A Travellerspoint blog

Antigua

ANTIGUA Date: 3rd March

Weather: Mostly overcast, some rain before arrival, very warm 26c, humid

Position: Latitude 17 deg. 7.2 min N Longitude 61 deg. 50.8 min W

They call Antigua “a beach with an island in the middle” for it is a good way to describe this charming island, with its little sisters Barbuda and Redonda, it forms the largest and most developed of the four British Leeward islands. Roughly circular, the island is about 12 miles in diameter and has some of the finest beaches in the Caribbean, more than 350 of them.

Some points of its history are, it was fought over by the French , Dutch and Spanish, but the British prevailed, as by the mid-1600s British planters from St Kitts colonised Antigua and used African slaves on the sugar plantations.

During the 18th and 19th centuries Antigua was the headquarters of the Commander-in-Chief of the Leeward Islands Station and the principal British naval base in the Eastern Caribbean during the Napoleonic Wars. Admirals, Nelson, Rodney, Hood and Jarvis all made the dockyard at English Harbour their headquarters, and it was from here the Rodney sailed to the Battle of the Saints. It was also here that Nelson re-fitted his ships during his chase of the French Admiral Villeneuve, which ended at Trafalgar.

Alongside us at our berth in St Johns, which is the islands capital, was the cruise ship “Celebrity Eclipse” and we then discovered as we walked down the quay that beyond the Celebrity ship there were two other big cruise ships, one a Thompson ship which was for German passengers, and the MSC Majesty . So Antigua was going to be a busy place that day. We joined our friends Marilyn and John with the idea of a taxi tour, once outside the quays gate there were plenty of options for this, most of the taxis are the people carrier type, and our driver Alwen wanted 6 people, so we were linked up with a Scottish couple who were from the Celebrity ship. As the day went along all six of us plus Alwen got along very well. ( Alwen was a real card!) Just outside the quayside gates, there were many colourful waterfront buildings with shops etc. with a board walk along the front of them, it set the hole harbour front off really well .( something we thought we`d look at later)

The biggest tourist attraction on the island (apart from its beaches) is Nelson`s Dockyard in English Harbour, so that was going to be our first port of call, it took us a bit of time to clear the town of St John`s and our route took us across the island. As we neared our stop we had lovely view of a marina, and that was Falmouth Harbour, for us who come from Cornwall ( UK ) it’s a very familiar name as we visit Falmouth quite a lot. The whole complex of Nelsons Dockyard and English Harbour is a national park, so an entrance fee is necessary to get in. But that fee is well worth it, for they have a fine asset, the whole dockyard fell into disrepair, so in 1951 a Friends of English Harbour association was set up, and the results are there for all to see. A lot of the old original buildings are still there, such places as Admirals house, Old Guard house, and a Copper and Lumber store, inside each of the buildings was a small museum of that particular function of the yard. It was a real dockyard with all the trades associated with ship repair in it. We only had a short time there just ½ hour, speaking to people later aboard ship everyone wished they had more time there. From the English Harbour we drove to a nearby viewing point called Shirley Heights, in the heyday of the harbour, at this viewing point there was a fort to protect the harbour. You could see many miles of the coastline and much of the island, one older local taxi driver could remember when he was a boy, that much of what we could see of the island was used to grow cotton, which was then sent to England to be processed, but now that same view was what looked like scrub land with the occasional building on it.

Moving on we took in another part of the island, it`s what they called their rainforest, it was certainly more lush with many high trees and banana plantations but not the dripping forest we had seen on other islands. Now our route took us to the coast and we had some great views of many fine beaches, from one of those beaches Alwen pointed out the island of Montserrat, I don`t know how far it was but at a guess 15 miles, the volcano is still puffing out a plume of smoke, which hung over its crater.

Occasionally Alwen would break out into song with some of Bob Marley hits and we would all join in, it made for a good atmosphere. Buy this time we had nearly completed our tour as we were on the outskirts of St Johns, when we were dropped off we had a quick look at the colourful shops we’d seen earlier. So I think we had had 3 ½ hours of what was the best about Antigua, so we can go away with some good memories of Antigua and of course Alwen.

We were the second of the four ships to leave, but it was a great sail-away with flat calm seas and another great sun set. So we`re off to our last port of call Ponta Delgada in the Azores.

Sorry for the delay in posting this blog, just relaxing at sea after our 8 islands in the Caribbean.

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Posted by pzack 06:11 Comments (0)

Ponta Delgada

  • PONTA DELGADA**

Date: *9th March 2014

  • Weather:* Sunny but cool 13c, warmer out of the breeze
  • Position: *Latitude 37 deg. 44.3 min. N Longitude 25 deg. 39.8 min. W

The Azores, or the Western Islands are a Portuguese archipelago in the North Atlantic , consisting of nine islands which are in three groups. These three groups are all on different tectonic plates, which meet at that particular point in the Atlantic. They are all of volcanic origin, with the last eruption of Capelinhos in 1957.

The Azores have a temperate climate, due to the Gulf stream, with an annual mean temperature of 18 degrees Celsius, in winter the lowest would be 11c and a high in summer of 26c, these weather conditions being temperate means practically anything will grow and flourish. Our island for the day, Sao Miguel is known as The Green Island, with land commanding a high price because it can produce three or four crops every year. One of its important products is the dairy industry, where cattle can graze in the open all year round, but also beef on the hoof, which is exported to Madeira and Portugal. Another big industry here, is the Pineapple with several producers.

Sao Miguel is the largest and most important island of the whole group, with more than half the total population, which is 260,000. It is 35 miles long and 9 miles wide, with Ponta Delgada as the capital.

Our first view of the island, was of mountains and hills from a few miles offshore, we`d arrived ready for our docking a little bit early, so we had to wait for the pilot so we could proceed, the captain had informed us being a Sunday he was probably having a lie in. The town of Ponta Delgada was fully visible, the place itself was quite large, we were expecting something a lot smaller. Our berth was inside a guarding breakwater, shaped like the letter " T "with the upright of the T connected to a promenade and Lido, first impressions were, the place looks very nice. We also learnt later, that housed on this berth were many shops and cafés, and also a terminal building. In the waters around the berth was an open swimming area one side, and a yacht marina the other.

The plans we had for the day were to just explore the place, we had been here before so we had a fair idea of what to expect, so it was a late breakfast, then out onto the top deck to get our bearings again, and we were trying to decide what to wear ashore because the weather forecast for the day was for it to be mostly sunny with a temperature high of 13c. These last couple of days we have seen a big temperature drop, from low 20s to low teens. For me also it was the first time for a while, that I wore long trousers, it`s getting a bit chilly for shorts!.

So now ashore we strolled along the promenade, and it was at this time that the sun decided to come out, leaving a clear blue sky. It seems that a lot of the Portuguese cities use a black and white natural stone to make their tiled pavements, and this place was the same, for as we walked around it seemed that each road or street had its own design. But in general there were very few buildings with any colour, you may say how boring when the dominant colours are black and white, but actually they looked very nice. The streets we walked were tidy, and some of the smaller side streets with tiny iron balconies looked very quaint.

After a while you got the feeling that it was a place which was out of season, not that it would be a great tourist destination anyway, because of its remoteness, being in the middle of the Atlantic, and also it was a big disappointment that being a Sunday must of the shops were closed. After walking for a while and following our map, we found a square, where the café culture was in full swing, so we joined in, for this was a planned move, and the reason for that move was custard tarts, we`ve had them here and in Lisbon before, and they are a Portuguese treat, (we did also have a pot of tea). They are not huge, maybe the size of a Christmas mince pie, and these were still warm, Very yummy! While in the square we did notice that there was a tourist horse and carriage, also an open top bus went by earlier, so there must be a demand for these things.

Having done quite a big loop of the town, we found ourselves back on the main front road, where there is a wide promenade, and on the promenade we noticed a group who were doing what looked like some traditional dancing. We then made our way back to the ship, but while we were in the town we could see that most places have WI FI, and you must admire our crew, because no matter where you are in the world, they just seem to know where you can get connected to the outside world.

So for us this last sail away was quite a sad occasion, this being our last port of call, the next port, will be our home port of Southampton. So I hope all those of you who have followed us on our travel blogs, have enjoyed what we have experienced in the flesh. For us it has been a great journey, even now when we go back and look at some of our early photos,
the memories come flooding back. For us the Caribbean has been a first ( apart from our two stops in Barbados) so to have seen some of its Islands and experienced diverse cultures has been great, and to have shared some of our memories with our friends Mike & Sue and John & Marilyn, has really added to the trip.

So we will say goodbye for now, just keep on looking at "pzack.travellerspoint" for future episodes. From Colin & Angie

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Posted by pzack 10:41 Comments (1)

Antigua

  • ANTIGUA**

Date: 3rd March *

  • Weather: * Mostly overcast, some rain before arrival, very warm 26c, humid
  • Position: * Latitude 17 deg. 7.2 min N Longitude 61 deg. 50.8 min W

They call Antigua "a beach with an island in the middle" for it is a good way to describe this charming island, with its little sisters Barbuda and Redonda, it forms the largest and most developed of the four British Leeward islands. Roughly circular, the island is about 12 miles in diameter and has some of the finest beaches in the Caribbean, more than 350 of them.
Some points of its history are, it was fought over by the French , Dutch and Spanish, but the British prevailed, as by the mid-1600s British planters from St Kitts colonised Antigua and used African slaves on the sugar plantations.

During the 18th and 19th centuries Antigua was the headquarters of the Commander-in-Chief of the Leeward Islands Station and the principal British naval base in the Eastern Caribbean during the Napoleonic Wars. Admirals, Nelson, Rodney, Hood and Jarvis all made the dockyard at English Harbour their headquarters, and it was from here the Rodney sailed to the Battle of the Saints. It was also here that Nelson re-fitted his ships during his chase of the French Admiral Villeneuve, which ended at Trafalgar.

Alongside us at our berth in St Johns, which is the islands capital, was the cruise ship "Celebrity Eclipse" and we then discovered as we walked down the quay that beyond the Celebrity ship there were two other big cruise ships, one a Thompson ship which was for German passengers, and the MSC Majesty . So Antigua was going to be a busy place that day. We joined our friends Marilyn and John with the idea of a taxi tour, once outside the quays gate there were plenty of options for this, most of the taxis are the people carrier type, and our driver Alwen wanted 6 people, so we were linked up with a Scottish couple who were from the Celebrity ship. As the day went along all six of us plus Alwen got along very well. ( Alwen was a real card!) Just outside the quayside gates, there were many colourful waterfront buildings with shops etc. with a board walk along the front of them, it set the hole harbour front off really well .( something we thought we`d look at later)

The biggest tourist attraction on the island (apart from its beaches) is Nelson`s Dockyard in English Harbour, so that was going to be our first port of call, it took us a bit of time to clear the town of St John`s and our route took us across the island. As we neared our stop we had lovely view of a marina, and that was Falmouth Harbour, for us who come from Cornwall ( UK ) it's a very familiar name as we visit Falmouth quite a lot. The whole complex of Nelsons Dockyard and English Harbour is a national park, so an entrance fee is necessary to get in. But that fee is well worth it, for they have a fine asset, the whole dockyard fell into disrepair, so in 1951 a Friends of English Harbour association was set up, and the results are there for all to see. A lot of the old original buildings are still there, such places as Admirals house, Old Guard house, and a Copper and Lumber store, inside each of the buildings was a small museum of that particular function of the yard. It was a real dockyard with all the trades associated with ship repair in it. We only had a short time there just 1/2 hour, speaking to people later aboard ship everyone wished they had more time there. From the English Harbour we drove to a nearby viewing point called Shirley Heights, in the heyday of the harbour, at this viewing point there was a fort to protect the harbour. You could see many miles of the coastline and much of the island, one older local taxi driver could remember when he was a boy, that much of what we could see of the island was used to grow cotton, which was then sent to England to be processed, but now that same view was what looked like scrub land with the occasional building on it.

Moving on we took in another part of the island, it`s what they called their rainforest, it was certainly more lush with many high trees and banana plantations but not the dripping forest we had seen on other islands. Now our route took us to the coast and we had some great views of many fine beaches, from one of those beaches Alwen pointed out the island of Montserrat, I don`t know how far it was but at a guess 15 miles, the volcano is still puffing out a plume of smoke, which hung over its crater.

Occasionally Alwen would break out into song with some of Bob Marley hits and we would all join in, it made for a good atmosphere. Buy this time we had nearly completed our tour as we were on the outskirts of St Johns, when we were dropped off we had a quick look at the colourful shops we'd seen earlier. So I think we had had 3 1/2 hours of what was the best about Antigua, so we can go away with some good memories of Antigua and of course Alwen.

We were the second of the four ships to leave, but it was a great sail-away with flat calm seas and another great sun set. So we`re off to our last port of call Ponta Delgada in the Azores.

Sorry for the delay in posting this blog, just relaxing at sea after our 8 islands in the Caribbean.

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Posted by pzack 17:56 Comments (1)

St Barts

ST. BARTS Date: 2nd March

Weather: Hot and sunny all day 28c

Position: Latitude 17 deg. 54.2 min N Longitude 62 deg. 52.3 min W

Today St. Barts is a French island ( Saint-Bathelemy) and is a chic and stunning place, it lies at the northern end of the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean Sea. It is also the smallest of the French West Indies, being just 6 ¼ miles long and 2 ½ miles wide. Nearby neighbours include St Maarten and Barbuda, St Kitts and Nevis, Montserrat and Guadeloupe which lie to the south east.

In 1678 French colonists from St Kitts settled on the island, but later in the 17th century settlers from Normandy, Brittany and Poitou moved to St Barts and it was a flourishing community. Then unexpectedly in 1784 Louis XVI of France exchanged St Barts in return for the port right in Goteborg. Sweden now owned their only Caribbean island, and renamed their capital from Port du Carenage, to Gustavia in honour of King Gustav III, and this name remains the same today, and is still the islands capital. But several natural disasters, fire in 1852(reducing the port to a smouldering wreck) hurricanes and earthquakes had a dire consequence, with many leaving the island, so with things going from bad to worse, and virtually bankrupt it was purchased by the French in 1878 for 320, 000 golden francs.

For the first time on this cruise, we had a tender port, which means instead of the ship tying up alongside a quay and us walking ashore, we were transported ashore by means of the ships tenders. This all takes time with 2,000+ passengers aboard, as we were at anchor about a mile offshore. We had prior notice from the ship that being a Sunday visit not many of the shops would be open that day.

As soon as you stepped ashore you could see we were in a different kind of environment, it was more like the south of France, we were landed in a marina where there were lots of large motor and sailing yachts, this place just oozed money. Mind you it was nice to see, with well-manicured flower beds, trees and palms lining the streets. For us passengers there was not a lot to see or do, there was only one excursion organized by the ship, and that was for 1 hour duration. We picked up a local map and did our exploring and following instructions from other passengers on what to see. We found our way to “Shell Beach”, it was just a small cove, but very nice and well attended being a Sunday. The temperature in St Barts was the hottest we had experienced on this trip, 28- 29c, so we were always looking for some shade and a breeze. Our exploring took us in and out of the streets we passed many boutique type shops with fine products and prices.

Making our way back to the landing area, we joined a queue to take us back to our ship. I suppose we were ashore for about 1 ½ hrs it was nice to see how the other half live, but the place itself was beautiful, a pity our visit coinsided with a Sunday but I think it was out of our league anyway, so just as well the shops were closed. So heading for our last port of call Antigua, we set sail on a beautiful balmy evening, when leaving we experienced a glorious sunset.

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Posted by pzack 06:41 Comments (1)

Tortola

TORTOLA Date: 1st March

Weather: Hot and sunny all day, nice gentle breeze, 28c

Position: Latitude 18 deg. 25.3 min N Longitude 64 deg. 36.6 min W

Up in the northeast corner of the Caribbean, some 50 miles east of Puerto Rico, lies the British Virgin islands a shapeless group of about 50 islands, only four of which are any size. Tortola, the largest has 17,809 residents, Virgin Gorda has 3, 280 and then there are scattered hamlets existing on a dozen or so of the other islands.

The Dutch settled Tortola in 1648, but were ousted by the British with their expansion in 1666. The British, who administered the Leeward Islands took over the government in 1672. This part of the Caribbean has a lot of history concerning the pirate activity, its islands have numerous sheltered bays, ideal for hiding ships away. Famous name such as “Blackbeard” used to operate around here.

For us we had a tour booked “ The Best of Tortola” to see around the island. We assembled ashore and were shown to our transport, which can be best described as an open sided bus, most of these buses carry around 25 passengers and are very colourfully decorated with ornate designs, as you travelled along the breeze kept you nice and cool. These buses need to be very powerful( I found out ours had a 6.8 litre engine, V10), as the island is of volcanic origin, and the road has many steep and high hills/mountains. The road which we took to our first vantage point was more suited to mountain goats, but it was good fun. We overlooked Road Town ( our port for our visit) and the surrounding islands, very picturesque and the number of islands was huge. Our route took us up and down many of these steep sided hills with beautiful vantage points looking down into small sheltered sandy bays.

Our next stop was to be “Cane Garden Bay Beach”, really beautiful all what you imagined a tropical island beach to look like. Our trip allowed us a break of 25 minutes to explore, have a paddle whatever, the beach had all the amenities sun-loungers, umbrellas small bars etc. Some passengers were already there for the beach. Time up, we continued to follow a coast road giving us fantastic views around most corners. Two famous landmarks along our route were, “Bomba Shack” a notorious drinking place where some raucous parties are held, and next a mural which has been painted on a support wall on a hill incline, it depicts the history of the island.

Our next major stop was to “Pussers Landing” where we had a 1hour stop, it was at the head of an inlet, it had a marina some shops and many very colourful houses, the colours they use are of a pastel variety, pinks, lime green, yellow to name a few and are mostly done in the old colonial style, very picturesque. Here we had the chance to sit on a veranda overlooking the yachts, have a drink, Rum punch, beer or a fruit juice, reggae music playing all very atmospheric. I would say that this island Tortola, more than any other so far is the one for yachting and boating, boats are everywhere, and all sizes from the big luxury motor yacht, to the many sized sailing craft.

We then moved on, still following the coast with the road only a few feet from the water`s edge, another quite common thing to see here, is the Brown Pelican diving down under the water to catch fish. As we neared the end of our trip, just before Road Town , we passed a place where you can swim with the dolphins.

As we got off our bus, I think we all said what a great time we all had, and we shall leave Tortola with some great memories.

So folks with the sun still shining on us, we move onto Saint- Bathelemy (French) or St Barts to us.

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Posted by pzack 19:51 Comments (1)

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