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krisek Saint John's - A travel report by Krys
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Saint John's,  Antigua and Barbuda - flag Antigua and Barbuda -  Saint John
22055 readers

krisek's travel reports

If you are 18, you are too old to DJ on Antigua.

  13 votes
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St. John’s is the capital of Antigua & Barbuda, a binary insular state in the Caribbean. It is colourful and mixes the English, the tropical Caribbean and the Western African cultures.

Antigua - beach
Antigua - beach
When I finished looking around St. John's, I figured that I had enough time to wander off to a beach out of town. I took a longer stroll and I had absolutely no idea where I was going. I just kept going either north or north-west from the capital. I passed less inhabited areas and several places of interesting smells. And I will not elaborate on this in order not to ruin the picture.

Eventually, I ended at the Fort Bay beach. There was a very simple lodge with a bar and groups of locals lingering on the beach. A few guys played football with an almost completely deflated ball. It was hilarious. At first, I thought they were just fooling around, but later I noticed that they treated the game very seriously. I spotted a few very nasty fouls. After the match, I lurked inside the lodge and had a couple of drinks.

As I was walking back to town, the guys caught up with me and started asking questions in their bewilderedness of seeing me walking rather than driving. Apparently, tourists don’t walk around Antigua. We stopped in one of the side streets, where they claimed they lived. We sat down on a doorstep and the lads pulled out their smoke. They began smoking and I bought a few beers from the local store. As soon as we did that, another guy came, who introduced himself as Nelly. It must have been his nick name, because he slightly resembled the musician of the same name. Actually, one of the other guys looked like R Kelly. He never smiled, because it was important to be cool! The guys revealed to me that they were in fact into music very much. Nelly said that he was a DJ and said that I should come back to the capital later at night, so he would take me to a party, where he would DJ. I was not sure what to say, because I thought I was going to party near English Harbour. So, I said that I would leave a message on his mobile and we would agree a meeting spot.

Favourite spots:
Antigua - Nelson's Dockyard
Antigua - Nelson's Dockyard
The English Harbour's Nelson Dockyard was, and still is, full of historical and grand buildings, which looked stupendously among palm trees. At the time when I landed there, the setting sun added its special colours to the picture. The docks’ silhouettes appeared frozen in time, as if they decided to not change after Horatio Nelson’s departure. However, they became receiving hosts for visits of a different kind of vessels. Actually, when I came, there weren’t many visiting anyway, and I am not sure anyone was allowed to enter the docks lined with columns. My guess was that the yachts could only dock along the shores around English Harbour, but perhaps not in the Nelson’s Dockyard itself.
Anyway, I went on wandering a little. It was like walking around a film set or an open-air ethnographic museum. I think this actually might have been the idea. There were placards fixed in the alleys explaining what was what. The buildings could not possibly be more English.

What's really great:
Antigua - St. John's
Antigua - St. John's
I liked St. John's centre, the island’s capital. It had some interesting architecture typical for the tropics. There were a few grand buildings and a majestic church. The houses were painted in bright colours, of course. I could see that the authorities kept developing the town. There was a stretch of a commercial street leading to the ferry landing and a pier; a line of restored old buildings near the sea, which housed shops and bars, and which appeared to have been closed for a longer period of time. Then the suburbs, although more dilapidated, did not feel less Caribbean but in addition had something African in them. Maybe it was the corrugated iron or the simplicity of the form, I am not entirely sure. I liked it thought. The majority of the houses there were single storey, but there were a few in the outskirts of the outskirts, nearer to the shore, were more sophisticated. It was obvious that wealthier families lived in those.

Although Antigua is a small island (it seems huge from a car, whose speed is usually reduced to few mph owing to impossible traffic) it does offer more than just idyllic cliched Caribbean beaches - actually, there are not too many of them on the island, and not that great either - when compared with beaches on other islands. And to be fair, all of the main islands offer more than just the beaches. Of course, it depends what one expects from the Antilles, but what sometimes strikes me, many holidaymakers do not travel to this part of the world for anything else but beaches and weather. Oops, sorry - too much of judgement!

Antigua is hilly in the centre and parts of the southern coast offer dramatic cliffs and excellent views towards neighbouring islands. The eastern coastline is also interesting - it is home to natural rock bridges. Around the island, there are few sugarcane farm windmills, built from stone. They were in bad state, though.

Antigua - Admiral's Inn
Antigua - Admiral's Inn
My accommodation - the Admiral's Inn - was directly at the Nelson's Dockyard lined with large grand columns. I was told that the admiral lived in the house I chose for a hotel. It was quite electric to my senses. Its garden leading from the house directly to the shore was green. Allegedly (but perhaps unlikely) her Madgesty Megastar Madonna once stayed at the Admiral’s Inn. It was far from hassle and bustle of a typical holiday resort, so that could make it believable. And, it wasn’t cheap for an independent hotel. I paid about USD 115 per night for a single. I think it was a double, actually and the room was really big. The bed was uber comfortable and my windows were overlooking the garden and the dockyard’s bay. I normally would not choose to stay in a such [relatively] expensive hotel, but I did not investigate enough, and the did not return any cheaper availability for me.

Antigua - Nelly the DJ
Antigua - Nelly the DJ
Nelly took me to two street parties. Speakers of the size of Fiat 500 blasted reggae, hip-hop or rap music. Brothers and sisters (I was the only white face around causing absolutely no surprise effect) just swayed from left to right. Awesome!

Then, Nelly the DJ, and two guy I had met before, took me to a massive in-the-middle-of-nowhere-field party. It might have been a stadium. I had no idea where I was but I loved it. DJs on Antigua were grouped in two categories - the youngsters aged 13 and 18 and the big men, older than 18 years. Nelly was a big man, so they didn’t allow him to play for very long. Kids were given priority.

The parties didn’t suffer from shortages of drinks, beer or smoke. There were even burgers grilled on the spot. I had to watch the lads not to get too smoked up, since I needed an escort back to the centre. I really didn’t know where I was and everywhere was pitch black. And I had to be up very early in the morning. I did regret that as I was having lots of fun.

Antigua - English Harbour
Antigua - English Harbour
Just before the historical dockyard, there were a number of bars based in wooden huts elevated on stilts. I stopped onto one of them called ‘Drop In’ and surprising myself immensely I ordered a glass of Glenlivet. I could hardly manage to drink it as I was being eaten alive by bloody mosquitoes. I ran away quickly to the hotel, took shower, put on long sleeves and, guess what?, it was time for dinner. On my way to the restaurant, I stopped in the ‘Drop In’ again and took an aperitif the second time. Still disbelieving how little I was paying for what could only be a triple shot (USD 4).

Then, I went to the Club Havana and tried the Mount Gay Rum Extra Old, which was smooooth. A band came singing reggae and I decided to leave. They were singing much better than the lousy guy at Admiral's Inn but they put it so loud that I could not hear my thoughts. It was an obvious hanging out area, though. It was getting busy with couples and hopefuls.

Antigua - St. John's
Antigua - St. John's
I ate at the Admiral's Inn. I looked up menus of the several restaurants and bars along the way between English Harbour's Nelson's Dockyard and Falmouth Harbour, but I did not like what I saw. No, no - there was nothing wrong with the menus, but what I wanted was fresh seafood, preferably grilled. The places I peeped into were either not yet open, did not have grilled fish, or were so expensive that my wallet (money belt, actually) kept crying murder, murder!

On the top of the hill called Shirley's Heights, on the other side across the bay of the Nelson's Dockyard, there was a small lodge with a smart restaurant, which did barbeque nights on Sundays. It was rather cheap and so popular that the queue to the grill was often ten people deep. There was a band playing live and... the grill smelled so sharp that I had to take a look what they were grilling. I definitely did not like it - sausages and lumps of meat. I was on an island - I wanted fish!

Other recommendations:
Antigua - Betty Hope
Antigua - Betty Hope
On Antigua the taxi service is based on minibuses, which in fact turn into buses. The best way I can describe it is that it was something in a form of taxi share scheme. I hate that scheme. Why would I always end up to be dropped last?! That is my luck! These taxi services are connected through an operator - there are telephone numbers to call them. So, if you need a taxi to go somewhere at a specific hour, it is always best to pre-book and double check a ride. Traffic can really be horrendous and if you are to catch a flight that won’t wait, it best to arrange for an early taxi than hope that there will be one coming. Remember Murphy’s Law! - the other line always moving faster, grass is greener on the other side and there are plenty of taxis when you don’t need them and none when you do!

Published on Wednesday February 13th, 2008

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Mon, Feb 22 2010 - 04:28 PM rating by porto

Krys, with a report like this it is hardly surprising that Globo is the best site on the www! Superb. :)

Fri, Mar 14 2008 - 01:28 PM rating by alfonsovasco

one of the best reports in this web

Thu, Feb 14 2008 - 08:23 AM rating by mistybleu

Cool report, I visited Angtigua a few years ago and it was brilliant, especially Nelson's Dockyard and the views from Shirley Heights.

Thu, Feb 14 2008 - 03:01 AM rating by ravinderkumarsi

Very nice to read ur report and ur personal touch in it

Wed, Feb 13 2008 - 10:08 PM rating by rangutan

A great island-hop report!

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