I always try and spend my birthday abroad – ever since a mass misunderstanding on my thirtieth it just seemed easier… This year, checking out the cheap flights available, I landed on Antigua as my destination. The Caribbean has never made it high on my list before, but the diving is of course meant to be superb, and that seemed like a good enough excuse for a week away from the office.
I hired a villa from TT Villa Rentals – nice place, but a long way out on the north finger of Jolly Harbour – luckily I don’t mind a walk as it was over a mile to the local shop. Having nothing planned by 8 dives and a lot of reading, the view from the balcony had seemed on paramount importance when booking, and I was not disappointed! However, in typical fashion, I spent only a few hours sitting around, and instead was exploring local beaches, St John’s (the capital city, although Wickford High Street is about three times as big, and busier even on quiet days). July is distinctly off-season for Antigua, but that suits me down to the ground – the beaches were quiet, the restaurants didn’t need booking and planning, and there was no competition for tickets to, well anything.
Apart from the diving (I’ll write about that separately), I did a pretty limited amount of sight-seeing:
Nelson’s Dockyard – pretty place, lovely waterfront cafes to sit in, and really amazing pineapple turnovers made this place a fun stop.
Betty Hopes Plantation – the ruins are almost hidden by the encroaching forest nowadays, but the restored sugar mill stands tall and dominates the surrounding area. The tiny museum is full of old photos that are worth more than a cursory glance to someone wanting to understand something of the Islands recent history.
Kayaking – around the mangroves. This was a lot of fun (although I seem to remember saying to the individual who helped me plan this day “something away from the water would be good…”. The mangrove trees are smaller than I had imagined, and the water is incredibly shallow. Peering into the mangroves, you could quite easily get a bit of a shock – tiny black crabs running up and down the roots, fish hiding from predators – a proper little ecosystem.
Jolly Harbour – more of a giant villa complex than a sight per say, but the harbour is great for walking and full of interesting boats and people coming and going. I learnt to gut and prepare a lionfish standing at the waters edge on my first day…pretty tasty when fried!
North Finger Beach – my favourite local beach – I never had to share it with anyone! The water was a wonderful bathtub temperature, and being only a five-minute walk from the villa, I could swim morning, noon and night (which I did).