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Trip Report My recent adventures in Nevis & Antigua

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Warning: this trip report is very long so skip to the end if you just want to get my overall impressions.

My husband and I just returned from our most active Caribbean vacation yet, splitting our time between Nevis and
Antigua. We left on November 12, just as we were receiving our first snowfall of the year. Traveling on American
Airlines, we made an easy connection in San Juan and breezed through customs & immigration in Nevis--where I
was wished a happy birthday multiple times by the officials when they noticed that my birthday fell during the time
of our stay.

We took a brief taxi ride up the hill to Mt. Nevis Hotel and after a quick check in we were ushered to the bar area for
a welcome drink. We gladly took the proffered rum punches and eased ourselves onto island time. The patio
overlooks the swimming pool and, though it might sound silly to some, the hillside position offered the perfect view
of aircraft taking off and landing at the airport. My husband is a nut for anything related to aviation, but even I
enjoyed seeing the small planes approach at what seemed like eye level.

After that we retired to our room to freshen up before dinner. Our first impression of the room was one of pleasant
surprise. We had second floor room with a full kitchen, a large sitting area with a sofa & two chairs, 3 sets of sliding
glass doors that opened to a balcony with gorgeous views of St. Kitts, and a bathroom with attractive ceramic tile
done in a harlequin pattern with a granite sink. The room also had a TV with a VCR and DVD player, but we didn?t
turn it on once. There was optional a/c if desired. We had dinner that night at the hotel and nearly had the place to
ourselves. Dinner was quite good and the view of the lights on St. Kitts in the distance was prettier than I would?ve
imagined.

Day 2: Our package (purchased at Luxurylink) included a full breakfast daily and two dinners, so the next morning
we meandered out to the breakfast patio to enjoy the view. If we had known it would be our only day of sunshine,
no doubt we would?ve enjoyed it even more. :) After breakfast we rented a car and drove on the left for the first
time, which was the beginning of our adventures. We decided to drive once around the island clockwise to get a feel
for driving, and the condition of the road provided a good introductory lesson to drive SLOWLY. We ended up at
Nisbet for the day, which we enjoyed very much. The staff was quite gracious and attentive to us and we staked out
the farthest palapa for a bit of shade and privacy. We spent most of the day alternating among reading, walking the
beach, and cooling off in the water. Lunch was very good there--we tried our first conch fritters and LOVED them.
I also enjoyed the menu of rum and blended drinks and sampled a few. Around 5:00 we headed back to the hotel for
a quick dip in the pool before going in to get ready for dinner. We chose Oualie and were very disappointed. Our
first two choices on the menu were unavailable and when our meals did arrive, the wahoo was dry to the point of
being nearly inedible. Luckily the rice & peas were delicious and plentiful! The manager came to apoligize for being
out of so many things, explaining that the shipment they had been expecting hadn?t arrived. We appreciated his
coming over to us but by that time we didn?t want to order any dessert. We left after taking a short stroll out on their
beach and opted to order dessert back at Mt. Nevis instead--a delicious layer cake with vanilla buttercream.

Day 3: We decided to try out Pinney?s Beach that day and so made our way to Sunshine?s. However, as soon as our
car pulled up, they started playing very loud music. Deciding that we?d rather come back and deal with that vibe for
cocktails, we returned to Nisbet for the day. The staff remembered us from the day before and again were very
welcoming. After a day comprised mostly of rain and wind we retired back to Mt. Nevis, hoping to get in a quick
nap before dinner. However, my sweet husband, in his impatience to return to the hotel, got a little overconfident in
his driving. We hit a pothole going too fast and ended up with a flat tire. So, the late afternoon of my birthday was
spent changing a tire on the side of the road, my husband feeling quite sheepish through the ordeal. But if rain
couldn?t dampen our spirits, so to speak, neither could a flat tire. We hired a taxi to take us to Montpelier for a
special birthday dinner so that we could celebrate without having to worry about the drive back. Well, dinner was
perfect. The atmoshere, the food, the service, the folks at Montpelier--they all added up to a wonderful and
memorable night. I was quite surprised to realize that without the bartab, dinner would have been quite moderately
priced.

Day 4: After breakfast we decided to head into Charlestown for some shopping and exploring. A steady rain had
settled in over the island so we decided we could see more in town. We bought a few books at the bookshop and
some postcards at the philatelic bureau and spend quite a bit of time walking around window shopping. We were
hoping to see the old Jewish cemetery, but each person we asked for directions pointed us differently. We left town
and headed to Golden Rock for lunch. We enjoyed the grounds at Golden Rock, which were gorgeously lush
without being too fussy. We passed a languorous couple of hours there eating and walking around, including on one
of the hiking trails. We didn?t catch a glimpse of any of its famed monkeys, but several of the trails were closed off
because of mud slides from the rain. We went back to the hotel to regroup and decide what to do for the evening.
After consulting the St. Kitts/Nevis guide left in the room we decided to try out Banana?s for a sundowner. Not
many cars around when we arrived, but that didn?t faze us. The clouds were just beginning to break up and we
figured it was our only chance to catch a sunset. We climbed all the way to the top (funicular wasn?t running, which
should?ve been our second clue), only to find the place was deserted. We took a few pictures before walking back
down where we ran into a villa owner who told us it was now closed on Mondays (the ad we saw said it was closed
on Sundays. Go figure.). Well, no problem. We?ll just head down to Sunshine?s for aforementioned sundowner.
Right? Well, we get to the turnoff for the beach and we see a double sunset. One in the sky and another reflected in
the flooded road. Just as we?re turning around, we see a man ahead assuring us the road was indeed passable.
We?re skeptical but give it the ol? college try anyway, figuring the worst that could happen was we?d have to get out
and push the car if the water got too deep. Luckily it maxed out at around 6 inches, so we pulled up to Sunshine?s
and ordered drinks. That Killer Bee was one of the best rum drinks I?ve ever had! Completely worth the hassle
involved to get there. By that time of day the loud music felt quite appropriate, so we walked along the beach and
enjoyed the last minutes of light. The only downside was the mosquitos, who swarmed us. They didn?t actually
land on us because we were doused in spray, but they hovered around our heads and I nearly inhaled several. Quite
disconcerting, so we ended up finishing the cocktails in our car. But the best part of the day was having dinner at
Cla-Cha-Del?s, where Pas made us feel completely at home. The food was outstanding, the hospitality was so
genuine, the experience superlative in so many ways, that we wished we had eaten all previous dinners there.

Day 5: We had to give up our rental car that day, so we spent it mostly poolside at the hotel. There were two
tent/pavilion type things available, so we just set up camp there so that the rain wouldn?t affect us much. We wrote
postcards, read books, and took the brief walk to Cottle Chapel, which was a very moving experience. It?s the ruins
of the first church built on Nevis, possibly in the West Indies, where plantation owners and slaves could worship
together. It?s in the process of being restored and there were several information stations giving the history of the
area and short bios of early British abolitionists. Dinner that night was at the hotel and was quite good. Nice
outdoor setting, good food, etc, but it was neither so spectacular as Montpelier nor as all around great as
Cla-Cha-Del.

Day 6: Woke to rain again so decided to go back to sleep and take a late breakfast. While drinking coffee on the
balcony we saw our first monkeys! They were coming across the lawns and darting hither, thither, and yon and were
quite a delight to watch. After a quick packing job we headed to the airport to catch our flight to Antigua. Flight was
LIAT but we flew a tiny Carib plane. Short and bumpy flight, rain all the way. Made it through customs &
immigation in record time and we pulled into Long Bay Hotel in time to make lunch. Antigua had also been
receiving record rains and we?d never seen the island looking so green, nor the livestock so healthy. Unfortunately
for us, it rained just about the whole time we were there. We spent the rest of the day catching up with our friends
on staff and checking out the improvements they made since we were there last summer. We were quite dismayed
to see how much the beach had eroded, to the point where it was almost non-existent. It used to be about 20 feet
deep from water?s edge to low brick wall encompassing the beach house. During this visit, waves were lapping at
the sea wall. It always shrinks during the fall and is replenished in the winter & spring, but this looked unbelievable.
Dinner was quite good and we had a great time chatting with two young couples from London. Retired early to our
room. We were supposed to be in the Harbour House, but the heavy rain had slipped through the thatched roof in a
couple of places. We elected to move to one of the regular rooms on the upper wing.

Day 7: More rain (sigh). But we were excited about going to Harmony Hall for the first time. It?s usually closed
from May-November but our timing was right this time around. I had made arrangements with the management a
few weeks before we left because I wanted to be able to go to Green Island and snorkel and then come back for
lunch--no problem. But when we arrived they told us the boat couldn?t leave English Harbor because of the high
seas. Not quite a ground swell, but bad enough. They very kindly offered us a complimentary cappucino. Although
disappointing, the ambience was so enchanting we made arrangement to come back the next day for lunch. We
went back to Long Bay and read at the beach, taking shelter when necessary from the light rain. I tried snorkeling
twice when the rain let up but there were so many particulates in the water that I couldn?t see more than a few feet in
front of me. The water was pretty choppy, too, and I constantly had to clear my snorkel of water. We also took a
walk up to Mango Bay hotel, which has improved tremendously since the first time I saw it. The open air lobby
actually looked quite inviting. We walked all the way to the point across from Devil?s Bridge and were amazed at the
size of the waves coming in from the Atlantic. Dinner that night was at the beach house and was quite festive with
live music. We retired early with our books.

Day 8: More rain. By this time we would?ve been ecstatic just to have an overcast sky. Around 11:00 that morning
we joined the same two British couples and rather recklessly decided to take a small boat to Harmony Hall for lunch.
Long Bay now has a water sports manager named Arno, a young daredevil from Switzerland. We loaded up in a
small launch, made our way past Devil?s Bridge, and ended up at our destination soaked to the bone and feeling
exhilirated from our brush with adventure. After changing into dry clothes, we meandered through the gallery and
made friends with the resident cat and dogs. Lunch was a true Italian affair, lasting 2.5 hours, and every bite was
delicious. The owner, Ricardo, came by several times to chat and lament the weather. He felt quite bad that the
weather kept us from Green Island for two consecutive days and insisted on treating us to a couple of rounds of
adult beverages. We opted to get picked up by car rather than boat, as the visibility was close to nil on the water with
the rain coming down in sheets. Back at the hotel we worked off lunch with a nice long nap. It was still pouring by
the time dinner rolled around and were just starting to feel a little uncomfortable with the dampness. We were still
full from lunch but decided to show up for dinner for the company, if not the food. Despite, or perhaps because of,
the rain it felt more congenial than usual at the bar with the staff and guests. Another early retirement after dessert
and more convo.

Last day: We rose to an overcast sky but without rain actually falling. Cautiously optimistic, we went to the beach
after breakfast and were paid off with about two hours of feeble sunshine before having to leave for the airport. We
had a wonderful time at Long Bay and were very sad to leave after only three nights there. Trip home was
uneventful and felt a little unreal.

All in all, we had a wonderful time. Nevis is fabulous and we can?t wait to go back again. When we do, we will
likely either stay on the beach at Nisbet or up in the hills at Montpelier, or perhaps a combo of both. We will
probably in the future always rent a car because we enjoyed the freedom it gave us. Mt. Nevis is a nice place and I
believe it offers a very good value for the money, but I didn?t feel any ?spark? there like I have at other places I?ve
stayed or visited. The only real negative aspect of the trip I can think of were the other tourists. At every place we
went except Cla-Cha-Del, we seemed to run into the same 5-6 parties of guests who were loud, obnoxious,
pretentious, and ostentatious. Hardly in keeping with the vibe the island puts out. As for the weather, the rain had
washed out several roads on Nevis and there was standing water nearly everywhere, but it didn?t really keep us from
experiencing as much as possible.

Long Bay, by contrast, felt immediately like coming home. It?s not as elegant as Mt. Nevis and in fact it puts all of
its flaws out there for you to see right away. But after that, you?re left to discover its many charms and delights. Mt.
Nevis on the other hand seemed to put its best foot forward, but the more time we spent there, the more things we
found to criticize about it. It was very rewarding to see Antigua so lush and prosperous looking--there were actually
small inland ponds that I?d never seen before, complete with pie-plate sized water lilies. Would I have preferred
some sunny weather? Absolutely! But considering my previous good luck with weather it was only a matter of time
before I had a rainy Caribbean vacation. And on a dry island like that where water is such a precious commodity it
seems petty to complain about a week of rain when it means the difference between life and death to the creatures
(and perhaps people) who call Antigua home. Of course, I had to remind myself of that from time to time. :) But really, considering there was periodic snow & ice at my home in Massachusetts, how bad can 9 days of warm rain in paradise be?

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