Antigua – Beaches, Boats and Bars


Antigua is said to have 365 beaches, one for every day of the year. Although we did visit a number of beaches, we didn’t try to visit all of them. Our visits tended to be towards the later end of the days and deliberately so. Antigua is a popular stop for cruise liners and there is  a never-ending supply of tour companies willing to ferry cruise passengers to the beaches.

Typically the liners only stop for one day so the passengers only have limited time available to them and since they have to be back on board around four in the afternoon, most of  the beaches generally start to empty by three as the tour guides head back to St Johns.

Jolly Beach is a prime example. As you can see, the beach is jammed solid with tourists, not.

Antigua - Jolly Beach

Antigua – Jolly Beach

On Jolly Beach,as on most Antiguan beaches, you will find the ubiquitous bar/restaurant. In this case it is called Castaways and here we availed ourselves of some well chilled Wadadli beers and a spot of lunch.

Darkwood Beach

Darkwood Beach

Antigua’s beaches are a superb basis for observing sunsets. Darkwood Beach is especially good for this, especially when one can imbibe an ice cool rum punch or partake of a tasty Goat Curry or perhaps the tenderest Jerk Pork Chop.

Antigua - Sunset from Darkwood Beach

Antigua – Sunset from Darkwood Beach

Don’t forget that Rum Punch, Mango Daquiri or perhaps a bog standard G & T, while watching the daily sunset.

Antigua - Coco Beach

Antigua – Coco Beach

The view from Shirley Heights is simply stunning, in all directions.

Antigua - View across Mamora Bay & St James Bay

Antigua – View across Mamora Bay & St James Bay

Antigua - English Harbour & Nelsons Dockyard

Antigua – English Harbour & Nelsons Dockyard

Another quiet beach is West Coast Valley Church Beach, home to The Nest Beach Bar. Again, this is a great place to watch the sun set.

Antigua - West Coast Valley Church Beach

Antigua – West Coast Valley Church Beach

Perhaps I was wrong to call this beach quiet. It was nearly totally devoid of people. However, the folks in The Nest were playing some music, very loud. But that was alright as it was a recording of a reggae based concert which featured a guest appearance by guitarist Carlos Santana.

One word, Superb.

By now, viewing these photographs you must be getting the idea that Antiqua is an awful place to visit. And I will admit that the four of us did mention, regularly, just what a chore it was spending two weeks there.

The bad news is that, during our stay, we failed to observe a truly orange sunset. Which of course means that we may well be forced to go back again and try to capture that classic shot.

Moving briefly away from the beaches, we took a trip down to English Harbour and Nelsons Dockyard. So here are a few more views which include boats

Perhaps most interesting is the  small boat that isn’t in the water.

Antigua - The craft that James "Tiny" Little rowed across the Atlantic

Antigua – The craft that James “Tiny” Little rowed across the Atlantic

James began his journey on 21st January, 2005 from San Sebastian de la Gomera in the Canary Islands and travelled 3,479 to Antigua. His epic journey took 116 days and he arrived on Antigua 17th May, 2005.

The following shows his daily routine which, if my arithmetic is right, means he was rowing for over twelve hours every day.

Antigua - James Littles rowing schedule

Antigua – James Littles rowing schedule

That’s no mean feat especially when he didn’t allow time for a beer. Just reading about it has given me a raging thirst, so here’s a bottle of the local brew.

Wadadli - Antiguan Sunshine In A Bottle

Wadadli – Antiguan Sunshine In A Bottle

And just for good measure, before I sign out, here are a few more snaps from around Antigua’s shores…..

 

Antigua – Devils Bridge


From Wikipedia:

Devil’s Bridge is a natural rock arch in eastern Antigua. It is located on the Atlantic coast at 17°6′1.7″N 61°40′42.2″W,[1] near Indian Town Point to the east of Willikies. The area around the arch features several natural blowholes which shoot up water and spray powered by waves from the Atlantic Ocean. This particular location is exposed to waves that are pushed by the Trade Winds with no land between here and Europe. .

Here are a few snaps I took around the Devils Bridge area…..

 

What the pictures don’t convey is the constant wind blowing in off the Atlantic and the booming of the waves as they collide with rocks and rush under the “bridge”. And this was a relatively calm day.
Devils Bridge, according to local folklore, has a darker side. This is a quote from 104 year old Antiguan, Sammy Smith, from his memoirs “To Shoot Hard Labour”

Four Go To Antigua


Tuesday morning found us, in Waterloville, up at the ungodly hour of 05:30. Preparing for the taxi that was due to pick us up within the hour. The temperature outside, according to the app on my phone,  was -4 degC. This was a small price to pay as we were on our way to Antigua where, all the weather sites told us, the temperatures were going to be around 30 degC.

The taxi duly arrived, carrying the friends that were to accompany us on our latest adventure. We, and our luggage, were soon loaded to the taxi and we were on our way to Gatwick, South Terminal. A bite to eat for breakfast, some retail therapy and we were soon sitting aboard one of Sir Richards finest, a glass of prosecco in hand, waiting for the off. We were soon wheels up and on our way. I have to say that crossing the atlantic is a lot easier than flying down to Oz

After an uneventful flight we arrived in Antigua and what a shock the temperature difference was. As soon as we exited the plane into the jetway all of the thirty plus degrees made their presence felt. So far so good. All we had to do was navigate our way through customs and immigration and then find our taxi for the journey to the villa.

Let me say right now, the Antiguan immigration process is not the slickest. One does wonder in this technological age why it is necessary to provide all the same information multiple times at both ends of a journey. We spent 30-40 minutes in a mind numbingly boring serpentine queue, then out through customs to locate our driver.

Of course we arrived just as the home-time traffic was building, so our journey to the villa was quite slow. It gave us time to absorb our new surroundings and for our driver to impart some local information. It soon became obvious that the driving rules here are very different from the UK. Road position and actions at road junctions are not as disciplined as back home. There is also much tooting of horns which seems to be a weird kind of communication. Our driver seemed to sound his horn at the most random of times.

We safely arrived at the villa where we noted that the hire car had already been delivered. Shortly after we had unloaded the taxi and taken up residence Iris, the car hire rep, arrived to complete the paper work. Visitors to Antigua have to have an Antiguan Drivers License. No test required but does require some form filling and the handing over of some cash.

A quick trip to the supermarket and we were formally on holiday.

More to follow in the coming two weeks.

A Day On The Isle Of Wight


A couple of weeks ago it was decided that we, and our Ozzy rellies, would take a trip across to the Isle of Wight. The most flexible way is to take your own car across on the ferry, rather than rely on public transport on either side of the Solent.

Travelling into Pompey around morning peak traffic times is always a bit like a toss of the dice. Albeit late, we eventually made it to the Wightlink ferry port. Luckily, for us, our ferry was late arriving. Apparently this was due to the low tide meaning the ferry had to take a slightly longer route across the Solent. Once loaded aboard, we made our way up to the lounge, where we had hot chocolate and toasties for breakfast. I also took the opportunity for a couple of snaps.

The following pictures show the scene around the ferry.

In the background, above the fishing boats, you can see Viviers Fish Market. They are the suppliers of some truly scrumptious fresh fish. Proof is, as they say, in the tasting and we have recently had some superb Halibut, a couple of Bream and a couple of dressed crab.

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Land Rover BAR Team home

The bland looking building is the Land Rover BAR building.  Having now seen it several times, I’m still not sure about the design. It looks like they are waiting for the wrapping to be fully removed, to expose its true shape.

The ferry was soon underway and after a short voyage, arrived at Fishbourne. We disembarked and made our way to our first destination, Osborne House.

Osborne House is a former royal residence, built between 1845 and 1851 for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, as a summer home and retreat. Now under the care of English Heritage, both the house and grounds are made available to the public. A few pictures are posted below.

Unfortunately, due to filming of a new drama about Victoria and her indian servant, the fabulous Durbar Room was not available for viewing. In addition, photography was prohibited in other rooms as they were dressed for filming. Apparently, any images would be copyright, because the film company had installed some of their own furniture.

After touring the house, we had a pleasant lunch in the Terrace Restaurant and Orangery. Suitably refueled we headed down to the Swiss Cottage

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Set For High Tea – Swiss Cottage, Osborne House

and on to the sea-shore via the Rhododendron Walk, dotted along which there are a variety of carved animals and birds.

Queen Victoria had her own “Bathing Machine” in which she would get changed. The “machine” would be run into the sea and she would descend the steps into the bracing waters of the Solent. Also on the beach at Osborne is a decorated “alcove” which during our visit gave shelter from the brisk breeze blowing in off the sea.

Returning to the house we spent some time, and of course money, in the gift shop.

From Osborne House we headed off to view  The Needles, a row of three distinctive stacks of chalk that rise out of the sea off the western extremity of the Isle of Wight. They are also home to The Needles Lighthouse built on the western most stack.

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The Needles – Isle of Wight

An unusual sight was this, apparently tame, fox being enticed to feed.

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Tame Fox ? – Isle of Wight

Not sure about the fashion statement this guy is making.

It was soon time for us to think about a spot of dinner before travelling back to the mainland. We had already decided to head to a regular haunt of ours, The Folly Inn.

The Folly is a rustic pub perched on the banks of the River Medina, just up the river from Cowes in Whippingham. They serve good food, good beer, are friendly and provide a great location to chill and watch the yachty world go by.

 

Suitably replete, we headed back to Fishbourne for our ferry ride back to Portsmouth. With the autumnal evenings drawing in we were welcomed back to harbour by the Spinnaker Tower.

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Spinnaker Tower – Portsmouth

Driving out of Pompey was a lot easier than our rush hour entry. We were soon home and relaxing with a nice cup of tea.

Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis)


A frequent visitor to the lawns, around our gite in Serandon, was the Green Woodpecker.

A beautiful looking bird, usually arriving in pairs, very alert and very quick to take flight at the slightest noise or movement.

Kite Flying


Many of you will know that Gerry and I have just spent a month in France.  The first three weeks of that time was at a gite in the Dordogne. Throughout that time we would hear the calls of various raptors. They would be soaring out over the gorges, sitting high up on the electricity pylons and occasionally we would see one stoop, plunging to the ground in a newly mown meadow. On a number of occasions I had disturbed a couple of kites sitting in a tree, so well camouflaged were they, I hadn’t even seen them until I was almost immediately below them as I walked the lanes. Throughout our stay I had attempted many photos of these fabulous birds but had pretty much only achieved interesting silhouettes.

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Three Red Kites – On the hunt

 

During our last week at the gite, after a prolonged spell of wet weather, it was time for the grass in the meadow directly in front of the gite to be cut. I grabbed my camera, crossed the garden to stand at the fence bordering the field, my eyes scanning the skies in anticipation.

The farmer drove round and round, starting at the perimeter, steadily working his way into the centre of the field. Until his circumnavigations had reduced the potential hiding places, for any small creatures, to an island of tall grass in the centre.

Then they were there.

Well one bird had arrived to investigate. But it was soon joined by several more. There was still much of the grass to be cut. The birds wheeled and swooped over the field, as if taking a preliminary scan, then all disappeared over the tree tops and away.

A few minutes later and they were back.

There were five or six birds, although it was difficult to keep track of them as switched from soaring to low-level runs across the meadow.

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Black Kite ? – Serandon, Dordogne, France

I thought that the birds, once they were hunting or had potential prey in their sights, would largely ignore me. It became obvious that they were staying away from my side of the meadow. Unfortunately there was no where for me to get under cover and my lens wouldn’t allow me to be further back,  I was already pushing its capabilities to the limits.

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Red Kite – Serandon, Dordogne, France

So I carried on , firing away. I ended up with many similar shots but not many keepers. I learnt that I need a better equipment. This time it was a spur of the moment when the opportunity presented itself. After all, I didn’t know the farmer was going to mow the meadow, but I could have been better prepared. The following photos were all over the course of an hour.

But, at a minimum, a better lens would have helped me maximise my use of this opportunity. I should state here that I accept operator error as a huge contributor. I was having problems keeping the lens focussed as I got over excited at all the action, jumping from bird to bird. I switched from auto to manual focus to try and make life simpler, so I could have more time to frame the shot. I obviously need more practice in this enviroment.

A case in point is this photo. I did actually capture the moment when one of the kites caught a rodent …..

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Lunch

…..  better preparation, better lens, would have made this a better photo. Bottom line though, this is down to the operator, me.

And, while I’m mentioning equipment, perhaps, some kind of camouflage clothing and / or a collapsible hide. After all, I had plenty of room in the car for this holiday. Mind you that would then require me to be a better planner.

Ask me who didn’t pack his tripod, monopod or even his gorillapod for this holiday.

 

Family


After two nights in Troyes, the end of our holiday was looming on the horizon. But we still had two nights left. No dramatic sight seeing planned for this part of our holiday, we were going to visit family.

Gerry’s brother, Doug, has lived in France for many years and now lives near Arras. We hadn’t managed to get together for quite a few years. He works for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.  Our timing for this visit, probably could have been better. With many Somme 100 remembrance ceremonies taking place on the 1st July he was very busy at work.

As we headed north from Troyes the weather gradually deteriorated, becoming overcast and persistently dull. The traffic also grew in density as we left the agricultural heartland behind and  got nearer to the channel ports and channel tunnel. The amount of traffic was also probably influenced by our proximity to Paris, the centre of the French spiders web road system. Still, we made better time than anticipated and, as a result, there was nobody home when we arrived. They had all headed to Lille to collect Lynn’s dad from the bus station. He had travelled down from Merseyside, by bus, leaving around midnight the night before. Now that is a trip I would not like to make. My days of long distance coach travel are long gone.

As an aside, nearly 30 years ago, Gerry and I did a coach based holiday picked out of our local paper. We travelled from Havant to Trento in Italy. The coach drivers took us on a torturous route through France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and Switzerland. They seemed intent on avoiding all motorways and the journey took nearly 24 hours. I recall that, at the time, I had a theory that the drivers were pocketing the toll money hence no real motorway driving. Although the coach had seats that reclined they were not all that comfortable and, for someone who is over six feet tall, not much leg room. So I do have some experience of coach travel, and it’s not something I want to repeat.

So, back to France. We  visited the nearby supermarket to pick up some alcoholic supplies to lubricate the imminent reunion. We hadn’t been back at Doug’s for very long when Andrew, Doug’s son, arrived and ushered us inside where we were soon drinking tea and coffee.

Later, Doug and co. arrived and there was much fat chewing and chin wagging. Lots to catch up on. As we all sat around the table for dinner the alcohol we had purchased was put to good use and it’s lubricity investigated.

The following day Doug had to work, returning home at lunchtime to pick up Brian, the father-in-law, for an orientation briefing related to the Somme 100 activities. Both Brian and Doug were going to be guides on the bus’ bringing guests into the remembrance sites.

Note: The above photos are from a previous visit in 2009. The weather was much nicer back then. Access during last week was severely restricted due to the Somme 100 activities.

The weather outside was awful, ranging from mizzle to full pelt rainstorms. We took the opportunity to relax, happy to not be moving for a while. Apart from a short walk, to the local school, to pick up  Doug’s grand-daughter, Maddie.

Another super evening meal (thanks Lynn), with more wine, beer and lots of conversation. Then it was heads down to sleep.

Doug and Brian had a very early start the next morning. Up at four and picked up at five to begin their “guiding”. We had a much more leisurely start and while Gerry and Lynn took Maddie to school I loaded the car ready for our journey to the tunnel.

These pictures give you some idea of the drismal nature of our departure day. It matched the sad feelings we were feeling to be leaving family. It had been nice to catch up and of course we have all promised to not leave it so long until our next gathering. After all we are all just a couple of hours from the tunnel, on either side of the channel. No excuses.

So Gerry and I bid farewell to Lynn, having said our farewells to Andrew earlier in the morning, and to Doug and Brian the night before.

Au Revoir !!