Submitted: 21 Jan 2005
As the first guests in David & Jenny's Shell Villa on the beautiful Caribbean leeward island of Antigua, and as overjoyed honeymooners, we felt obliged to leave a testimony for future holidaymakers. After a beautiful week on the island, we have now returned to our international law centre and to Yale University, back to hectic schedules of research, teaching and publishing.
With us, we bring visions of Shell Villa - the glowing sunrises over the ocean view of Monserrat's smoking volcano from the airy patio, golden suntans from the lazy mornings spent dipping in the swimming pool and enjoying our coffee in the spacious open concept kitchen and lounge, and happy memories of coming home in the evenings to such a quiet, peaceful yet convenient corner of the Island after sampling the delicious variety of cuisine at English Harbour's many restaurants and yacht clubs.
As we've already made advance reservations for the next five years as new 'regulars', we have decided the best testimony we could leave you, as future guests, is a list of Ideas. First, do rent or borrow a car, or at least motorcycles. It is worth it, the mobility and potential to explore. It really was a terrific vacation and Shell Villa could not have been more beautiful if we had somehow dreamed it up. So with advance apologies for any excessive hyperbole, here are the Top Eight places and moments that we most highly recommend for any future Shell Villa guests:
Eight Ideas on Antigua:
1. Half-Moon Bay Beach for an Afternoon Picnic
Half-Moon Bay was our favourite beach, by far. After a beautiful drive from English Harbour along the cliffs, the natural surroundings, convenient shade trees and fine white sand is a perfect setting for an excellent afternoon picnic. There are peaceful waters in the left corner, protected by breakers, and further around the corner, a lovely little walk around the natural sandstone cliffs in the open ocean surf and sun. If you explore the path up from the centre of the beach, you will find the gates, gardens and masonry of an old Villa above but no café, so bring a picnic.
2. Harmony Hall for Lunch with Tour of Art Gallery and Green Island
Harmony Hall is the island's most lovely restaurant, with fresh, truly delicious Italian and Mediterranean cuisine, kind, courteous staff and heritage surroundings with breathtaking views of the Island. The Hall is built around an antique stone English watchtower, which should be climbed for drinks at the top. Be sure to explore the Art Gallery and Hall, which plays a role of community centre with activities and cheerful children's visits. They offer art lessons, colourful but tasteful local craftwork and souvenirs, and short bird watching trips by boat to the nearby Green Island.
3. Quiet Evening at Shell Villa with Cocktails & Sunset on the Patio
Honestly, the third best moment was buying pasta and other dinner makings at the well-stocked Bailey's corner store down the road, then cooking at home in Jenny's beautiful kitchen before sunset. After a dip in the pool before dinner, we had our meal on the natural wood patio which surrounds Shell Villa, with a full view of the sun setting across the ocean in front, against the smoking volcano of Monserrat Island. Later, we enjoyed home-made cocktails with the cool evening breezes and soft rhythmic sound of the surf, less than fifty feet away.
4. English Harbour Dockyards Heritage Site and Admiral's Inn for Tea
English Harbour Dockyards have the aura of another time. With gray stone walls and cobblestones, interpretive notes to explain the sites, ancient anchors, leaning timbers and lots of neat little shops, this is the best place for an educational stroll, a chance to learn some history. Find a guard to buy a ticket at the entrance, it's a national park. Have a quiet cup of tea in the afternoon at Admirals Inn, which has by far the best view onto the site (except from Shirley's Heights above), or stop in at HQ for an excellent quality though pricey dinner.
5. Fig Tree Drive from St. John's, and Lunch on the South-Western Beaches
Fig Tree Drive is best attempted by starting from the capital, St. John's. The views open up almost immediately, a unique scattering of palm tree fringed beaches, low mountains and cliff faces, brightly coloured schoolhouses and little churches. AS you turn along the coast toward home, Boggy Peak Mountain is up that way somewhere, but we searched without success for the turn-off. Stop at one of the beaches for lunch, then head homewards through the tropical forests, one of the nicest drives.
6. The Last Lemming for Dinner, then Abracadabra for Live Music & Dancing
In the evening, in English Harbour across the water from the point at Shell Villa, we recommend a combination. We loved The Last Lemming, with fresh-made filo pastry and nacho chips, fresh breezes off the ocean and the feeling of an old-fashioned yacht club. It's right off the quay, at the end of the road. You could start here for a tasty, filling meal, then pass to Abracadabra for live bands and dancing well into the night. Or, you could savour a first class Italian seafood and pasta dinner at Abracadabra, with its tasteful art deco interior and excellent lobster, then have drinks afterwards at the Last Lemming. We enjoyed both.
7. Trappers for Dinner, then Life for Drinks on the Harbour
For a lower key evening, when you feel like jeans, excellent steak and friendly beer, we recommend English Harbour at Trappers (as did John Bentley, our first night). The meal is excellent, fresh and filling, the spices hot and portions large, and huge wooden tables mean making new friends is easy. If you cross the road going toward the Dockyard, you'll quickly see Life on the Dockyard harbour, another nice place where drinks and dancing go until late, and the yacht crowd gather to enjoy.
8. Walk Along Shirley Heights for Reggae Music on Sunday Evening
Shirley Heights site is part of the national heritage site, along with the Dockyards, and the same ticket is valid for both. The Heights themselves are an excellent walk, a great place to explore with ruins, stonework and sprawling cactus plants. A rowdy Barbecue starts at 4pm on Shirley's Heights every Sunday, above English Harbour. Best to arrive a little later, but while the sun is still high so you don't miss the spectacular views of the whole Island. It can be touristy, but still worth a visit if you're at Shell Villa over a weekend. By 6pm, the younger folk will have arrived to energize the crowd with dancing, reggae and live music.