I’ve just learned a new word whilst writing this post, when searching for a way to describe the overall feel we achieved on this trip. Atraxia, that’s it. As a family, this describes the release we felt from our trip to Antigua:
a state of freedom from emotional disturbance and anxiety; tranquillity. -(http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/ataraxia).
calmness of the mind and emotions; tranquillity
Following on from previous posts charting our Caribbean travel adventure, leaving the stresses of the UK behind, we’d flown to Barbados for a a short break enjoying nightlife and sightseeing, then took a small Liat Plane to fly on to St Johns – Antigua, possibly the most efficient and cleanest airport I’ve ever seen, then a taxi to St James’s Club.
We arrived during the evening on 31st October 2015, Halloween, so hadn’t seen much of Antigua itself on the drive, what we did notice was how very neat and pristine everything looked, even the vegetation as though all strategically placed or arranged. Upon arriving at St James, we were dropped off at reception, a very large imposing building, very grand, the place looked beautiful, we were excited. But having won an eBay auction to book the accommodation from one of the time-share owners, how good could it really be we wondered. We’d looked at pictures online, knew it was a two bedroom villa, assuming the description to be far grander than the accommodation in true marketing terms but excited al the same.
Well, after a well received Welcome Rum Punch, we were driven by a porter on a buggy to our accommodation. He’d already loaded our luggage onboard, so on we hopped and away into the night we drove a little way to our villa. We were impressed from the outset, the villa was actually a detached property, which looked like a pretty grand house, with stone steps leading us down to our front door. We entered and were totally wowed.
A few steps led upstairs to an amazing spacious living area, fully stocked kitchen, dining area and huge terrace. A few steps down led to two very good sized double bedrooms each with it’s own en-suite bathroom. All rooms had tv’s and all mod cons. Tastefully decorated in a colonial style the general feel was space and elegance. The vibe was just so relaxed. High ceilings, many ceiling fans in addition too the zircon, mosquito screens on all the sliding doors so you could just leave them open all day and listen to the waves lapping at the beach, this was nirvana. what rat- race, what pressing projects, what reviews, all was very soon forgotten in this beautiful sanctuary of ours, in this case, the marketing images had done little to sell this place for all the glory we saw before us, and just steps away from a beach and the kids pool, bonus!
This is truly a holiday resort with everything you need to just kick back and relax.you can indulge you senses at the Tranquility Body & Soul Spa as did we in some Mother & Daughter bonding with a joint massage. I personally recommend the Aromatherapy, it was fantastic.The products, the setting and the very talented staff all aid in restoring your total sense of well-being, everything just all melts away making it impossible not to relax here. All talk of keeping up with work whilst away soon disappeared! There are activities onsite such as aqua aerobics, salsa dancing and a daily schedule of things to do. There was also a kids club available, though low on numbers during our stay so our boy had the place to himself, but very friendly and cheerful staff, unfortunately he wouldn’t stay without one of us, never the less it was there.
There is a choice in restaurants on site depending on wether you wish for fine dining or more casual cuisine, it’s all there and available. The Italian, Piccolo Mondo was fabulous, excellent food and wine we’d chosen a busy night but the staff were still very attentive, a little slow perhaps mainly due to customers turning up much later than their booked times, but the restaurant manger on duty did everything to ensure we were more than happy before leaving. They were very accommodating in cooking our 6 six year old something off menu to his taste also. This just goes with the very accommodating nature of the staff here, and a special mention to our housekeeping team, top standards through out.
This place is pretty idyllic and with only a week one could easily never venture outside of the resort, however we tried to embrace a few adventures during our visit. First of all, a visit to the infamous Shirleys Heights on Sunday Night. This was a fabulous evening of entertainment, locals liming with tourists, eating good food straight from the grill, copious amounts of alcohol, steel bands, live bands, dancing, all the things one expects from a Caribbean party all in the historical setting overlooking Nelsons Dock Yard. A beautiful place to watch the sunset and then party into the night.
We also took a trip horse riding excursion with Spring Hill Stables. Now this may sound idyllic to some people, it was downright monumentus to me, having only ridden once before in my life and discovered I had an allergy to horses. So, many hours of benadryl and antihistamine tablets later we rocked up at the stables having been picked up by one of the staff called Kent from our hotel lobby. He was very pleasant and introduced us to the boss, Sharon, very personable, friendly and warm. We’d chosen a morning when the rain was lashing down so sat it our for a while and became accommodated with our teacher. By the time the session began, she had a good gist of who was confident and who wasn’t, talked us through the basics, a little more in my case would have been very useful, never the less off we went, hats on, up on our horses and away we rode! I was in awe of my daughter (who has ridden many times) leading at the front, and my 6 year old son riding for the first time on a pony next to our teacher. Both my partner and myself had equal battles to control our horses respectively but got into the swing of things in time. We trecked along a track, up hill, down hill and along to a small private beach where we stripped off to our swim-wear and then proceeded to ride the horses into the sea. A challenge at the very least but a real sense of achievement when achieved. I thought I’d done well, began to scratch a little and then my daughter commented how we really had to go. I thought she was being a party pooper as she kept insisting we really needed to get back.
We rode back to base, said our goodbyes, my scratching became more insistent, then I realised, the lumps were beginning to appear all over my body, the medicine had obviously worn off. It was funny, by the time I got back to the villa I looked hideous (kind of like that gallery scene in the film Hitch) but still on a high that I’d actually rode for the whole session, impressed at the skills of the children and laughing at the curses of my partner as he walked like John Wayne across the room. A long hot shower, hydrocortisone cream and a lot more medicine followed by a nap in the sun and I was fine.
Another excursion we decided to embark on was a visit to Stingray City. Now this one we had each anticipated in different ways, dread, excitement, fear, regardless we were all up for the challenge so with a taxi arranged by the hotel we were off! We arrived and were given a welcome drink as usual, rum punch, then shown a brief movie about what we would be doing and taken through a safety briefing. After that it was into the boat, life jackets on, snorkels in hand and way we sailed to find the place in the middle of the ocean shallow enough to stand and swim with the Stingrays.
I can’t lie, it was overwhelming at first seeing all those little shadows shooting past in the water, I say little but actually I personally thought they were pretty large. But the guides were really good at encouraging us to take it steady, leading us through the water and in no time we were all swimming with and even holding Sting rays. It was a truly amazing experience, especially having the snorkels thus going under water with them and seeing them up close whilst swimming, it is truly a once in a lifetime experience and ‘must do’ item on your Antigua itinerary. After a fun session with the Stingrays, your speed boat drives you back to shore for yet more rum punches and the chance to look a the wonderful native birds on display whilst waiting to purchase your photographs.
There are many interesting things to do in Antigua of historical and cultural interest, fabulous restaurants, shows, music and if you’re into boats, well, this is the place for you. For us, it was very much about rest and relaxation, good food, enjoying each others’ company and lots of fun in the sun. This was achieved, and a zen like peace bestowed upon the family. So blissful was the rest, I saw the real estate property brochures begin to come and and knew it was just about time to head on out before we committed! So, another Liat flight, another Caribbean destination, Antigua had worked it’s magic.
With excitement and sadness, it was time to pack and head for the airport once more. Good bye to awesome Antigua.