The Adventurer Next Door – My Friend Leslie in Antigua

My good friend Leslie recently had a chance to go on a trip to Antigua. Although on a package deal, she managed to get in a few adventures off the beaten track and explore the island in her own ways. Here’s her story:

1. You went to Antigua very spontaneously. How did that come up?

The decision to go to Antigua was perhaps not as spontaneous as was the timing of our departure. A coworker friend approached me one day in late 2004 to say that she was thinking of visiting her mother, who lives in Antigua, and wondered if I might be interested in joining her on the trip. We briefly discussed travel time frames and agreed that Mar/April would probably best suit us both. The first week of Feb, this same friend appeared at my elbow on the Thursday evening to say that she had just seen an incredible “last minute deal” and could I leave on Monday? (Apparently, I could!)

2. What was your first impression of Antigua? What is the island like in terms of size, main towns and landscape?

One of my initial impressions of Antigua was an unusually green one as the country had received a high volume of rain in recent weeks; the island was just lush! The terrain is hilly boasting a rain forest area and 365 (I can only assume from the handful I experienced) beautiful beaches! It takes about an hour to drive from north to south across the island and we did a four-point tour of pretty much the entire island, complete with lunch and “locations of interest”, in about five hours.

The main town, St. Johns, had a visitor’s core but was a little confusing once you ventured outside the main tourist area (an area seemingly designed to persuade the many cruise ship passengers that dock there to part with their vacation money).
My very first initial impression of Antigua, perhaps unfortunately, was of the area surrounding the airport itself. Directly around the airport has been built up by an American (?) who is purchasing large portions of the island. The area/ architecture/ impression, although very luxurious, is not really representative of the rest of the island.

3. Where did you stay? Did you go on a package vacation?

We stayed in Dickenson’s Bay at a resort called Rex Halcyon Cove. Our package included flight and accommodation only, no meals. (Rumour had it that the food at the resort was uninspirational anyway.) Our first evening, we stumbled around a bit looking for a convenience store to buy some supplies for the room (crackers, pop, etc.) and a place other than the hotel to eat. We were just turning back from an unsuccessful search when we found a tiny store and a fabulous beachside restaurant, called ironically enough “The Beach”, which we frequented for the rest of our stay. The rooms at the hotel were very clean and the front desk staff was extremely friendly. Unfortunately, where our room was located was very noisy; we backed on to the service area of an adjoining resort.

4. You mentioned that your trip felt almost like 3 vacations in one. Please tell us more about that.

The trip seemed to have multiple components to it based on the activities we enjoyed and the company we kept. The first two days were very touristy; we explored St. John’s and roamed our resort area.

The next two days, we (just my friend and I at this stage as grandmother and granddaughter had gone off together) made some connections with the locals and fell into a wonderful tour of the island with a sweet, young Antiguan man. He took us to his sister’s restaurant, on one of those gorgeous Antiguan beaches, for lunch and then that evening, he offered to take us along to hear his brother-in-law’s band play at another resort down the road from our hotel. Lastly, our final days were spent in English Harbour sleeping on a sailboat and communing with all the ex-patriots living around Nelson’s Dockyard.

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