We arrive on the tiny island of Antigua not knowing what to expect. There are 3 other cruise ships already there. It’s a banner day. The island known for its public beaches is picking up business due to the hurricane flattening of nearby Dominica and St. Martin islands.
We wander up the central avenue crowded with 1000s of tourists for the day. We head to the Anglican Cathedral first founded in the 1600s. It is being restored and everything needs repair. It has been sometime since they have offered worship services here. God helped them restore it twice already from earthquakes damage so they will succeed again. The sidewalks here are very dangerous with huge gaps and big drops. They have open deep gutters along the side of the road for storm rain run off.
We grab a cab for what we thought was Limerez beach. 5 other people join us. We are dropped at Mystic Beach which is only 10 minutes away. Spend the day floating in the ocean and walking the beach which is beautiful. The restaurant bar we are in front off is run down. There is an abandoned house next door and nothing much else around. This island is particularly poor. As we go to leave we are told that our cab driver has sent someone else to pick us up but we think it is a scam. After chatting with him on the phone we know it’s true so we take the other cab back – $3 per person – a woman drives us with her daughter in the back who proudly announces she is in kindergarden.
I buy a St Kitts teeshirt (they don’t have any that say Antigua it seems) and Marie picks up 2 tees for the boys. We get back in time for salmon dinner and a nice chat with our table neighbours from Atlanta.
The next day we arrive in Castries, St. Lucia, a much larger island with lots of buildings and traffic. Lush green hills surround us. I am a little groggy from one too many Irish coffees last night. We walk off after lunch and do a little shopping in the local market. It’s teeming with people and it’s hot. We see a young man shouting at people, some other rough looking men and a policeman here and there. There is an air of desperation in people’s faces. I chat with a man who wants to sell me marijuana and explains there is a lot of poverty here. Later in the day when it cools down, I see young children playing happily and singing. Everyone seems in a better mood as the day cools and draws to a close. I have a flash that we are all the same with the same needs and wants. As we have been here before, we do not take a tour. Have seen the Pietons (twin pointy hills) and the steamy sulphur springs already. As we sail away lights are coming on all over town except in the shanty town visible from our ship.
That night, our table mates explain the fantastic tour they went on with an ex-pat guide from Montreal. A lot of organic farming, bananas everywhere and a laid back lifestyle when you get out of Castries.