Share it

Pages

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Antigua and Barbuda, So Relaxing

 

Map picture

It is a cloudy afternoon in the Eastern Caribbean as our flight makes it's descent to the island country of Antigua and Barbuda. Passing storms cast a dull gray on the normally sparkling blue waters of the Caribbean Sea below us. The entire island can almost be seen as we make our final approach for landing at VC Bird International Airport.

Samsung 208 Deplaning via air-stairs is a unique experience I really enjoy when visiting many islands in the Caribbean. It's like a Presidential welcome to paradise.

 

There is no waiting to feel the warm tropical sun or fresh island breezes. The only thing missing here is a Planters Rum Punch with an Antiguan twist.

About to leave the immigration area, I inquire as to what was happening in Antigua for a “Saturday Night In The Big City”.

Paris Hilton “I am going to a fete when I get off”, the Immigration Officer that just cleared me responds.

A What?  “A “fete”,  it's a big party”.

Ummm, what would Paris Hilton do?

 

 

Outside the terminal I cross the street to the rental car building where I have a car reserved with Alamo. “It's almost out of gas, so you will have to get some leaving the airport” I am told as I am given possession of my island chariot.

Afraid I might end up with dreadlocks, I resist saying “Hey Mon, No Problem”.

On fumes, I leave VC Bird headed for Siboney Beach Club about 8 miles away. My challenge is to return the car on fumes. I hate receiving rental cars with less than a full tank of gas. Ultimately, Alamo is going to get more gas out of me!

 

Samsung 086 A slight detour on the way to Siboney and I am drawn to twin steeples on a hill. Parked, I am at St. John's Anglican Cathedral which still straddles the city despite being damaged by a massive earthquake in 1843.

 

Samsung 090 Just steps from St. John's I have a late lunch at Northe's Cafe and Restaurant. Unfortunately most of the favorites have sold out for the day.

 

 

Samsung 089 Ox tail, rice with red beans and a salad with slices of a papaya type fruit will have to do.

 

 

 

The Ox tail with a flavorful spicy gravy sauce requires some old school primitive dining skills to remove all the meat of the chunky bones. A worthwhile effort.

 

Samsung 088 Honking horns and a mobile parade passes by as I continue my outside dining across the street from City View Hotel.

A youth beauty contest I am told.

 

“Are you here for the Red Party”?

Lil Jon What?

“There's an all night party starting at 8pm just up the hill”.

What?

“There's an all night party starting at 8pm just up the hill”.

 

Okaaaayyyy!  Could this be the “fete” I learned about earlier at the airport? Informed by the two friendly employees of Northe's Cafe that my conclusion is correct, my plans for the night are set.

 

Samsung 091 Located next to Sandals Beach Resort, I am welcomed by a colorful but unusual bellman as I arrived at Siboney Beach Club.

 

 

 

Samsung 092 He is climbing a wall to meet me.

 

 

 

 

 

Samsung 102 Checking in, I am in love with the place already. Maybe not a Conde Nest Traveler “Top 100” but the character and staff here makes Siboney Beach Club a gem for me.

 

 

Samsung 103 Nothing fancy just a simple but beautiful tropical landscape with a small and peaceful beach area you won't want to leave.

 

Samsung 112 I eventually do because a rum punch or two is calling my name at the nearby beach bar.

More than two and I might not leave Antigua or even make it to the “fete”.

A phone call and I am promised I will be met at the “fete” around 10pm. I have a feeling that is going to be island time.

This is the time of year most islands in the Caribbean hold their carnival celebrations. Tonight's venue sponsored primarily by Digicell, the country's main cellphone provider is a warm up to Antigua's upcoming carnival.

 

Samsung 121 Arriving early, a $15 admission fee gets me free samples of protection and adult beverages from a local liquor sponsor.

 

 

The Malibu Rum Passoa is chilled and has a sweet fruit flavor that gives it a tropical appeal. A sampling of Mount Gay Rum is a different story.

Samsung 124 Created in Barbados in 1703 and considered the rum that invented rum, this sampling takes a bit of manhood to enjoy.

A warm fire follows it from my throat to my stomach.

My second sampling requires more sipping and is accompanied by fried johnny cake to cool the fire.

 

Samsung 132 The other advantage of arriving early is having a front row spot for tonight's musical entertainment. With red Digicell bandanas waving the crowd is almost as energized as the onstage performer perspiring with sweat.

 

Samsung 140 A short break and one band after the other entertains and delights the crowd. The energy level of the stadium goes up a notch when an “Island Diva” that reminds me of Tina Turner takes the stage.

 

6 Inch Heels 6 inch sliver heels with a cool and sexy black body hugging outfit this Diva puts the Energizer Bunny to shame.

 

 

I just don't think the Bunny can do a crowd pleasing butt scoot across the stage or move his hips the way she does. I’m sure it's an “Island” thing.

If I could export the voltage created here I think I could solve America's energy problems and end it's dependency on foreign oil.

Samsung 170 As the entertainment continues in the background, I stroll over to the food and beverage section for more samplings of local cuisine.

 

Meeting a couple from Austria kind enough to let me use their cellphone I place another call to my new Antiguan friend.

“We are on the way, how's the crowd? You enjoying yourself? It's just past midnight, 10pm island time. Awaiting my friends arrival I hang out with the Austrians who are fortunate to be in Antigua for the summer visiting relatives.

Samsung 165 I am jealous but I am tough as I “Unleash The Beast” and get a tattoo courtesy of Monster Energy drink.

 

 

My friends arrive and turn out to be quite popular and well known by many in the crowd.

 

Samsung 167 This turns out to be fortunate for me as I get to meet the energetic “Island Diva”.

 

Samsung 168 Returning to the stage area the crowd has swelled beyond belief and my front row opportunity is long gone.

 

 

However, the energy level still remains hundreds of row back. This is fun as I learn a bit about Antigua, it's people and it's culture through it's music and nightlife.

 

Samsung 172 It is somewhere in the early morning before sunrise that I head back to Siboney Beach Club but not before having a Red Fish sandwich.

 

 

Shredded seasoned fish, lettuce and tomato on a foot long hoagie bread. Now there's a true fish sandwich. Take notes, McDonald.

 

IMG_0727 I am awaken to the sounds of nature as the morning sun finds it's way into my hotel room. How I wish this could be my life everyday.

 

I guess one of the things to look forward to in retirement which unfortunately is still a long, long, long away for me. There are no signs of rain just tropical sunshine as I head for the beach.

Samsung 175 A posted sign at a property next is refreshing to see and gives me huge respect for the government here. This is how it use to be where I grew up. Sadly with the introduction of Atlantis in the Bahamas, I think this is no longer the case.

 

Samsung 177 From Siboney towards Sandals, white sand along with warm clear water stretches the beach far into the distance.

 

 

 

Samsung 180 Approaching a poorly marked area, I am warned by other tourists about a beach sink hole they experienced by accident.

 

 

 

Samsung 181 I toy with the idea but pass on sinking up to my knees in sand.

An offshore swim with my trusted Samsung point and shoot camera sounds like a much better idea.

 

Samsung 183 Maybe I'll get my new found friend to join me.

With Olympic dreams, I could use some tips on doing the doggie paddle.

 

 

 

Samsung 187 The water is as refreshing as I imagine. Standing still I can see the beach floor as if I am viewing it through a looking glass. This is a beautiful and relaxing beach experience.

 

Samsung 196 Strolling back to Siboney I find a sea grape tree and go in search of a few ripe fruit.

 

 

 

About the size of a garbanzo bean sea grapes are best when they are soft and dark purple just before the bugs discover them. Try a few if you get the chance.

 

Samsung 199 A pool surrounded by a nice landscape provides an opportunity for a dip.

 

 

 

 

Samsung 205 Then it is time to lounge in the nearby hammock. A taste of the good life at a reasonable price.

Maybe I don't have to wait until retirement to experience the simple pleasures of life.

 

Canon 014 A first as I get ready to leave Siboney Beach Club.

 

 

 

I discover my rental car has a flat tire. Not a big deal except the spare tire does not fit. A call to Alamo and I am assured help is on the way.

 

Canon 017 Can I handle a rum punch this early in the day?

Well, I guess I have no other choice than to test my rum punch handling skills.

 

 

Canon 020

This time I join the bar employees and a few other patrons watching a movie on the big screen TV behind the bar. I am brought up to speed on what has happen so far and the local commentary continues as I sip my rum punch.

The movie some kind of a love story has me captivated. I am not sure if it is because of Jeremy Piven of HBO Entourage and Rush Hour fame or the effects of another rum punch. In any event I stay until the ending credits but at least I don't cry. My Monster Beast is still unleashed although a bit more sensitive.

 

Canon 026 My rental car is soon repaired and I am on my way back to VC Bird.

Blooming Poinciana trees and colorful houses line the narrow island streets.

 

Canon 027 Island Home

 

 

 

 

Still hoping to return my island chariot on fumes I add a few EC (East Caribbean) dollars of gas. Just enough so I can coast to a stop outside the Alamo building.

 

IMG_0758 My pit stop does give me the opportunity to have a slice of local banana nut bread along with a Wadadli beer brewed right here in Antigua.

 

Another beer can now be added to my International Beer Taste Test Research List.

Having friends in the right places my exit from Antigua is a VIP one. Although I will never be able to return the same favors, I hope someday to share a part of my country with my new found friends.

Canon 009

Friday, August 6, 2010

Spain, Toledo

 

Map picture

 

Spain 214 From a distance I am taken back in time as I glimpse the hilltop city of Toledo a former capital of the Spanish Empire. The city's huge castle dominates the skyline.

 

 

Spain 219 Approaching Toledo, I have a close up panorama view that is stunning.

 

Spain 216 My Canon Rebel XS and  Samsung SL605 are busy capturing the moment.

 

 

 

 

Spain 220 I circle the city before crossing a bridge. Climbing a two lane perimeter road I am soon bouncing along narrow cobble stone streets in search of parking.

 

With secured indoor parking, I begin a map less walk around the maze of narrow streets.

 

Spain 228

The Cathedral with it's towering dominance is not too difficult to find. Just keep looking skyward.

 

Spain 235

Unfortunately, no pictures are allowed inside.

 

 

 

 

Spain 239 Nonetheless, the exterior is just as impressive. Although aging, the work of delicate craftsman can still be seen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spain 240 Toledo Cathedral

I am not sure why but besides the normal shops and restaurant, Toledo has to me an unusual amount of shops that sells knives. Maybe it is a city that is still on the cutting edge of things.

 

Spain 246 At Cafe del Fin, I enjoy the daily lunch special.

 

 

 

 

 

Spain 245 For about E$10.00 with free Wi-Fi I have grilled steak, fries, a salad and a couple of cold ones.

 

 

 

Spain 252 Back to walking again I find myself lost, I think.

 

 

 

 

 

Spain 253 “Dad we have been this way before” I hear a son tell his father who is rotating a map back and forth in his hand.

 

 

 

Spain 241 I find this amusing.  I keep pretending as if I know where I am going.

Enjoying the scenery.

I just hope they do not ask me for directions.

 

 

Spain 250 Up one steep street and down another beautiful flowers hang from balcony windows.

Truly in a maze it is hard to have a sense of direction.

 

Another 10 minutes of not being lost and I come across the same family again. This time the wife has a level of confidence about their situation.

“This is the restaurant I think we ate lunch at”. At least she did not say “There's the same guy we saw 10 minutes ago, let's ask him”. Whew!

Ultimately, I find my car after doubling back a few times. I hope that family eventually made it out of Toledo.

 

Spain 223 Joining A-40 I am on my way to Madrid taking good memories of an afternoon spent in Toledo with me.

 

 

 

Spain 217 City Of Toledo, Spain