What a day…so full that I may be tired but I’m going to get this out because there’s so much to tell. We started the day with an in-depth look at the hotel we’re staying at, The Verandah Resort and Spa courtesy of general manager Leonard Reynolds, who came over from the posh The Body Holiday in St. Lucia so you know that they’re trying to bring that 4 star rating up a notch…and they’re succeeding. This is a smaller (177 rooms) eco-resort that is serious about the ‘eco’ part: they have 12 on-site generators, water from the ocean is filtered for use with a reverse osmosis system on property and is primarily heated by solar power (so no HOT, stinging showers) and they recycle THAT water, straws are by request only (bad for the sea-life) and they have their own gardens growing supplies for 4 restaurants. For a small resort they finish big in the ‘things to do’ department with 3 beaches and 3 pools (with so many loungers, you’ll never have to get up at 6:00 to hold one!), 2 games area with pool, ping-pong and fooseball, tennis courts and the favourite, an 18 hole mini golf course! If you’re looking for luxury fun with an eye on the environment, The Verandah is the place!
In the afternoon we embarked on the first of several island tours, first stopping at the wild, dangerous and beautiful Devil’s Bridge (only a 10 minute walk from the resort). This is a natural ‘bridge’ created by erosion from the powerful Atlantic waves washing under the formation. While slippery with the possibility of spray from a particularly strong wave washing you over (unlikely), it was definitely a thrill to watch those waves from atop the bridge itself.
Next we stopped at the Blockhouse Lookout in English Harbour. A blockhouse is defined as a place of last refuge. There are the remains of an Officer’s Quarters and a Powder Magazine but the reason to visit is the breathtaking views of southeast Antigua, including Nelson’s Dockyards, Shirley Heights and yes, Eric Clapton’s island home. I felt this was closer than some of the lawn seats at a Clapton concert!
As a history buff, visiting Admiral Nelson’s Dockyards was a highlight. Everything has been lovingly restored with quaint hotels and restaurants populating the former British naval stronghold. We could hear some steel drums and see some twinkling lights high on a hill across the bay. This, we were informed was Shirley Heights, named after a former governor and home on Sunday nights to the biggest weekly party in Antigua. As it was Sunday, we made our way up!
Why is this place in particular popular? One look at the incredible sunset from atop the lookout will tell you the reason. A steel drum band (and later the same band that played The Verandah the previous evening) keep the throngs of people entertained while the barbeque keeps everyone fed. We danced away the hours here, lubricated by local libations such as ginger beer and dark rum (far more delicious than I would have expected!) and coconut water and rum…yes, there’s a theme here in Antigua. Rum and lots of it.
Once again, the one thing that seemed most in abundance was the smiles from every Antiguan we met. It’s no wonder that the popular rum-based (of course) drink is called the Antiguan Smile!