The girl with the graceful walk and the designer briefcase distracted me from my breakfast. With the elegance of a model she promenaded along the beach balancing the case on her head.
She was just one of the vendors on Antigua's Dickenson beach.
Other girls of more jolly proportions lugged loads of tee shirts or braided the hair of tourists using brightly coloured beads. Men with brilliant smiles offered everything from horse riding to paracending while an enterprising fellow balancing half a tree root on his skull, sold the juice of the aloe plant.
This is natures antidote to sunburn and much cheaper than the commercial product. A half pint, is enough to con your partner into rubbing your back for a fortnight.In Antigua in the Eastern Caribbean 'the beach' is the focal point of the holiday.
Just as France claims to have 365 varieties of cheese, Antiguans say they have a beach for every day of the year. There are bays where yours can be the only foot prints and where you share the waves with the Pelicans.
Antigua is usually quite a comfortable place with the temperatures generally round about 85º Fahrenheit. It's not a big island and you can explore the main sights in a couple of days. You could rent a car, but it's best to use a taxi and share costs. There are little villages where cricket is played on parched grass and bays where waves crash in on golden sands. Under the clear blue skies it's dazzling to the eyes so sunshades are recommended.
The little wooden houses are painted bright mustard yellow, blue and green. Large water tubs catch the rain from the corrugated iron roofs and dead vehicles lay rusting where they have expired. There are British red telephone boxes that stand beneath the palm trees and have no glass, so that the cooling breeze from the trade winds wafts through.
You meet goats and sheep as you drive up the narrow 'Fig Tree Road' into the rain forest and meander through pineapples, bananas, coconuts, apples, mangoes and sugar cane. It was the sugar that attracted British commerce in the 18th Century and the produce from the plantations became part of a three way trade that involved ships going via Africa to bring slaves out to the island.
Bricks carried out as ballast were used to build Nelson's Dockyard in the beautiful English Harbour. This is well worth a visit as it is the only existing Georgian naval dockyard in the world.
On Sundays and Thursdays it is the place to be, there are barbecue parties, plus six hours of entertainment with steel bands and reggae music.
On other days it's the history of the place that gets to you. The Gordon Highlanders and the Argyll & Southern Highlanders followed the Royal Scottish Fusiliers who in 1793 provided the first regiment to guard the forts. It was well defended and although there were no attacks, many died of yellow fever. It's not hard to imagine the sound of the pipes echoing there, far from the hills of home.
If you half close your eyes and you can easily picture the great sailing ships of the line that were used during the Caribbean wars with the French Spanish and Dutch, open them and you'll see the luxury yachts of today. They arrive for the Antigua Sailing Week which is held in April. It began in 1967 as a modest affair with 28 elderly boats taking part in a 'Lord Nelson Regatta,' You can get a superb view of English Harbour from Shirley Heights and on a clear day, see as far as Montserrat, Guadeloupe and Redonda.
Report by Allan Rogers
Just as France claims to have
365 varieties of cheese,
Antiguans say they have a beach for every day of the year.
I stayed at Sandals on Antigua beach, an "all inclusive," resort for couples
Sail boats were sitting there on the beach just waiting to be used. You could sign up for snorkelling trips using the high speed diving boat. Water skiing was provided and there was scuba training that began with easy sessions in the hotel pool. I enjoyed a trip to paradise reef and to Deep Bay, where I slid into the water and following the fish through the fo'c's'le of a German freighter that sunk there in 1910.
I was agreeably surprised to meet French, Italian, Austrians even Polish and of course Americans. Casual friendships were easily struck up and intriguing conversations about a variety of lifestyles flowed across the dining tables, jacuzzis and bars. You were never far from a bar or a pool indeed in one of the pools you had a 'swim up bar.'
Now how do we get the local swimming pool to serve pina-coladas at the shallow end?
Antigua and Barbuda Department of Tourism