It’s the new year already and we are spending the first days of it in Antigua, a lovely island in the Caribbean, about as far south as Nicaragua. The hallmark of this trip is probably the colour of the ocean, a milky turquoise. The weather is generally sunny with sudden very short rain showers that happen at the most inopportune time like when we are out on a Hobie Cat or when a bride is about to enter the wedding gazebo which is at the opposite side of the main pool.
The week started off with a bit of a mix up at the stay and fly hotel. Tripcentral has given me a $100 gift card to use towards parking or stay over hotels. Unfortunately, our hotel in Montreal didn’t seem to know anything about this arrangement. I made a call once at the airport and it was all sorted out quickly. Then there was a 2 hour delay while our plane had some mechanical repairs done. Hey, when your plane needs fixing, you’d rather put up with the delay that the alternative, right? The flight was uneventful, champagne was served, Leon watched a movie while I read. We landed after dark so we could only see the lights of the island but as we disembarked, I sure enjoyed the sight of the tall palms and the hot moist night air hitting me. Ahhhhh, Antigua….
We checked in to our hotel and had time for a very late dinner at the main buffet. The hotel was older, as expected, but the beach was long and lovely. The staff was friendly and helpful, in spite of an overfilled hotel with serious plumbing issues. So our toilet didn’t always work, no biggie! We managed just fine and the staff kept the champagne flowing, much to my delight.
Day one, we booked our tours for the week and a la carte restaurants, which were the Italian restaurant and the seafood restaurant on the beach. We spent the day walking on the beach, looking at the private residences that were available for sale or rent, trying to stay out of the showers by ducking under the many sun shelters that dotted the beach and generally trying to unwind. Good start.
Day two, we took a fantastic catamaran trip that circumnavigated the island, stopped at a private beach for snorkeling and lunch, and generally provided us with some great information on the sights we were viewing. The music was great and added to the Caribbean vibe. There were a few tense moments for some as we hit the Atlantic side and the ocean grew choppy. One lady and her daughter took the brunt of the splashing good naturedly, while one guy got green enough that he had to find his way to the men’s room in a hurry. And one poor woman bounced off her seat and came down hard on her back, so much so that she had to be carried off the ship at the end of the trip. Unfortunately, she spent the week in much discomfort, walking with much difficulty. Not a happy vacation for her. In the meantime, we saw some beautiful homes, notably the one owned by Eric Clapton which sits high on a hill, blending in with nature because of its brown construction with green roof. Very impressive! The private beach was not so private for some. When we arrived, there was a small family, mom, dad and toddler, enjoying a quiet swim. Mom was bathing topless but decided to dress up when she saw a large boat load of tourists arriving for a snorkel and on board lunch. The family must have been relieved to see us go after about 2 hours, only to experience disappointment again as another group of boaters arrived as we were leaving. Oh dear, these things happen…
Day three, New Year’s Eve, we were supposed to go on a jeep tour of the island but I was suffering with my usual post-Christmas stomach problems so we cancelled those plans. I heard at lunch the next day that the roads were very bumpy, so my hip would probably not have enjoyed that trip as much as the boat ride. We took it easy and prepared for a nice dinner and a very colourful musical show, complete with staff members in jungle animal costumes like a peacock, a cheetah and what looked like a figurative lion. We got all dressed up and had some great pictures, but unfortunately, the tech gremlins ate a whole group of pictures as Leon was transferring them to the computer. But believe me, it was a very nice evening! There were lots of weddings in the gazebo that day and I recognized one bride at dinner along with her husband and family. I went over to congratulate them and told her about my secret weapon to guarantee all kinds of privileges at airports, including free champagne; all she has to do is carry her bouquet with her on her trip home so everyone knows she is a newlywed. It worked for me, anyway! The evening was particularly rainy with several showers punctuating our dinner. We were seated outside under a sun umbrella that seemed to drip excessively at times. But the area was filled with more and more guests wanting to get a good view of the show, so chairs were at a premium. We were not about to move from our spot for any reason. So we sat, mostly dry, and enjoyed the evening, meeting some of the other guests as they would stop by our table for shelter throughout the evening.