Paradise in ANTIGUA

English Harbor

I have to admit that I have been taken aback at the enthusiasm expressed by the high numbers of readers to my blog on Mauritius.  I've never been there but one can always dream of going.  Perhaps after such receptivity as a travel destination that I would love to visit, I will end up going there.  One can always imagine that at some point, the travel bureau for the island country would extend an invitation to visit to see whether it measures up to the hype resulting from reviewing it and writing about what it has to offer.

It seems appropriate now to write about one of my favorite travel destinations experiences:  Antigua.  January 2017 will mark my 10th wedding anniversary.  It is where we went for our honeymoon.




We spent the big bucks booking our trip through a travel agent after asking Google for the best, most romantic destinations for a honeymoon and the Sandals resort on Antigua was the response.

  

Antigua *source:  WIKIPEDIA

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This article is about the island. For the sovereign state that includes the island, see Antigua and Barbuda. For other places named Antigua, see Antigua (disambiguation). For the Guatemalan city, see Antigua Guatemala.
Antigua
Native nameWaladli or Wadadli
Antigua parishes english.png
Map of Antigua showing the parishes
Caribbean - Antigua.PNG
Geography
LocationCaribbean Sea
Coordinates17°5′N 61°48′WCoordinates17°5′N 61°48′W
ArchipelagoLeeward Islands
Total islands2
Area281 km2 (108 sq mi)
Coastline87 km (54.1 mi)
Highest elevation402 m (1,319 ft)
Highest pointMount Obama / Boggy Peak
Administration
Antigua and Barbuda
Largest settlementSt. John's (pop. 32,000)
Demographics
Population80,161 (2011 Census)
Pop. density285.2 /km2 (738.7 /sq mi)
Ethnic groups91% Black or Mulatto, 4.4% Other Mixed Race, 1.7% White, 2.9% Other

Antigua (/ænˈtɡə/ an-tee-ga),[1] also known as Waladli or Wadadli by the native population, is an island in the West Indies. It is one of the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean region and the main island of the country of Antigua and Barbuda. Antigua and Barbuda became an independent state within the Commonwealth of Nations on 1 November 1981.[2]
Antigua means "ancient" in Spanish after an icon in Seville Cathedral"Santa Maria de la Antigua"—St. Mary of the Old Cathedral.[3] The name Waladli[4] comes from the indigenous inhabitants and means approximately "our own".[citation needed] The island's circumference is roughly 87 km (54 mi) and its area 281 km2 (108 sq mi). Its populationwas 80,161 (at the 2011 Census).[5] The economy is mainly reliant on tourism, with the agricultural sector serving the domestic market.













Flights
Antigua is an unlikely destination from where I live:  Calgary, when there are closer, more direct flights from Western Canada.  However, my new husband and I wanted a unique, memorable experience so we didn't let the flight itinerary discourage us.  




We long to return even though we now know it requires a strong resolve to commit to the taxing flight travel to get there.  We flew out of Calgary in the late evening, to arrive in Toronto in the early hours (about 2 am).  Our travel agent had us booked into the airport hotel to rest.  Upon reflection, I would not recommend the extra expense.  Booking into a hotel in the wee hours with a 7 am wake up call to be at the airport for the rest of the journey was overkill.  We should have just found a corner to put our feet up to nap after going through security and wait for the flight boarding at 9 a.m.




As part of our honeymoon experience, we flew first class the entire trip on Air Canada.  It was a nice  to have the royal treatment, especially given the long flight.  However, I don't recall the flight attendants overly friendly or attentive.  The main goal was to avoid the cramped vacation flights per the norm to allow my 6ft1in hubby more leg room and comfort.  

Hotel
The SANDALS RESORTS brand is a great choice if you are looking for an environment with other couples (COUPLES ONLY) instead of a rowdy party atmosphere of ADULTS ONLY or noisier, rambunctious FAMILY approved.  At the time, the Sandals Grand Antigua was under heavy construction next door.  Our room was at the corner of the resort, right beside the new one, but the noise wasn't an issue.  We went with the Butler experience and that didn't disappoint.  We were on the bottom floor just steps from the ocean, which allowed us to see the moonlight beaming off the water from our comfortable bed with the windows curtains wide open to take in the magnificent beauty.




The couple upstairs were from Toronto and we couldn't help but notice that they had probably frequently traveled with the Butler option because at one point they rudely interrupted our butler with a long list of demands while they were out.  We were much more humble and appreciated the bucket with champagne on ice with fruit and cheese tray he'd have ready for us upon our return from our excursions.



Activities
The nice part about Sandals Resorts is that all the water sports like a Hobie Craft or snorkeling is included in your fees.  It is easy to sign up for snorkeling and even though I was nervous, the captain was very attentive and took my hand, even diving down deep to bring a sea urchin up to place in my hand while hubby had the disposable underwater camera handy to take pictures.



With it being a couples only resort, the onsite activities were geared to its audience.  We had a blast being participants in the Honeymoon Game, even if we were far older than the other contestants.  We didn't win, but we did place respectably 2nd place.   The point being the onsite activities kept honeymoon, anniversaries, weddings, vow renewals in mind.  The nice part being you could be as social as you wanted to be or low key and private.  We met people from the UK and the US who were not just there to honeymoon, many celebrating anniversaries and renewing wedding vows on the beach.  




ATTRACTIONS
We were really thankful that we stepped outside our comfort zone, with our butler as our guide, to hire a taxi for the day to take us around the island to take in the sights.  It was THE way to go.  It ended up costing the same as an excursion fee, with a hefty tip included.  A win win for everyone.  We were able to travel the entire island in a day, stop when we wanted to, with our driver as our host taking us to local specialties like sugar cane freshly chopped or roadside corn on the cob.  Our host and driver was a personal friend of our butler, Rodger.  We thoroughly enjoyed our local tour guide in a spotless, air conditioned van.  He gave us snippets of history, information on life on Antigua, historical tidbits while showing us  the best the island had to offer from a local.  The beauty of this arrangement was his willingness to pull over so that we could take snapshots of quaint tiny churches on a road side.  We visited the lush rain forest that could have been an excursion all on its own (at the same cost as what this cost us for an entire day).




Devil's Bridge
Is a really cool spot on the island where we were told it was the last land mass before West Africa.  The geysers were alarming and unexpected, lending to the wonderful experience and picture taking panorama.




Betty's Hope
Betty's Hope was a sugarcane plantation in Antigua. It was established in 1650, shortly after the island had become an English colony, and flourished as a successful agricultural industrial enterprise during the centuries of slavery.  (SOURCE: Trip Advisor Attraction reviews)




World Cricket
Our host and guide even took us to the stadium under construction for the world cricket cup it was about to host.

Antiguans are more than a little devoted to cricket. The island has historically been a very strong contributor to West Indian and international cricket, and the Antigua Recreation Ground is one of the finest places in the Caribbean to take in a local, regional, or international match. Devotees of the game can visit the Antigua and Barbuda Museum for a look at the infamous cricket bat of Vivian Richards, native Antiguan, former captain of the West Indies Cricket Club, and one of the greatest batsmen of all time. Matches can be found almost anywhere on the island, at almost any time.  SOURCE:  Antigua Barbados.org



Monzerat
One of our favorite excursions was taking a helicopter ride over the island of Monzerat, with its smoldering volcano and eerie setting of devastation.  Unusual sightings was wandering donkeys on the abandoned island.  This trip we booked on our own because our butler and Sandals would not sponsor or endorse it.  It made me wonder if it was truly due to the danger or more because Sandals didn't get a kickback from recommending it to its guests.  




All that can be seen of Plymouth, Montserrat, is a scattering of roofs and the top floors of the tallest buildings, just poking out from a barren landscape of ash and boulders.
The rest of the town is buried: a modern Pompeii slowly being reclaimed by the mountain.
Away from the centre, vegetation has grown over homes and buildings which escaped the pyroclastic flows. In the lobby of a luxury hotel outside town, dusty papers still sit on the reception desk. One of them is a form for hurricane insurance.
Standing amid the ash, Cecil Wade pointed to the Soufrière Hills volcano, still smoking in the distance.
“That is the devil, man,” he said, shaking his head. “That is Satan at work.”
The faint smell of sulfur hung in the air.
In 1995, a series of eruptions began that almost completely destroyed two-thirds of the tiny island, a British overseas territory in the eastern Caribbean some 30 miles from Antigua. Years of ash and boulders from the volcano have buried most of Plymouth, although the town is still officially the capital.  SOURCE:  The Guardian, UK



If you can't stomach a helicopter ride, there are excursions by boat available.




Deep Sea Fishing
Our butler, Rodger, set us up for a deep sea excursion, which included the shuttle from our hotel to the marina.  He thoughtfully paired us up with a pair close to our age who were also celebrating their honeymoon at our resort.  




You should take a gravel before you leave or test your sea legs and stomach on the choppy waters.  Of our group of four, I was the only one that didn't do the heave-ho off the side of the boat.  We all caught something, nothing major like a sword fish, although we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and our company.




Dining
As with any all-inclusive resort, there are a lot of choices for dining without going anywhere.  We discovered the most incredible experiencing just by exploring the shore beaches not far from our resort.  I had a grilled lobster and hubby had his favorite:  tuna.  What was the most delightful of all, was running into our butler with his fiance dining there with another couple.  We had already been thrilled with our experience in finding the gem, but it was still magnified when we discovered it was where the locals went on their time off.  I can still taste how incredible it is, craving another one.



Beach 

Having the white sand and beach only a few steps from our room certainly made our experience worth while.  Even with so much to do, the sound of the gentle lap of the ocean upon the shore with crystal clear water, relaxing was a treat in itself.  In fact, the water was warmer than the pools.




Shopping
In Antigua was lovely.  St. John's was only a 10 minute drive from our hotel, with the shuttle arranged by our butler, Rodger.  We got caught up by the atmosphere of the markets, shops and boutiques.  Even the duty free shops had beautiful jewelry with  As with any stop for cruise ships, the prices went up when the ships docked and settled back down when there weren't any.  There are markets to explore, shops to discover.  The best part was simply talking to the people who were so friendly and welcoming.



ENVIRONMENT
I always seem to associate Antigua with lovely.  Of course, what I call lovely others may think of cleanliness, friendliness & happiness commonly shared by all whom we met.   Unlike Cuba where time has lapsed almost to a standstill caught in a bubble of an era (I will have to blog about that visit later on)::... Cuba was poor, the people seemed worn, downtrodden with Antigua the complete polar opposite side of the Caribbean in what they call the "West Indies".  

The entire island has this verve of being unto a world of its own.  Precariously close to a live by a Volcano and yet far enough east towards Africa to avoid destructive hurricanes that decimate other countries on islands like Haiti.  


I commonly refer to my hubby Rob as the HUNKSTER HUBSTER in earlier posts (which our blended children voice in unison:  "EWWWwwww").  To say he is handsome, may mean that beauty or handsomeness is in the eye of the beholder.  I can attest that he is handsome based on our Honeymoon.  The flight attendants (not gender specific either) fawned over HH bypassing me completely to tip the champagne til the cup almost spillith over onto my lap.  Or his, if I wasn't gritting my teeth and trying to smile to disguise my annoyance.  My hackles stood up when this elegant blonde on the arm of a moneyed boyfriend, pronounced to me and our Japanese dining companion (not an environment where conversations are exactly hush hush to those in the room, including the servers) :::..... she graciously said to me in her wonderful, south United States drawl ::.... "My girl, your husband is the absolutely most beautiful man in the world."  But nothing was going to spoil that honeymoon and memorable trip, where I can still remember seeing the moonlight glimmering serenely off the ocean and hearing the gentle lapping of the waves on the shore, just outside, a butler room with Rodger as our guide::.... *sigh* Antigua::..... can you adopt us?

As we were leaving the luncheon buffet to catch our long journey home, the head waitress, a matronly islander with a gaggle of beautiful young lady locals giggling behind her, asked me:  "You are not taking him back to Canada are you?  Why don't you leave him here?"  No, I didn't feel smug.  I just thought if he can keep his act together and stop saying "irregardless" we could have a long and happy life together.  With 10 years anniversary right around the corner.  Maybe I'll do more virtual travel and dream of other faraway places we could visit to share the start of at least another 10 more.  To infinity and beyond :::.......