By Mel Stuart
As the days are getting shorter and the weather turns colder, are you beginning to dream of a beautiful island to get away to? If you want warm, sunny weather on a stunning island protected by a coral reef, surrounded by crystal blue water, you will find your dreams come true when you visit Antigua. Antigua is the largest of the British Leeward Islands, located 1,300 miles from Miami Florida and 570 miles from Caracas, Venezuela. Antigua is actually a chain of islands, additionally consisting of Barbuda and Redonda. Its island neighbors are St. Kitts, Nevis and Guadeloupe. American Airlines now has a direct non-stop flight that will get you there comfortably and quickly. Flight #673 departs JFK at 8:35 A.M. and arrives at ANU at 1:40 P.M. Antigua is a hot spot sure to provide an enticing vacation. You will love the spectacular white sand beaches, trade winds, warm and mostly dry weather, rich history and culture, and a multitude of vacation activities, concentrated on this 14 mile long and 11 mile wide island in the Caribbean.
Picturesque English Harbor is the center of yachting activity in Antigua and Barbuda. It includes Nelson’s Dockyard which was established in 1725 and is now a national park.
It is believed to be the only remaining Georgian dockyard in the world. This year the 50th Annual Antigua Charter Yacht Show will take place at Nelson’s Dockyard from December 4th to 10th. Another historic site is Betty’s Hope, a fully restored sugar mill, currently the only working one on the island. Tours are provided at Betty’s Hope to show how rum is made. The aroma of freshly distilled rum might prove to be quite intoxicating!
The Montserrat volcano can be viewed from a helicopter tour which will also provide amazing panoramic aerial views of the islands. The north-western coast of Antigua is the place to go to view dramatic scenery; the southwest is for bird watchers and nature lovers in addition to those who have an interest in locating the island’s only nude beach. The best place for snorkeling is Paradise Beach. If you are a beginner you may want to start at Bird Island National Park. Sailing, yachting, snorkeling and scuba diving are enjoyed on the island for those who enjoy water sports. There are tours of the rain forest and some will enjoy tennis and golf on this island refuge. If you just want to relax on the beach, you have your choice of 365 breathtaking locations.
Favorite shopping sites include Heritage Quay, with over 40 duty-free shops (don’t forget, you’ll have to show your plane ticket to be exempt from paying the duty). Redcliffe Quay has boutiques and restaurants in restored buildings. The public market in St. John’s sells fruits and vegetables and local Antiguan crafts, such as pottery and baskets.
Be prepared to dress in informal attire on the island, but don’t forget conservative taste is expected. Beachwear is just for the beach! Long skirts or dresses and jackets for men are best when dining in the more up scale restaurants. For cathedrals, shoulders should be covered and pants and skirts should be worn instead of shorts.
Dining in Antigua is an extraordinary experience with a wide range of cuisines to please all palates. Resorts and tourist areas offer Euro-American style food prepared largely from local ingredients. Seafood arrives from the surrounding waters and includes red snapper, lobster, conch and Mahi-Mahi. Italian, Mexican, French and Asian are some of he international cuisines to be savored on the island. Even Kentucky Fried Chicken and Pizza can be found. Of course, you will want to sample some of the local fare, which has been described as a fusion of Caribbean, Chinese and Creole. Fungee is the national dish, similar to polenta and served with a tasty fish and vegetable sauce. The local stew is called Pepper Pot, comprised of beef, eggplant, spinach, garlic, thyme and cloves.
Deserts are tempting; the local favorites are mango pie, coconut tart and raspberry –tamarind stew. All this can be enjoyed while drinking English Harbour Rum, Wadadli Beer or a lime squash (local lemonade). A favorite cocktail is Rum Punch.
Many of the restaurants provide live music and beautiful garden settings or water views. Lunch is usually at noon, and dinner from 6 to 7 P.M. Most restaurants are low-key and laid back. After dinner, nightlife begins at clubs, night clubs and discos.
Music on the island can be soca, calypso, reggae, dancehall, jazz or rock. Carnival occurs from the end of July to the beginning of August, providing a special celebration of music and dance. Brass and steel bands play and march through the cobblestoned streets, in their colorful costumes. This is truly a chance to join the local culture for evening shows and pageants. The Antiguan Jazz Festival takes place in October. A Sunday evening visit to Shirley Heights begins with viewing the dramatic sunset and ends with music and moonlight dancing!
Your getaway to Antigua will provide you with warmth and sunshine, a chance to experience local culture and history, perhaps a chance to explore caves and shipwrecks or a chance to relax and enjoy the peace and quiet of the exquisitely gorgeous setting. You will understand why so many famous people frequent this island. You will probably want to spend more time visiting Antigua since there is always a longing to see another beautiful sunset and have another rum punch! But when it’s time to return, you can depend on your American Airline flight #678. The non-stop flight departs Antigua (ANU) at 3:05 P.M. and arrives at New York (JFK) at 7:00 P.M. If you take the business class you will feel as though your getaway has been extended. Your fabulous time in Antigua will likely entice you to return.
Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta
American Airlines has provided 30 years of service to Antigua. It now offers direct, non-stop flights four times a week between New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and V.C. Bird International Airport in Antigua (ANU). The new service will utilize Boeing 737 aircraft with 148 seats including 16 seats in business class.
For those who will be in the exceptional business class, the following meal will be served:
Fresh fruit appetizer
Cheddar Cheese Omelet with Alfredo Sauce
Vegetable/ Potato Mix
Steely cut oatmeal with mixed berries and brown sugar
Biscuits, baked on board
Warm bagels with cream cheese and jam