January - February 2023
Rum, relaxation, reggae. Read more
  • 4footprints
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  • 12days
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  • 19kilometers
  • Day 1

    No, it's DEFINITELY in half an hour...

    January 21, 2023 in Antigua and Barbuda ⋅ 🌙 24 °C

    We get off to a less than auspicious start. A few minutes before 08:00, the doorbell rings. Answering it in my PJs, I'm met by a smiling and besuited taxi driver, Neil. Time for taxi Sir! No, no, no my good man. Half past eight is what you want to aim for, for that's the time for which I booked it. I'm pretty sure it's 08:00 Sir! No - it's DEFINITELY in half an hour. We'll be out soon...

    Secure in the knowledge that I am correct, I pad back into the house, check my email booking, and wince with embarrassment. I'm an idiot. I explain our situation to Vicki, who confirms I am an idiot. I send Neil a text to let him know that I am an idiot. Our calm and serene progress towards our 08:30 departure becomes a slightly more frantic rush to try and save Neil's morning. He, it transpires, is meeting another customer at Heathrow, and is on a bit of a timetable... We manage to make it out shortly after 08:15. I am apoplectically apologetic.

    Still - we get to the airport a little earlier than we had planned, so there's that.

    Terminal 3 is, well - Terminal 3. It's not a great place to spend time. There's a decent bar though. A Bloody Mary and several ciders later (Chardonnay for my beloved), we're suitably lubricated for our flight.

    It's strangely rare for me to have a window seat. I take many photos and several videos. Vicki accuses me of behaving like a child who has never flown before. I interpret this as meaning that I am excitable, which I am.

    Neither of us is disastrously low on sleep of late, so we're both awake for the vast majority of the flight. The Virgin cabin crew are their usual wonderful selves. Their casual and friendly style isn't to everyone's tastes, but it's very much to ours. The 8+ hour flight passes quickly, and we're soon banking into a landing pattern over Antigua. It's always a huge treat to spend time in the stunning surrounds of the Caribbean, but Antigua holds an incredibly special place in our hearts, as it's where we married in 2010.

    We're staying at a new resort this time around - Escape at Nonsuch Bay. It's owned by the same people that run Cocobay - where we married, and has a very similar style and philosophy. After a quick transfer, we arrive at Escape to be welcomed by a very warm and friendly team, and a lethally strong rum punch.

    Check in is perhaps a little more complex than it needs to be, and not particularly helped by Vicki's attempt to kneecap herself on a table. Neither of us has data roaming for this trip, and a connection is required to check in on our phones. Andre is very patient with us, and we are very patient with him. At one point Vicks states that things were much simpler when we used pen and paper. Finally, our technology issues are resolved, we head to our room for a quick look, and grab some dinner - crab cakes for us both, jerk chicken for Vicks and shrimp and pineapple curry for me. Delish.

    We manage a couple of drinks after dinner, but fatigue quickly catches up with us. 22:00 locally is 02:00 in the UK, and we're ready for bed.
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  • Day 2

    I AM serious, and don't call me Shirley.

    January 22, 2023 in Antigua and Barbuda ⋅ ⛅ 24 °C

    We wake a little before 08:30. Probably around the time our taxi was booked to pick us up yesterday actually. We've both slept the sleep of the righteous - deservedly or not. Suitably refreshed, we grab a late breakfast, and almost immediately follow it up with a Carib, a Trinidadian beer that's found throughout the Caribbean. I comment to Vicks that it's really only on trips like this that I still drink lager. There's something about the combination of tropical sun/heat and ice-cold, crisp pilsner that works brilliantly together. That - and the total lack of other beer based alternatives, obvs.

    We repair to our room as the sun is beginning to toast our alabaster skin, and are able to reflect in daylight how beautiful it is. The star turn is the terrace, with an open-air bath, and a plunge pool that looks out over the beautiful, tropical gardens of the hotel. I decide to take a dip. It transpires 'plunge pool' in the local dialect means 'fucking freezing.' It certainly stimulates the pink bits.

    It's quickly time for some lunch and some wine, and then to head off to Shirley Heights, the social Sunday focal point on the island. An amazing steel band, a big barbeque cook-out, rum punch so strong it would be illegal in most countries, and a band. Oh, and all accompanied by a stunning view of the sunset, and down to English Harbour. It's one of our very happiest places.

    This is the first time we've travelled to Antigua in January, all of our previous trips having been in May. It's demonstrably busier at Shirley Heights than we've seen it before. By 18:00, the bar queues are something to behold. We switch our boozing strategy to a bottle of wine in place of individual rum punches, as it stretches the time required between bar visits. The steel band build to a frenetic finish - every time we see them, they amaze me.

    Our eating strategy has been less successful. We're heading back to the hotel for dinner later, but Vicki is rapidly becoming hangry. The queue for the BBQ is massive, so we concoct a variety of frankly idiotic schemes to feed her - ranging from distracting someone while we steal their plate of food, to begging one of the BBQ chefs for a bread roll. A bottle of Rosé seems to do the job temporarily, and all too soon we're back in our bus back to Escape.

    Dinner is a delicious, if slightly hazy affair. We're tucked up in bed once again by 22:00.

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  • Day 3

    We have misplaced the calypso window.

    January 23, 2023 in Antigua and Barbuda ⋅ ⛅ 24 °C

    I wake early. 05:45 or thereabouts. Little bit of jet lag I think. Vicki purrs quietly next to me, so I go and sit outside on our terrace. It's still dark - dawn is a good half hour away, and the sky is just beginning to grey up where the sun is on its way...

    I write and read for a couple of hours, and then realise I'm being eaten alive. Mozzies everywhere. I figure 10 hours is enough sleep for Vicki, so head back into our room. She stirs.

    We're planning a day of doing absolutely fuck all. A late breakfast, and suddenly the bar is open (10:00 since you ask). We have a beer each, followed by another. Somehow I end up drinking wine before 11am, while Vicki makes the sensationally sensible move into Vodka.

    The clouds build, and we have a couple of short, sharp rain showers. The calypso window is missing in action. We befriend some people, and prop up the bar for most of the afternoon. By sunset, the clouds have largely shifted, and the view across the bay is stunning.

    If you ask me what I had for dinner, I'm not sure I'd be able to tell you. We collapse into bed around 21:00, and moments later are asleep.

    This is our Caribbean lifestyle, and I adore it.
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  • Day 6


    January 26, 2023 in Antigua and Barbuda ⋅ 🌙 24 °C

    I've been sparing you the 'another day - still awesome!' updates, as no one needs that.

    Thursday though, we spend our day exploring the Eastern side of the island. We head initially to Laviscount Island - a new venue that's opened in the past year. It feels a little like a work in progress, but the attractions more than make up for it. We spend a delightful half hour communing with Aldabra Giant Tortoises. These awesome dudes were rescued from a Pacific island, and many have scars and deformities. They're similar in size to the much more famous Galapagos tortoises - some growing to as much as 250kg, and 1.3m tip to tail. In a staggering piece of good fortune, we learn that the biggest and oldest tortoise on the island is called Jeffrey. (For those unaware, I've called all tortoises, turtles and terrapins 'Jeff' for as long as I can remember...)

    Our wonderful guide, Shea, provides us with carrots to feed them, and we walk amongst these breathtakingly beautiful beasts for a while. Trust me when I tell you they move quicker than you'd think, particularly when food is on offer. Their shells contain lots of nerve endings, so they enjoy being rubbed and stroked. When they're REALLY happy, they extend their necks further out of their shells, and invite you to stroke their necks. We are spellbound.

    We then go and meet some indigenous Red-Footed tortoises, that can be found across the Caribbean and South America. Much smaller, but with vivid red colourings. We get to hold some teeny babies. Both of us expect to be shat on, but our new friends are much better behaved than we give them credit for.

    Next, we meet some birds. Beautifully coloured Macaws, noisy little Lovebirds, and Vicki spends some time with a cockatoo. We also meet some Antillean Iguanas, again - indigenous to Antigua. One pair are chilling in their tree. The other pair, well - I'm not sure there's a polite way of saying this, are in the midst of some frenetic sexual activity, all whilst eating some tasty hibiscus leaves.

    Shea takes us for a walk around the tiny island, pointing out some of the local fauna. Our visit to Laviscount is a brilliant way to spend a couple of hours.

    We head over to Half Moon Bay, one of the loveliest of Antigua's many (some claim 365...) beaches. It's half past beer o'clock, so we park ourselves at the Beach Bum Café with a well deserved Carib, and watch the world go by for a while... From here, we head down into English Harbour, and have a fabulous lunch at Boom. Rubbish name, great restaurant. It overlooks Nelson's Dockyard, and the astonishing super-yachts that moor there.

    We arrive back to the Escape around 15:00. I have an urgent nap, and join Vicki at the bar for sundowners. It's been a terribly tiring day, and we head back to our room to bed shortly after 22:00...
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