AROUND THE WORLD ON 80P (6 May 2013)
 
Antigua - Eastern Caribbean Dollars (XCD) $3.34 = 80p
 
 
Antigua is the larger of the two main islands that make up Antigua and Barbuda.  They are renowned for their beauty, laid back attitude, friendly people and, of course, the carnival, cricket and rum.  It is home for cricketer Sir Isaac Vivian "Viv" Richards.  In fact, the island has quite the celebrity attraction with Eric Clapton, Timothy Dalton, Silvio Berlusconi and Giorgio Armani ,among others, owning homes in this idyllic, beautiful getaway.  The most notable, however, is Oprah Winfrey, who selected Antigua as her pick for the number one billionaire’s playground. According to the list compiled by www.forbes.com, Winfrey commented, “When I want crystal-clear Caribbean water and perfect palm trees, I return to my playground on Antigua”. 
 
Tourism is the islands highest source of income, with financial investments running a close second.  Unfortunately, in recent times, this secondary income has suffered a marked decline, due to unethical practice.  
 
That, to one side, this beautiful paradise boasts 365 beaches, from tranquil white sands to rocky wind surfer’s utopia.  Whatever your preference, there’s a different beach for every day of the year.  
 
SNOOZE
We were tucked away in the secluded 100-acre St James Club Spa hotel, which offered two idyllic white-sand beaches and six swimming pools.  Coco Beach was like an aquarium for snorkelers, while the calm waters of Mamora Bay was perfect for a hot summer’s day swim.  Incidentally, if you've ever considered building and owning a holiday home, a plot of land on the exclusive Veranda Estates (sister hotel and complex to St James club) costs from $243,000 / £58,000 to $1,400 /£216,000 for Lowries Bay sea view, with an option to buy land now and build later at an additional average cost of $1,215,000.  For further information, contact the sales manager, Sharon Hunt, on estates@theverandahreskt.com or www.verandaestates.com.
 
CRUISE
Cars may be hired from numerous places around the island, but with a 30 mph speed limit on the island driving was a tad tedious. Car hire was waaaay above budget and quite expensive, at around $270/£65 a day.
 
Taxis (usually minibuses) are not at all cheap in Antigua, and as the road surfaces can be a bit patchy in places, they take you along the best routes. The average fare costs $140/£33.50.  As the fares are so high, generally people bunk up in taxis with a maximum of four persons permitted per taxi.
 
Local buses, although unpredictable, (think CT: laid back Caribbean time) are certainly cheap, at only $3-5/65p-£1.25 per person, so on average, within an 80p budget.
 
A huge part of life in Antigua is about helping each other, so thankfully we were able to get a little help from a local storage company director and hitch a ride up to the.... 
 
AMUSE
Tourist/local Party at Shirley Heights Lookout (an old British fort and signal station near Falmouth).  Every Sunday evening from 4pm you can dance, barbecue and witness the spectacular sunset over English Harbour.  Entry is $20/£5.15, which includes a free drink. I opted for the Caribbean measure of Rum & Coke (3 parts rum: 1 part coke!).  Burgers, jerk chicken or fish salad are quite expensive at $25/£6. Unfortunately, there's not much to do once the sun goes down (7- 7:30 pm). This is, essentially, a tourist trap, so you will only get to "whine and grine" with the locals later in the evening, after 10 pm, when the tourist exploitation ends and local live music begins.
 
Post Shirley Heights sunset, I was invited to a private "affluent local" home for a dinner party. We drove about 20 mins out of Falmouth up to Cedar Valley Heights.
My, my, my! The view was outstandingly stunning; an easy rival to that which we had witnessed at Shirley Heights.  I ate a few home cooked local dishes including tantalising jerk pork, mouth watering fresh fish and the most beautiful, homemade Caribbean soup.  However, I did have to draw the line at the local dish 'sousse' - pig trotters and ears cold soup! Urrrrgh no thanks!!  The company (about twelve in total) and conversation was delightful, inspiring, insightful and so much fun.  We drank, ate, talked and then danced in the moonlight, Caribbean stylee (if you know what I mean) ‘til the early hours of the morning.
 
BOOZE & CHEWS
Like most tourist holiday destinations, Antigua for tourists is very expensive.  In our hotel; Coca Cola cost $8/£1.90, beer $15/£3.60, a cocktail $23/£5.50, breakfast $52/£12.50 and an evening meal was on average $104/£25, yet if you ventured out to the local restaurants and bars, a rum cocktail would cost around $4 /£1 and a beer $5/£1.20, with an average meal in a local restaurant costing $35-55/£10-12.
 
I have to admit I drastically failed on my mission of spending 80p, but just for the record, 80p will get basic household essential food items i.e. bread, sugar, fruit, candy, small toiletry items, soft drinks and a one way bus ticket.
 
Antigua does seem to be the island of choice in the Caribbean, with its excellent customer service, exceptional hotels, clearest aqua-blue waters yet dramatic ocean views, the most amazing sunsets and the idyllic romance.  On the 365 beach island spanning just 14 miles in length and 11 miles in width, you'd be hard-pressed to experience Antigua without finding your very own secluded piece of Paradise.
 
 
dawne b stewart
twitter : @dawneb007
 
DaWnE B

Article by Dawne B / 9th May 2013

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Around the World on 80p - Antigua