ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA
by Miodrag Colic - 4 years, 11 months ago
When he first saw these islands from aboard his ship, Columbus named them after a cathedral in Seville. This is how a Latino name strayed into this country, which is frequented, almost exclusively, by vacationing Brits, who enjoy its turquoise sea and its white sandy beaches. The locals are approachable but not more than that, when they proudly direct you towards the most important, Southern part of the island, called the ‘English harbour’ or ‘Nelson’s dockyard’. Today a historical maritime museum, this was a naval station established in the 18th century at the time of fighting for the Caribbean Sea supremacy, between the naval superpowers – Britain, France, Spain and Portugal. Admiral Horatio Nelson, an unstoppable naval commander, established a firm British rule once and for all. Sugarcane and spice were the main reasons for the battles in the Caribbean; Nelson’s sailing ships had found their shelter in the deep-water harbours of the South – they were tied to the gigantic stone pillars thereby escaping the deathly hurricanes. Old stony buildings, inns, stables and dockside buildings have all been turned into shops, restaurants and hotels in the authentic colonial style.
These days, instead of wooden sailing ships, luxurious yachts and catamarans moor here, taking a break during their Caribbean cruise. With the advance of steamboats, the entire region as well as this sailing ship shelter, lost their importance and at the end of the 19th century the harbour was closed down. Only in the 1950s did the English Harbour Friends Association instigate the restoration of this historical site when they turned it into a National park. The Admiral’s house, a Georgian style The Copper and Lumber Store, and a fortress on the approach to the bay, all bear witness to the turbulent times of the Caribbean wars. From a neighbouring hill you can get an unforgettable view of the bay, including a small peninsula, which, a cab driver informs me, belongs to rock star Eric Clapton. This hill was used as an observation post from where the approaching pirates or other enemies could be spotted, while today it is picnic grounds for the island’s white population, who come here every Sunday bringing lots of rum and music. There is one stage for a reggae band and another one for a brass orchestra, an enormous bar and a view stretching far away, to the misty Caribbean islands – the volcanic Montserrat, the French Guadalupe and St. Kitts.
Somewhere in the distance is Barbuda too, the other, slightly less popular member of this insular union and one of the 54 proud Commonwealth Nations.