Situated in the middle of the Leeward Islands, 17 degrees north of the Equator, Antigua, encompassing 280 square kilometres (108 square miles) is larger than its neighbour, Barbuda, which is a flat coral island to the north.
The island’s economy is heavily reliant on tourism and visitors will find a warm welcome from the locals, and just as warm a welcome from the sea on the island’s 365 beaches which help provide the classic picture postcard Caribbean break.
Life in Antigua is governed by the sea; it has a huge sailing and yachting scene and Antigua Sailing Week is one of the premier regattas on the planet. But there is more to the island than messing around in boats and lazing on the beach. Popular attractions include Fig Tree Drive, which comprises 32 km (20 miles) of winding roads through the fishing villages and hills, the markets at the south end of the capital, St John’s and exploring the caves at Two Foot Bay in Barbuda. Back to the water, Devil’s Bridge is a natural arch carved by the sea in limestone ledges to the north-eastern part of Antigua and is a popular spot for a swim with the locals.
The island gained independence in 1981, having been discovered and claimed for Spain by Christopher Columbus in 1493. There followed periods of English, and a brief French, occupation with Horatio Nelson arriving in 1784 to develop the British naval facilities which resulted in the building of Nelson’s Dockyard, a popular visiting place for tourists.
Antigua can be an expensive place to eat and drink, although a visit to a local bar to watch the locals playing Wari, an ancient board game, normally involving bets for the next round of drinks, or a trip to take in the slightly more eccentric pastime of crab racing, also put on at local pubs, comes cheap enough.
Life’s pretty good for Capetonians. Nestled against the imposing Table Mountain and flanked by the Atlantic Ocean and Indian Ocean, visitors very quickly declare that this is a city that has it all.
Beautiful warm summers, plentiful rains, an abundance of wine farms nearby, good-quality restaurants, a vibrant nightlife, sandy beaches and beautiful scenery, international sporting events, excellent shopping, affordable prices, and it has to be said, very beautiful people. It’s not a bad list is it?
The locals even put a positive spin on the wind that can whistle down the streets with ferocity sometimes, dubbing it the Cape Doctor because it blows away all the germs and keeps the city healthy. It’s no wonder that so many visitors end up staying or buying holiday homes in the city.
The V&A Waterfront, an ever-growing complex of shops, offices, restaurants and bars, is a magnet for tourists who enjoy the waterside location, the working harbour and the relaxed, cosmopolitan atmosphere. This is said to be the busiest tourist attraction in the country and it’s easy to see why. It is from here that you can get ferries to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela and other leaders of today’s South Africa were imprisoned as they fought to free the country from apartheid.
Heading away from the city, you will find wine farms till your vino heart’s content in the Stellenbosch, Constantia, Paarl, Robertson and Worcester areas.
Popular city beaches are Camp’s Bay and Clifton, while Bloubergstrand, Noordhoek and Boulder’s Beach (where you can sometimes swim with penguins) can be found further out.
Traveller Magazine (South Africa) December 2009
John Wayne has a lot to answer for when it comes to my travel bug says Daniel Ford.
John Wayne’s to blame. Or maybe it was my dad, who made me a big fan of John Wayne. He was my dad’s hero and in turn, as we sat watching his films night after night, he became mine.
And there was good reason too. Young, good-looking, he’d ride into town, beat up all the bad guys, and win the heart of the prettiest girl every time (John Wayne not my dad). I was too young to care about the bad guys (the good guys always won anyway) or the girl (they usually had silly squeaky voices), but the riding into town without a care in the world won me over. If this was travel I wanted it.
THE LUCKY TEXAN (1934) by Lone Star Productions (Certificate U)
[Sound effects from downstage] Galloping horse hooves.
[Enter from downstage] A stranger on a horse.
Old-timer: “Morning stranger.”
Stranger: “Hi old-timer, guess you don’t remember me?”
Old-timer: “Can’t say as I do, but there’s something mighty familiar about you.”
Stranger: “Well Jake, guess it’s been a long time since you taught me how to catch coyote and ride…”
It’s a scene I’ve been trying to recreate every time I travel (without the horse, except on holiday in Majorca once when I nearly fell off a mangy old thing that didn’t like tourists) because being the stranger in town has a hypnotic attraction. Nobody knows you, responsibilities and problems are left behind and opportunities for the future are endless. Maybe you’ll stay, maybe you’ll go, you are what you are and your luggage is all wrapped up in a small bag. And when it comes to clothes, just three of each item as John Wayne would have said: one on, one off and one in the wash. Except for your boots, which stay on all the time, of course.
My business partner, Grant, says he’s going to produce a book called Where in the World is Daniel? his personal variation on the Where’s Wally series. If he carries through on his threat I shall demand that my cartoon character has a big cowboy hat. Er, and a new laptop. Technology has made it possible to travel more frequently while still carrying out business and hurray for that, because who wants to be tied to a desk? I’ve written a chapter for a book while on a sabbatical in Cyprus, drawn up a contract while on a long-distance bus heading to the coast in Venezuela and finalised a book promotion on the road to watch a game of football in Newcastle, England. Thank you technology. Hang on, don’t tell me you are one of those people who still leaves one of those, “Sorry I am out of the office till the 23rd” messages on your e-mail?”
The truth is, once you start travelling it is difficult to stop. The word Wanderlust comes from German, meaning ‘wander desire’. Can there be a better way to describe how the cowboys in the movies drifted around from town to town, devouring the essence of new places as they went? But be warned, it’s a desire that’s impossible to sate. Each new experience, every new person you meet, and each mouthful of unusual food you taste, just leads to a greater need to keep moving. The John Waynes of the world knew it and didn’t fight it; they just kept moving. Today, armed with an iPhone and a keyboard, a Gucci holdall and a Gold card, there’s no reason for anything to be different.
So I’ll keep riding into new towns, ever the stranger. Just without the horse if that’s okay with you.