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Sailing Week in Antigua:
While my parents travelled a lot throughout my childhood, there was a brief phase when we stayed in one place. For eight whole years. I can remember being piled into the back of the car by my father to go to the sea-side for the day. We had no idea why, but enjoyed our trips to the amusement arcade, to the zoo at the end of the pier and to the beach, a glorious mixture of rock-pools, rusty red carr stone and white chalk cliffs and sandy beaches. It rained a lot. We collected shells, pretty stones and tried our best to persuade my mother that the shrimps and tiny fish we’d caught would be safe to take home to Nottingham. I remember that particular ambition being quashed when she suggested they might be good for tea.
Where would you like to live children – in Nottingham or by the sea?
Asked my father – to the very visible irritation of my mother. It was an unfair question – what child under eight wouldn’t answer as we did, chanting the obvious response in unison.
And so, less than six months after we’d moved to Nottingham, to new schools and a new home, we upped sticks and went to live by the sea. So began my love affair with water. I learnt to sail in a mirror dinghy, spent hours pottering around in a makeshift canoe and never really suffered from teenage angst because I simply got on my bike and went to the beach when life seemed overwhelming. I know that my choice of University was entirely dictated by it’s proximity to the beach. I still aim to end up living somewhere with a sea view again before I retire. For now, though I am very grateful when I am offered the chance to spend a little time by the sea. And if it’s somewhere where the sun is shining, that’s even better!
Arrive in Antigua for Sailing Week and, even more so than the other 51 weeks of the year, you are bound to spend much of your time by, on or in the sea. According to the locals, the island has 365 beaches, one for every day of the year. Regardless of whether that is fact or legend, this small island offers visitors every kind of activity from beach parties and barbeques with live music to sailing and windsurfing, from tranquil, deserted beaches to marine history as well as a wealth of marine life to see. And Sailing Week is a great time to soak up everything.
A brief chance to freshen up in my luxurious room (I loved the flower-strewn bathroom) and to sneak out to take a look at the view, then off for dinner and to get something of the atmosphere on Shirley Heights. My first night coincided with the big concert for Sailing Week – local soca star Tian Winter supporting Shaggy.
Stunning views out over the harbour, fabulous rum punch and crowds of lively locals mingling with the sailing set for an evening of partying. For us, after 23 hours of travelling it was a brief visit that just gave us all a flavour of the atmosphere. Then back to St James’s Club to sleep.
During the week, apart from exploring the resort itself we had a chance to travel around the island and find out a little more about its Naval heritage together with getting an understanding of colonial life and of the impact of the slave trade on sugar and rum production. We enjoyed some of the racing – sailing week involves over 100 boats from 23 countries. We explored the island. I even got to sail a hobbie cat. Later features will go into more detail. But, for now, this is just a chance to say thank you to the people who helped make this trip so special. From the lady selling corn on the roadside, who looked FAR too young to have been doing that for 30 years.
To the children playing at Nelson’s Dockyard
From the smiling street and beach vendors – with charming trinkets to take home that they make themselves
To the staff at St James’s Club – always immaculate and helpful – and always very hard at work keeping the resort pristine.
I asked Francine, our guide from the Antigua Tourist Board, what she thought made the island special. Not the beautiful beaches, not the fabulous climate (it is one of the more sheltered of the Caribbean islands and has a year-round temperature of between 28 and 35c). Not the food, not even the rum punch.
The People. It’s the people that make Antigua special
That’s what Francine told me – and I was easily convinced by my own experience. Antigua is full of people who laugh, who love life and who want to help. From Francine herself who never stopped smiling to Cleo Henry our driver, from the family taxi firm John Henry and Son, who was a mine of information and who spent hours each day taking us around the island.
It was a magical trip that seemed all too short but nevertheless provided a great insight into this island. And for those into sailing – there are some phenomenal races to watch.
So many thanks to Elite Island Resorts
To Francine and Charmaine from the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority
I travelled with Virgin Atlantic and stayed in the Royal Suites at the St James’s Club Antigua
Sailing Week next year, 2019 is from 27th April to 3nd May. Put it in your diary now!
And if you think you might forget, why not pin this post for later!