In April of 2000, we had two 4-day weekends back to back. We spent the first weekend, which happened to be Easter, in Belize. After that adventure, you would have thought we would be ready for a break, but we couldn't pass up the opportunity to explore another island, so we headed to Antigua for four days of R&R. We didn't realize that our trip coincided with the highpoint of the sailing calendar - Race Week! It certainly made our weekend getaway that much more fun.
Antigua lies due east of Puerto Rico, and is part of the Leeward Islands. It is an arid limestone coral island ringed by gorgeous white sand beaches - 365 of them according to the locals (one for each day of the year). At 108 square miles, Antigua is the largest of the Leeward Islands, and also one of the most developed, and therefore, frequently visited. It is also a major yachting center, drawing some 300 competitors during Race Week. With the exception of brief incursions by the Spanish and French, the British held the Island from 1632 until independence in 1981.
English Harbor and Nelson's Dockyard - The sheltered, virtually landlocked confines of English Harbor represent one of the best and safest anchorages in the world and the British Navy established their chief Caribbean dockyard here in the 18th century. Nelson's Dockyard was restored in the 1960's and is now considered a major tourist attraction. Being the tourists that we are, we were certainly attracted to the area, and spent several hours here admiring the sailboats and sipping a Wadadli or two (see "the food" for more information on Wadadli).
Shirleys Heights - The British fortified the high ground above English Harbor, and named the complex after General Sir Thomas Shirley (governor of the Leeward Islands between 1781-91). The site commands superb views over the Island and south to Guadeloupe. There are numerous old ruins to explore, and a pub in the former Guard House, where one can stop for what else - a Wadadli!
Dickenson Bay - Dickenson Bay is Antigua's premier tourist beach, and we were fortunate enough to stumble upon the lively Race Week Beach Party held along its shores. There were more than 300 sailboats anchored in the bay - as the sun went down behind the boats, the sight was truly spectacular and could only be matched by the view after dark of 300 mast lights lighting the sky like stars. About 1000 people were on hand to enjoy the party - some celebrating victories, and others drowning their sorrows, but all drinking Wadadli!
Devil's Bridge - Hollowed out of limestone cliffs by crashing Atlantic surf, this natural arch is a true testament to the power of the sea. On a blustery day (which is just about every day), the waves are forced up through blowholes in the rock, creating waterspouts. No Wadadli served on this nearly deserted stretch of coastline.
In our opinion, the food was not that remarkable, however we did find the local beer, Wadadli, to be quite tasty. The best meal we had, and also the least expensive, was at the food stalls that were set up for the Race Week Beach Party on Dickenson Bay. We strolled along the beach going from stall to stall and sampling the fare along the way. Of course, we washed it all down with a few Wadadlis as well!!
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