Everything moves slowly. The air is hot, the sand underfoot is hot, the sun is too strong in the sky to move anywhere too fast. I can’t work out if it’s because I’m a tourist in a designated place of leisure, or if the pace of life there generally has a more laid-back quality to it. It’s easy to see why I’m not stressed, lying on a hammock under the coconut palms and swaying gently in the sea breeze. But the way the waiters laugh as they effortlessly hack open coconuts with machetes, or the steel pan players dance to their own rhythms in the midday heat, makes every movement and moment of life look fun and carefree. And yet so many I spoke to work multiple jobs and incredibly long hours. I think about what it is that makes life look easy when it isn’t, then get tired of thinking and order another rum cocktail.
On the Atlantic side, where the breeze is stronger, the temperature is more bearable, and the waves are so large that the ocean is like a natural wave machine of the kind found in neon-coloured waterparks worldwide. But it’s the Caribbean side where the watersports and the swimming happen, for the waters are generally gentle and crystal clear. So gentle, in fact, that having to be rescued by speedboat for having drifted too far on a paddle-board is more than mildly embarrassing. On the plus side, staying active is easy when you can swim in the sea every day, kayak, sail, paddle-board, and play tennis in one of the many full-size palm-studded courts.
It is a well known fact that barmen are the best source of information around. Bored and frustrated by endlessly serving up alcohol without being able to consume any themselves, and probably annoyed by the endless stream of Western tourists who swarm their island without caring to learn anything of its culture, they are almost invariably willing to share their knowledge with those who show interest (especially if you’re female and under the age of 25). From them I learnt a little of life on the island; the language I heard everyone speaking was in fact not Creole as I assumed but the Antiguan dialect — essentially a shortened form of speech, where everything is said in as few words as possible, and totally incomprehensible to anyone not in the know. On the speaking of Creole itself, however, opinion was divided. One, slightly older, barman told me confidently that everyone spoke Creole and that it was taught in schools as a part of the island’s culture and heritage that they were trying to preserve, if not used as much in everyday parlance. Another told me, equally confidently, that neither he nor anyone else spoke it anymore. Perhaps they aren’t the best source of information after all – but nonetheless a valuable insight into another culture, which is easily missed if you only look at the sand between your own toes.
My own day-to-day existence there was nothing short of lazy. Jet-lag meant I usually woke early; some days I played sports before breakfast, other days I didn’t. Breakfast, beach snack, cocktails, lunch, afternoon tea, cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, cocktails, dinner, with beach time or sightseeing in between. Sunset was my favourite time of day. It was cooler, and the sky was a beautiful shade of pink at dusk, casting soft, cool light onto the ocean and long, sultry shadows behind the palm trees. Dinner was set around a tamarind tree courtyard gently illuminated with fairy lights and live music. After dinner, diners danced or simply sat and soaked up the ambience, the music, the sound of the cicadas.
The hotel staff were incredibly kind and amenable in accommodating my slightly-fussy diet. As a foodie, food is definitely a highlight of travelling, but I’m always slightly unsure what I’ll be able to eat when I go away. They made it easy for me though. I thought this would be a nice way to start off a new What I Eat In A Day series, since the food was so fresh and inspiring. Here’s a food diary from one of the days – I tried local cuisine wherever it was available to me, and don’t be put off by how healthy it looks – I was stuffed after every meal 🙂
Breakfast: a bowl of fresh fruit; the smoothie of the day; fried plantain, chop-up, fresh avocado, and gluten free toast
Mid-morning: a banana smoothie and the water and flesh of a just-picked coconut
Lunch: a big plate of fresh salads and cooked dishes from the beach bar buffet, e.g. cherry tomato salad, cucumber salad, mixed bean salad, seasoned rice, twice-baked potato, grilled vegetables, olives; a plate of fresh mango
Afternoon beach snack: a coconut-milk ice lolly and a rum cocktail
Afternoon tea: a green tea and a bunch of grapes
Hors d’oevres: raw vegetable crudités; another rum cocktail
Dinner: callaloo soup; a ratatouille made with okra, served with a sundried tomato sauce; two glasses of red wine; a green tea.