Monday 29th November 2010
After more than six days at sea, we arrived at Antigua around 12.00 noon. It is a beautiful volcanic and very green island. We landed at St. Johnís, the capital and our tour took us across to the southern coast and four historic sites.
The island is small, being about 20 miles by 10 and has a population of 80,000.
We noticed plenty of smart and new cars in St. Johnís but as we left the town, we were conscious that buildings were relatively small and built of wood (in the main) and that the cars were older.
The country had been dependent on sugar but this has been replaced by tourism. There seemed to be a lot of buildings scattered across the hillsides initially, but these thinned out as we progressed. With some pride, our guide pointed out the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium jointly financed by the government and China. Unfortunately it was on the wrong side of the coach though!
Our first stop was at Dowís Hill Interpretation Centre. Initially, we looked out over English and Falmouth Harbours and saw part of an old fort. We then went into a short audio visual presentation of six eras of Antiguaís history. We moved on to Shirley Heights and the ruins of the garrison buildings and fortifications. The view was really fantastic and worthy of any travel poster. The guide pointed out Eric Claptonís house on the other side of the water and also the sanatorium that he founded.
Our third stop was at a Guard House dating from 1791 and we took pictures there of Eric Claptonís first house at English Harbour from which he had moved as he felt the area had become too crowded.
We then moved on to our fourth and final stop at Nelsonís Dockyard. This 18th century group of buildings has been restored and presents both an attractive and peaceful location for small shops in the old stone and timber buildings. The harbour had a number of yachts in it and the whole place was very beautiful.
We returned then to St. Johnís, hoping that the shops would still be open but they closed at 5.00 p.m.
We had not seen much wildlife about from two mongoose but back at St. Johnís we saw frigate birds and small brown pelicans close to the ship.
The island had suffered from a particularly bad hurricane in 1995 but we saw little sign of this apart from Clarence House above Nelsonís Dockyard. It was named after the Duke of Clarence (later William IV) and Princess Margaret spent part of her honeymoon there. It has no windows or doors and is awaiting restoration.