Story and photography by Manos Angelakis
Liming in Paradise!
Antigua, the “Land of 365 Beaches”, is in the middle of the Leeward Islands of the Lesser Antilles, a few degrees north of the Equator. Its culture has been strongly influenced by the British Empire, of which the country was formerly a part.
I visited the island to observe the annual Antigua Sailing Week; five days of competitive sailboat racing off the rugged southern coast, plus an optional day of racing around the island, and a fabulous party atmosphere ashore. It is considered one of the Caribbean's most prestigious regattas, with more than 100 yachts, flying the flags of 23 different nations, participating every year (see my story in the Cruise and Sail section).
Watching the sailing boats compete is thrilling, especially when you are in a craft inside the course.
And the Sailing Week is a good excuse for a giant party ashore, where locals and visitors, including the competing crews, spend time getting to know each other, dancing, drinking -- Veuve Clicquot was one of the sponsors and English Harbour Antigua Rum was another -- and in general, socializing in a very relaxed atmosphere. Or, as the locals call it, “liming”.
The end of April is a great time to be in Antigua. The temperature is not particularly high, usually in the 70s °F, the water is warm and the throngs of tourists that come once the school year has ended have not yet descended on the island. The residents are friendly and the food is exceptionally fresh and flavorful, especially if you like fish and seafood. And the rum, both as part of a cocktail – rum-punch or rum-and-coke or any of the concoctions local mixologists invent – or as a sipping spirit, is particularly enjoyable and invigorating.
Prior to the prize giving at Nelson's Dockyard, the America's Cup Trophy was displayed. “The Auld Mug” is the oldest international sporting trophy in the world, originally awarded in 1851 by the Royal Yacht Squadron for a race around the Isle of Wight. At the end of the week, the 47th edition of Antigua Sailing Week came to a conclusion with the Final Awards Ceremony & After Party with DJ Purist and the legendary Asher Otto & Itchyfeet playing live.
The regatta was only one part of the reason I came to Antigua. The other reason was to explore local luxury hotel and resort options on the island.
And I was not disappointed.
First of all, the “Land of 365 Beaches” moniker is very true. Beautiful white or tan sand beaches can be found on both the Atlantic and Caribbean sides of the island and most of the luxury resorts are located on those palm tree covered sand strips.
A few of the resorts caught my attention.
The first was the Curtain Bluff, an all inclusive luxury resort in a lovely tropical garden. It consists of 72 rooms and suites and is located on 2 beaches, with a beachside swimming pool. There is a water sports center that can provide scuba, deep-sea fishing, water skiing, windsurfing, and small Hobie Cats. There are three tennis courts and a squash court. A seaside spa is also available for a variety of treatments as well as a well-equipped gym with classes, such as yoga and pilates.
Two award-winning restaurants and two bars are located in the main complex, and, if you are a wine aficionado, you will find a world-class wine cellar full of exceptional wines including numerous Bordeaux Grand Cru Château bottles and Burgundies and top Chileans (Don Melchor and Almaviva), as well as great Italian Sassicaia. Actually, the three temperature- and humidity- controlled rooms of the wine cellar are the best I have ever seen in the Caribbean and Clive, the resident sommelier, is very knowledgeable of what the cellar has to offer and can suggest food and wine pairings.
Following the British custom, afternoon tea is served near one of the bars everyday, between 4 and 5 pm, with scones, clotted cream and strawberry preserves, pound cake and finger sandwiches.
Wendy Eardley is the Resident Manager, and she will do her best to fulfill any request. The staff is very well trained; present when needed but not in the least intrusive.
The next resort worth mentioning is the Sugar Ridge Resort.
The reception, spa, casual restaurant and bar are located at the bottom of a rather steep hill together with a wrap-around pool. Golf carts will take you up the hill to the rooms and the formal restaurant that sits atop the ridge.
Clinging to the side of the hill, the resort’s suites are grouped in sets of four, with the lower floor rooms having a private plunge pool, and all of them having wide verandas. They all have panoramic views of palm lined beaches and the Caribbean Sea.
But what makes this resort special is Carmichael's, their restaurant.
A well designed menu and an interesting wine list are an introduction to an exceptional meal. The restaurant’s bar offers marvelous rum-based cocktails. The island views are breathtaking.
Keith Martel, the General Manager, was kind enough to show us around this interesting property.
A third luxurious property where we spent three days was the Blue Waters Hotel. An outstanding combination of rooms, suites, villas, condominium owned suites etc. In a lush tropical garden, there are 3 exceptional restaurants, including one for adults only, a spa, numerous pools -- some by the suite and villa complexes -- plus a large pool by the main restaurant. For much more information on the Blue Waters Resort, please see the next issue.
Chef Jason Hughes, is quite accomplished, and one evening he created a lovely roast leg of lamb with lemon potatoes and an Athenian salad. Very Greek indeed! The food in general was exceptionally good, and would satisfy the most demanding palates.
Andy Howard, the General Manager, was ever-present, greeting guests arriving and departing, checking on the restaurants and bars, walking the public spaces, and in general making sure that the guests were all well cared for.
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