toss around in the water was like watching a 5-year-old learning to ride a bike. As funny as he looked doing it, he was heartwarmingly adorable and the look on his face was priceless.

I purchased an underwater housing for my point and shoot just special for this trip. while there was not a whole lot to shoot underwater I thoroughly enjoyed taking shots of the beach while halfway in the water. ok, that is a lie. there was plenty of sea life even right off our beach, but I had some difficulty co-ordinating the Camera with my snorkel gear while swimming. I guess I'll just have to go on more tropical vacations until I get it down pat.

I love this picture. I look immense, like I might be carrying sextuplets or even more! look out John and Kate! Someone should make a cartoon character based on this shadow. So this is mainly how the first couple of days went for us at Hawksbill. We relaxed, ate, drank delicious Caribbean cocktails, exploring the grounds and taking in the amazing sights. It was absolute paradise. Hawksbill is definitely the place to go if you are looking to relax.

-The Excursionista