Sunday, April 30, 2017


Up to this point, most of the islands we had visited had a more or less round or oval shape. Antigua, our next destination, is shaped more like a SPLAT!, like a blob of baby food thrown to the floor from a high chair. 
We docked in St. John's, circled above, and had two major destinations
marked by stars on the map: Stingray City and Nelson Dockyard.

Christopher Columbus named the island "Antigua" (Spanish for "ancient") in 1493, but the native people call it "Waladli," which means "our own." I find the difference in names a little sad. Clearly, once the Europeans arrived this island no longer belonged to the native people, at least not for long.

We rented a car so that we could drive around the island on our own. Right next to the car rental place was a field with dozens of large white birds in the grass and in the trees. They scattered as we approached, so this picture doesn't show how many there were:

Some kind of egret? Heron? We still aren't sure.

It was fun to see the boat from the car rental lot:

It was even more fun to see Auntie Edris. Whoever she is, she looks like someone I'd like to have met:

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


As St. Kitts is approximately 18 miles long and about 5 miles wide, the loop to drive around the island should be approximately 46 miles, but given the very narrow, winding condition of the road, the drive is longer and much, much slower than that:

The last place we visited and our turn-around point as we made our way clockwise around the island from our starting point at Basseterre was Brimstone Hill, marked by the red balloon on the map below with our route marked by the purple line. It would have been fun to complete the circuit, but that will have to wait for another visit.

Before going to Brimstone Hill, however, we had to find some lunch. We were looking forward to a quaint, St. Kittsian place serving distinct local food, but it was not to be. We stopped in Sandy Point Town just beyond the turnoff to Brimstone Hill. With a population just over 3,100, it is the second largest town on St. Kitts, which tells you something, doesn't it?

Anyway, perhaps we were not patient enough in our search.  We could not find anywhere to eat that had a local flavor, so we ended up at a place called "King Snack" that turned out to be a Chinese fast food joint. It didn't look particularly promising, but our only other option seemed to be convenience store food.

I had garlic shrimp, and it was actually pretty good--lots of shrimp, crunchy broccoli, and plenty of brown rice.

Bob had fish chop suey, which had large chunks of fish and lots of vegetables, but was a little too fried and crunchy for me:

We added the Caribbean flavor we were seeking by dowsing the food in West Indian Hot Flambeau Sauce, and then washed it all down with grapefruit Schweppes.  It was as very international lunch.

Our tummies full, we were ready for our next adventure.

Brimstone Hill Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is at the end of a very steep, narrow, winding road. This sign on one of the hairpin turns reminded me of the song "I've Been Working on the Railroad." ("Dinah won't you blow your hor-or-orn!"):

Thursday, April 20, 2017


St. Kitts is an island with a surprising number of things to see, especially considering that it is only 18 miles long and an average of 5 miles across.

My brother headed off on his own journey to climb Mount Liamuiga, the 3,792-foot-tall volcano that dominates the western end of the island. 
Picture borrowed from here

The remaining five of us toured Basseterre (see last post), and then headed out of the city in our rental car on a trip along the coast. 

Just a note about renting a car. On most of the Eastern Caribbean islands, the steering wheel is on the right and you drive on the left side of the road as you do in Great Britain, the opposite of what we're used to. It can be a little disconcerting at first, but you'll get used to it quickly. However, driving is further complicated on St. Kitts because the roads are almost all only wide enough for one car, so if there is two-way traffic, one car pulls as far over to the left as possible.The roads were clearly not built for a lot of automobiles. 

No wonder that in some places, St. Kitts feels like an uninhabited tropical jungle:

Our first stop was one I had requested, a batik factory. I had read that batik is one of the main crafts of the Caribbean, and Romney Manor is the place to go to see it made.

Long before batik became popular here, however, he first European settler of this area was Sam Jefferson, the third-great-grandfather of Thomas Jefferson. He established a home on St. Kitts in the early 17th century, but sold part of his estate to the Earl of Romney in the mid-17th century. Successive Earls of Romney owned this area through the mid-19th century. In 1834, contrary to the wishes of British Parliament, the Lord Romney of the day freed all his slaves, making the Romney Estate the first one in St. Kitts to emancipate its slaves.

Moving forward to the 20th century, since 1974 the Caribelle Batik company has been operating a highly successful business from this spot. The name "Caribelle" can be broken down into its two key parts: "Carib" (for Caribbean) and "belle" (meaning beautiful). And beautiful it is:

Friday, April 14, 2017


We disembarked at about 8:15 AM in Basseterre, the capital of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis (two separate islands whose two names together are the official name of the country) and one of the oldest towns in the West Indies. Based on the modern, flambouyant port, you wouldn't guess this city was founded by the French in 1627:
The British kicked the French out and took over in 1727, and St. Kitts became an important part of the triangular slave trade. That's not all it's famous for. Alexander Hamilton spent part of his youth on this island. It's a place with a lot of interesting history.

We set out on foot to see some of the main sites in Basseterre, starting with Independence Square. Back in the days of the slave trade, this square was the site of the slave market. It was rebranded in subsequent years as the city's political and social center, and then rebranded again in 1983 when St Kitts and Nevis attained their independence from Great Britain and gave it the ironic name of "Independence Square."

A close-up of the strange fountain:

On one side of the park is the Catholic Immaculate Conception Co-Cathedral. A "co-cathedral" shares the function of being the bishop's seat with another cathedral, but I haven't been able to figure out which cathedral is this one's other half:

Built in 1928, this church looks much older than it actually is (like a lot of us):

Monday, April 10, 2017


Our first port after one night on our cruise ship was the island of St. Thomas. We docked a couple of miles from Charlotte Amalie, the capital of the U.S. Virgin Islands. St. Thomas is one of the territory's four principal islands.

Where Puerto Rico's capital city San Juan was bathed in sherbet-y hues, the island of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands was splashed with bold, bright primary colors--crayon colors.

A Dutch-style windmill is not the first thing that I expected to see on St. Thomas, but since coming home I have learned that the Danes who were the original conquerors of St. Thomas established sugar cane plantations here in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. The fields were worked by convicts and slaves, and windmills were built to press the sugar from the harvested stalks. Ruins of 150 windmills are strewn about the Virgin Islands, with just four on St. Thomas. This one at the port is a reproduction.

Of all our ports, this was the only one where we had booked a cruise ship excursion, and since we had to wait around a bit for our departure time, we strolled through some of the open shops. I wish we had bought a "Don't Mess with Bob" t-shirt:

Thursday, April 6, 2017


I interrupt our Caribbean adventure posts with time sensitive material. In a week or two, the subjects of this post will disappear like Brigadoon, so I need to post about them now while they are still relevant.

When Bob asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday, I suggested going hunting for the Southern California Desert Super Bloom.  We've had a record amount of rain this winter, and wildflowers are supposed to be putting on their best show in twenty years. My first choice would have been the Anza Borrego Desert, but it is over two hours away from where we live. Because I had a Saturday commitment, we could only go on a weekday, so Bob took a half day off on Friday and we drove to the high desert, only an hour away.

Of course, heading east on the 10 freeway mandates a stop in Cabazon at Hadley's for a date-banana shake. The shakes, along with a few other treats we bought there, served as our lunch: 

After Hadley's we passed snow-capped Mt. San Jacinto: 

. . . and field after field of electricity-generating windmills:

Eventually we arrived at the first of our two major stops: Chiriaco Summit, 1,705 feet above sea level. 

Broad swaths of flat, windy desert are dotted with blooming ocotillo, one of my favorite desert plants. During the bloom season, the stalks are covered with green leaves and topped by mustaches of deep orange blooms:

Sunday, April 2, 2017


On Day 2 of our trip, we discovered that even in a parking lot, Puerto Rico's flora and fauna is exceptional. Check out the anole's ragged toes. I'd recommend a pedicure:

Our first stop was the Levittown Ward of the Toa Baja Puerto Rico Stake. The service, though conducted in Spanish, was wonderfully familiar:

Then we headed due south on Highway 184 towards a little town named Guavate, a distance of about 30 miles, much of it on narrow, winding roads. 

As we left the city, we passed this cyclist being pushed along by a guy on a motorcycle.  Now THAT'S my kind of cycling!