40th (Ruby) Wedding Anniversary Cruise
Antigua - Caribbean
DAY 13 17/2/2018 Landed St Johns, Antigua, Leeward Islands, West Indies
It was our 40th Wedding Anniversary treat, what you might call our Ruby cruise! We landed in St Johns and went on the Islands sights excursion visiting initially Shirley Heights with views across to Eric Claptons reform complex on Montserrat, the the Lookout overlooking Falmouth bay, then the Unesco World Heritage site of Nelsons Dockyard in English harbour.Here are the words written on the plaque at the Shirley Heights military camp " At the most southerly tip of Antigua,The Lookout, part of the Shirley Heights military complex, commands a breathtaking view over the whole of English Harbour. Behind the catchment, on the highest ground, 490 ft (150 m) above sea level, is the Signal Station from which a system of flags was used by day and guns by night to convey messages to St.John’s by way of Great Fort George on Monk’s Hill
The Shirley Heights military' complex also includes a guard house, magazine and kitchen, officers’ quarters, adjoining parade grounds, a 30-bed hospital, canteen, and a cemetery. An obelisk in the cemetery commemorates the officers and men of the 54th Regiment (2nd Battalion Dorsets) who died in service in the West Indies between 1840 and 1851".Our guide was wonderful and never stopped talking in that lovely Caribbean school mistress way *smile* It was a very hot day. Keef saw both the new Sir Viv Richards cricket stadium and the old ARG in St Johns and bought a T-Shirt for the local Wadadli beer. On a cricketing front Millie (Hillie) Ambrose, Sir Curtly's Mum used to ring the village bell in Swetes where she lived every time he took a wicket, no matter what time of day or night, remember he played all over the world and took a lot of wickets. Imagine her popularity *smile*. If you would like to read the detailed BLOG of the trip including the Captains log please CLICK HERE
Wadadli as the locals call it, home of cricket legends Sir Viv and Curtly Ambrose
Your Guide to Antigua
Antigua famously boasts of a beach for every day of the year, with water sparkling in every shade of blue. The beaches are not all that this versatile island has to offer though. Take a jeep trip off road, discover the island’s lush forests, swing through the treetops, visit the historical dockyard, swim with the rays, fly over Montserrat or circumnavigate the island. There is something wonderful for everyone in Antigua.
A ‘beach with an island in the middle’ is great way to describe this charming Caribbean island. Antigua, with its little sisters, Barbuda and Redonda, forms the largest and most developed of the four British Leeward Islands. Roughly circular in shape, the island is about 12 miles in diameter and has some of the finest beaches in the Caribbean - more than 350 of them -with gleaming pink-white sand backed by gently waving palms.
The variation in temperature is less than 10 degrees, averaging at 25-30°C (77-85°F), and rainfall is low (accounting for the total absence of rivers), However, to the southwest, where the island is slightly more mountainous, lush tropical vegetation is more evident.
The original inhabitants of Antigua founded settlements around 4,000 years ago and were incorrectly known as the Ciboney Indians. The true inhabitants of the island are believed to have occupied Antigua for more than 3000 years, until they disappeared mysteriously, leaving the island uninhabited for nearly 10 centuries.
By the time Christopher Columbus arrived on his secdnd voyage in the late 15th century, the Arawak Indians were in residence, followed closely by the Caribs. Antigua was ‘discovered’, along with numerous other Western Indian islands, by Columbus in 1493.
It was Columbus’ habit to stop at each of the islands he came across en route to the Americas, and paint a cross and a Spanish flag in symbolic expression of missionary and imperial zeal. Often he had little time to do anything else because on many of the islands, his first step ashore was greeted by a hail of arrows from Caribs, hidden amongst the undergrowth. He named the island after the church of Santa Maria la Antigua in Seville, and sailed on.
It was not until 1632 that the island was colonised by a party of refugee English planters from St Kitts. Following the English Restoration, a further settlement was made under the direction of Lord Willoughby, to whom the island had been granted by King Charles II.
In 1666, it was raided by the French, assisted by Irish
malcontents and Caribs, but was soon recaptured and formally restored to England in 1667. By this time, slaves had been imported from Africa to work the sugar plantations.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, Antigua was the headquarters of the Commander-in-Chief of the Leeward Island Station and the principal British naval base in the Eastern Caribbean during the Napoleonic Wars. Admirals Nelson, Rodney, Hood and Jervis all made the dockyard at English Harbour their headquarters, and it was from here that Rodney sailed to the Battle of the Saints.
It was also here that Nelson re-fitted his ships during his chase of the French Admiral Villeneuve, which ended at Trafalgar. Nelson lived on Antigua from 1784 to 1787, during which time his vigorous suppression of the illegal trade with American rebels earned him the dislike of the whole island. In 1967 Antigua became an associated state within the Commonwealth and achieved full independence in 1981.
The capital, St John’s, is home to a third of the island’s total population of 90,000 people. It stands at the head of a spacious bay on the north-west coast.
This bay is almost two miles long and its entrance is guarded by two forts.
Fort James, dominating the northern headland, was started in 1704 but dates mostly from 1739. At one time, it had 36 cannons and one was fired every day at sunrise and sunset. There are 10 cannons still in position today. They weigh over two tons each and can throw a cannon ball about a mile and a half.
Fort Barrington stands on the southern headland and saw plenty of military action during the 17th and 18th centuries. A third defensive battery was built on Rat Island in the middle of the bay - this is now occupied by a rum distillery and the deepwater cargo harbour.
The town, with its colourful, balconied houses and busy streets, rises gently from the waterfront towards Government House (a fine example of a colonial . residence set amid beautiful lawns and gardens), A little to the west is the Anglican Cathedral of St John, set in a picturesque position surrounded by mahogany trees and its churchyard. The Cathedral was rebuilt in 1845 to replace an earlier wooden building that was destroyed by an earthquake in 1843 and it's dominated by twin towers and a white brick facade. The interior was designed to encase the congregation in pitch pine (as an attempt to secure the building from ruin during earthquake or hurricane) but it is now undergoing a huge renovation project. The Cathedral is closed during the restoration period and there is no definite date confirmed for the planned reopening.
For a general feel of the town, the market, just a stroll away from the cruise ship berths, makes a colourful spectacle. The market is open whenevera cruise ship is in town and it’s a great place people-watch, get a feel for the local atmosphere, take photographs and buy Caribbean-style souvenirs.
Directly in front of the main cruise ship berth and a short walk away from the pier is Heritage Quay, the most popular place to stroll and shop for cruise ship visitors. Heritage Quay is full of shops and recognisable stores as well as bars and entertainers. Redcliffe Quay
A short walk along the waterfront boardwalk will lead you to historic Redcliffe Quay. A selection of colourful, renovated buildings create an atmospheric warren of interest, and the old trade buildings are now shops, boutiques and art galleries.
Museum of Antigua and Barbuda
This museum is situated at the junction where Long Street crosses Market Street, is housed In the historic British colonial courthouse. Founded as a museum in 1985, but built in 1750, this is believed to be the oldest building in St John’s. Exhibits and displays take visitors on a journey back in time through Antigua’s history; from the Arawak Indians and the slavery era to the present day. The museum and gift shop are open 8,30am - 4.30pm Monday to Friday and 10.00am - 2.00pm on Saturdays. Closed on Sundays.
BEYOND ST JOHN’S
The most famous attraction in Antigua is Nelson’s Dockyard in English Harbour; located approximately 12 miles from St. John’s, on the south coast.
To the right of the entrance is a huge water- catchment tank whose low walls are covered with the initials of many visiting sailors - including that of Nelson himself.
The potential value of the harbour was recognised by the Royal Navy as early as 1670, and by the beginning of the 18th century it was in regular use by the British men-of-war. Construction of the dockyard on its present site began in 1725 and by the time Nelson was appointed to the station in 1784 it was equipped with a capstan house, mast house, blacksmith’s shop, engineer’s offices, copper, canvas and lumber stores, and quarters for both officers and men.
The harbour and dockyard continued to be used as a base for many years, but with the coming of larger vessels, they were finally abandoned in 1899 and quickly fell into tropical decay. However, in 1950 the Society of Friends of English Harbour was founded and began the task of restoring the dockyard. Today, the dockyard is not only preserved for posterity, but is a haven for modem yachts and motor cruisers from all over the western hemisphere who lie at anchor in its calm waters.
The old Admiral’s House (named after Nelson) is now a museum with marine pictures, charts, clay pipes, models and Arawak Indian relics. The strangely capped pillars that once supported the sail loft are still in position and the Admiral’s Inn, once a storehouse and joiner’s loft, has been converted into a delightful small hotel. More rooms are found in the engineer’s office and the copper and lumber store, which also houses a restaurant. Brass and mahogany fittings tell of a more gracious age and the old bakery is still in operation. Craft and gift shops in the galley and officers’ quarters complete the holiday atmosphere of this yacht basin.
The original wooden church (built in 1711) burnt down and its replacement of 1754 was dismantled. The exterior is in constant need of restoration; however the octagonal interior is beautifully proportioned with a fascinating wooden ceiling.
Standing on Monk’s Hill, Fort George is one of the earliest attempts to fortify the entrance to Falmouth Harbour. You can see the ruins of the original 17th-century buildings, water cisterns, magazines and cannons, as well as amazing views of Falmouth Harbour and the surrounding countryside. Please note Fort George is only accessible on foot or by four wheel drive jeep.
Indian Town and Devil’s Bridge
A national park since the 1950s and a site of archaeological excavation, Indian town is situated at the extreme eastern point of Antigua. Over the centuries, enormous Atlantic breakers have earned out a natural limestone arch called Devil’s Bridge and have created blowholes where spouting surf shoots up into the air.
The main hotels and a few of the restaurants offer an excellent choice of food in French, American and ‘continental’ style. Menus include lobster, roast suckling pig, poultry and game birds, fish, curries, pilafs and exotic salads, fungi and salt fish, pepperpot stew and souse.
Fruits such as mango, paw-paw and pineapple are popular favourites and are also prepared in ingenious ways. Local thirst-quenchers: include fresh fruit and sugar cane juices, coconut juice and endless varieties of rum cocktails.
The locally brewed beer is called Wadadli (Antigua’s original name) and this is popular with both tourists and locals alike on a hot day.
It is advisable to avoid drinking tap water, which is highly chlorinated and tends to be brackish.
Antigua boasts of 365 beaches (some renowned for being among the finest in the Caribbean) and it's, believed that one of Antigua’s beaches is the only beach at which Queen Elizabeth II ever went into the sea! The nearest beaches to St John’s include Fort James, Dickenson Bay and Runaway Bay (each between a mile and two miles away). The main resort areas are three miles north and 12 miles south of St John’s.
Watersports (including scuba diving) and tennis are available at most of the major resort hotels and tourist beaches. There are two golf courses within reach of St John’s: Cedar Valley (18 holes) is located three miles away from the capital and Jolly Harbour (18 holes) is located 6 miles away.
There are 4 post offices on Island. One is in Nelson’s Dockyard and one is on the High Street in St John’s (this is the main sorting office). Opening hours are: 8.15am - 12.00pm and 1.00pm - 3.30pm on weekdays (except on Friday, when closing hour extends to 4.00pm). Saturday opening hours are 9.00am - 12.00pm. Money matters
The official currency is the Eastern Caribbean dollar, divided into 100 cents and tied to the US dollar. US dollars are accepted in almost afefi establishments, as are major credit cards and US $ Travellers cheques.
US dollar denominations
Notes and coins in circulation are as follows: Notes: 1,2, 5,10, 20, 50,100 dollars.
Coins: 1,2, 5,10, 25 cents.
Calling the UK
Dial 011 44 then your code and number (omitting the zero prefixed to the code). There are telephones suitable for international calls on the cruise ship pier at Heritage Quay.
Ambulance - 999 or 911 Police-999 or 911 (Police Station:
American Road, Tel: 462-0125)
Fire - 999 or 911
Air/Sea Rescue - 462-3062 British Consulate in Antigua 11 Old Parham Road, PO Box 1531, St. John’s, Antigua and Barbuda. Tel: (+1 268) 561 5046 / (+1 268) 462-3000
British High Commission
For emergency Consular assistance contact the British High Commission (based in Bridgetown, Barbados). Email: [email protected]
Tourist information www.antigua-barbuda.org
Antigua Car Rental:
The Antigua Tourist Board has an approved schedule of taxi fares. It is advisable to agree the fare for longer journeys before embarking on any journey. Rates are usually per car (for 1 - 4 people) so the price will be the same regardless of whether there is 1 or 4 people in the taxi. Stretch limousines are available in St John’s. Antigua Rent a car is one of the companies that offers this service: www.antigua-rentacar.com
There is an unscheduled local minibus service from the west bus station to the south.
Shopping hours in St John’s are generally 9.00am - 4.30pm when a cruise ship is in port.
Clothing in sea-island cotton T-shirts
Gemstones and jewellery
Antigua Cavalier Rum