Henson, our tour guide picked us up from the resort at 9am. He is going to take us around the island and show us all the historical sights.
When I woke up today, the sun was not out, it looked overcast and the the sea sounded angry. It usually means that a storm is brewing. I asked Henson whether he thought it might rain today. He told me that rainfall is quite a rare commodity here and when the rain finally comes, it is usually brief and is referred to as liquid sunshine. What a wonderful term, I thought.
In the end it didn’t rain, but the day remained downcast, which was good for us as the little one doesn’t seem to like the heat. Our tour started in St Johns, the capital city. He drove us past the Cathedral which is being renovated and as a result not open to the public. We soon reach the old cricket stadium where plenty of cricketing world records were set and broken. He listed them, and they sounded pretty impressive.
Next the drive took us past the prison, the high court, the parliament and finally we reach the Sir Vivian Richards stadium. It was built to host the 2007 Cricket World Cup. The population of Antigua is only 80-90,000 and yet they have managed to produce 4 cricketing Knights. A pretty impressive achievement. Andy Roberts, Curtly Ambrose, Richie Richardson and the master blaster Viv Richards. A statute of the great man himself greets us as we reach the stadium. There is an Andy Roberts end and a Curtly Ambrose end at the stadium. Henson shows me how to take a panoramic view on my iPhone. It turns out to be pretty impressive.
Henson takes us through the history of the island and sugar cane production played a major role in the 17 and 18th centuries. The wind mill tower ruins remain as relics and are dotted around the island. We visit Betty’s Hope, a sugar plantation site, which was established in 1650 and has twin windmill towers. It’s heritage status has been restored and the site is now a museum, which recounts the important part sugar plantations and slavery played in the history of the island.
The slaves were not treated well and legend has it that when they had had enough they would go to the Devil’s bridge and commit suicide. This was our next stop. It is a natural bridge that was formed as a result of centuries of sea water erosion on limestone.
Next stop was Nelson’s dockyard, a world heritage site and marina in the English harbour. Named after Horatio Nelson, who at the age of 26 was assigned to enforce the ‘Navigation acts’ in Antigua. He was only there for three years and the act was unpopular. We were given a guided tour of the dockyard and some free time to walk around and visit the museum.
By now it was time for lunch and soon we were tucking into ‘jerk chicken’ and chips at a seaside restaurant with rum punch to wash it down.
We still have a few more sights to visit before we return back to the resort. Shirley’s Heights, a military lookout point, from where you can see the English Harbour in its entirety. Every Sunday the locals gather here for an evening of fun, food, music and dance. On the way back, he stops at another view point from where you can see Eric Clapton’s home in Antigua. Next we drive through the rainforest and return back to St Johns, by which time the roads are packed. We can see a couple of tourist cruise ships which are docked at the harbour. We get back in time for high tea. It’s been a long and informative day and we thank Henson for it.