Antigua

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I wish I was here. I think we all do. Instead, Brooklyn is on roughly day 42 of constant snow cover, with nary a day of above-freezing temperatures so far this year. In honor of the weather, I’ve decided to revisit a few of my warmer adventures from the past year or so, starting with the warmest of them all: Antigua.

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“Jeff and I like to travel” – I have been evaluating the honesty of that statement for a couple years now. Jeff and I have been to a dozen countries on three continents, and we’ve spent time in more than a dozen states together. I think we do both like to travel, but sometimes I wonder if what I like best is the anticipation of travel and the people part of travel – visiting with old friends, talking long into the night with strangers. I often tell Peter, one of my best friends and frequent travel companions, that my favorite day of our contentment-hopping trip to Morocco and Budapest in 2007  was the day we took the train between Fes and Marrakesh, talking the whole time about everything, including – most memorably – his British dental care habits, or lack thereof. A whole new continent, and I just wanted to talk. About teeth.

Poor Jeff spent most of that ride slumped against the side of the train car, a victim of jet lag and indigestion. It isn’t that Jeff doesn’t like to travel, it’s just that it doesn’t always go so well for him. He also pointed out to me a while back that, thanks in part to my love of people, we hadn’t taken a trip that was just the two of us since our honeymoon, which was also the last time we swam in the ocean. We resolved about two years ago that out next trip would be just us, on a beach. Nothing complicated. No compromises.

For us, no compromises didn’t mean flying first class, it meant asking ourselves questions about what  some of the little things are that usually trip us up or annoy us, like leaving on a Saturday when we are still tired from our work week, then coming home on Sunday with no time to recoup. Or staying in a room with tacky decor that we can’t wait to get out of in the morning.

With that in mind, our location criteria was: 1) direct flight from NYC;  2) clear water conducive to off-shore snorkeling;  3) no desert islands – we like things green!;  4) hotel room with a balcony or patio (I think that for me, this was the sole focus of my anticipation, so dearly have I missed having a yard);  5) no tacky floral bedspread;  6) reasonably affordable. It is shocking how hard it is to meet both criteria 5 and 6 at the same time.

We finally settled on Sugar Ridge resort in Antigua, and after much debate, we opted for the all-inclusive plan. We’ve realized that the more decisions we have to make during a trip, the more stressful it can be and the more we end up fighting with each other. Also, I’m a real cheapskate, and I didn’t want to spend the whole trip debating $8 pina coladas.  I  found a good deal on Hotels.com that let me use a coupon code to save an additional $250, our visit was during the first week of the off-season in mid-April, and we were buying our flights with credit card points, so we didn’t mind splurging a little.

So here’s everything in a nut shell: the view from our room was amazing; the whole place smelled like flowers (“Like a honeysuckle’s vagina,” said my husband the poet); the sand was made of choral and shells; there was sushi on the all-inclusive menu; I got 60 mosquito bites, but they didn’t bother me much.

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I’d built myself up so much about the damn balcony that I was sure it couldn’t possibly live up to my expectations, but miracle of miracles, it was even better than I had imagined. The whole resort is built into the hills, about a mile from the water, which means the view is amazing but you have to take a free shuttle (an open Jeep) to the local beaches, which we didn’t mind at all. We also didn’t mind walking up and down the very steep pathways and stairs at the resort, but for the literally faint of heart or lame of knee, they offered free golf cart taxis.

Our first visit to the nearest beach (The Nest) was another everything-I-dreamed-of moment. Not only was the  whole water/sand/palm tree situation idyllic, there were no cruise ships in the harbor, and the whole beach was virtually deserted. I didn’t take many pictures that day because I was making a point to unplug, and I thought it was just the first of several amazing days at the beach. Unfortunately, clouds rolled in on the afternoon of our second day and they kept rolling in for the rest of our trip. It didn’t rain constantly, but it didn’t stay totally clear for very long. I didn’t mind much at the time, but looking back on it I feel a little sad that we didn’t have more time in the sun and that my memories of the island have a decidedly grey cast.

The rain did make us feel very wise for choosing a resort with beautiful decor and amazing views; if we had been stuck in a beach-side hotel full of whicker and hibiscus-printed everything, I might have felt completely different about the trip. We were also pretty happy with our all-inclusive plan. Compared to other resorts, the food was great; compared to restaurants we eat at in Brooklyn, it left something to be desired. But I have real sympathy for resorts in that they have to cater to everyone from young Brooklyn foodies like us to British retirees.

The grey weather did lead to the most epic Scrabble location of all time:

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