I can’t believe it. I just can’t. I’ve just spent two weeks having the best holiday I’ve ever had. And here I am back at work and back in Yorkshire. It’s the worst thing about holidays. You spend ages looking forward to them and in the blink of an eye they’ve come and gone.
Well, it turns out that we were staying at a place in Antigua heavily geared up for sailing. This was just perfect because I can’t stand sailing and I was really looking to relax. Fortunately there was no pressure to do any sailing and I managed to do precisely none. The apartment was very nice (i.e. it had the two essential items of a TV and air conditioning as well as a bonus of a balcony) and the food was excellent. We were staying on a half-board basis which meant getting either an inclusive lunch or evening meal each day and that meant we didn’t feel roped into being there all the time.
I spent most of week one sunbathing and snorkelling. I wanted to rest my body and that’s exactly what I did. The snorkelling (which I’d never done before) was fantastic and it was like being in a giant aquarium (oddly enough) with hundreds of fish of all shapes, sizes and colours. I loved it. I spent hours floating around looking at things. While sunbathing I would generally read and watch the Pelicans fishing right alongside. The temperature hovered around 34C but there was always a strong wind that helped to keep the temperature just right (otherwise I might have boiled). The highlight of the first week was walking a mile or so along the road to a deserted beach (pictured above) which we had entirely to ourselves. Just what the doctor ordered.
The second week was much more action-packed. On Monday we hired a car along with another very nice couple we met and drove around the island. There are no road signs at all which made navigating extremely entertaining although we did pretty well (apart from a detour to the army base, from their laughter we could tell it happened a lot). We went to a few beautiful beaches and also the superb viewpoint Shirley Heights (below, you may recognise it from the Duran Duran video Rio).
One of the beaches (at Half Moon Bay) was the place we got to try body surfing. For this you get a boogie board (like a large kickboard from a swimming pool), you get out into the water and attempt to ride waves back to the beach. It was such a laugh. When you catch a wave it’s magic and the speed is electric but when you don’t they do their best to flip you around and drown you! I spent a bit of time cartwheeling around underwater while waves bigger than me played the “let’s kill John” game. I loved it and will really try and get around to learning to surf properly one of these days.
On the Wednesday we took a helicopter ride to Montserrat. For those of you who don’t know, this a volcanic island near Antigua that has been active since 1995. A great deal of the island had to be abandoned in 1997 when much of it was destroyed by pyroclastic flows. It’s not one of those lava-spewing volcanoes, instead it blasts out hot, dry rock fragments and hot gases at fantastic speeds that destroy everything in their path. Not only was the helicopter trip great fun (it’s amazing what those things can do) but it was very sobering to see the destruction that a volcano can do to ordinary people (see right).
Anyway, I’ve got loads of photos that I’ll be putting on my walls, lots of shells (including some pretty large, spiky ones) that will go in the bathroom, we bought an oil painting that we actually got to watch being painted (will post a photo once we get it framed), a dark tan (which will fade, I know) and the memories to last a lifetime. I really didn’t want to come back, in fact I’d almost forgotten what my life in the UK was like. I do feel completely relaxed though and the holiday was even better than I imagined it would be (despite the fact that I couldn’t find a hammock to lie on).
All the locals we met were very friendly and I’d definitely recommend Antigua as a holiday destination to anybody wanting some sunshine and a different culture (it’s amazing how obsessed they seemed to be with religion and road safety – there were about a million churches and road signs encouraging people to wear their seat belts). Anyway, when my jet lag wears off I’ll try and remember more of the things we got up to in the beautiful Caribbean – if they’re interesting enough.