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Thursday, August 19, 2010

You Have Arrived... Maybe


Today was a little more low-energy.  Not long after we docked at St. John, Antigua, the heretofore tranquil sky opened up and we had quite a rainstorm. One of the interesting things about the tropics is the abruptness with which the weather can change.  We literally saw the rain coming towards us like a curtain, and -- briefly -- it was raining at one end of the ship but not the other.  We had experienced the same thing on our day at sea on Monday:  A sudden squall drove us off the deck, but by the time we reached the elevators amidships, the sun had returned.

In this case, we again had only a short while to wait, and then Bobby, Amanda and I walked ashore, through the prerequisite cluster of shops and kiosks that seem to greet you at virtually every Caribbean pier, and for a short walk around the town of St. John as the sun dried things off. 

St. John's Cathedral, Antigua
Plainly visible from the ship is the imposing facade of St. John's Anglican Cathedral, and that was one thing I hoped to see.  However, upon arrival we discovered that -- due to a structural problem that came to light last year -- the church is closed until further notice.  We took a handful of pictures and headed back towards the pier, not finding much else in the town to explore.

A short while later, we had hired a cab and were headed towards a beach one of our fellow passengers had mentioned.  "Towards" it being the operating word, because we are not sure that the beach we eventually visited was the same one we had requested.  Having cleared the city limits and meandered for a half-hour or so through the countryside, our driver left the main drag for a bumpy driveway, past a salt pond, and coincidentally (?) ran into a handful of people he knew standing in this barren spot.  At his direction, we somewhat doubtfully trudged a short way further on the road and discovered what was in fact a beautiful, but sparsely populated, beach, as well as a small but elegant looking bungalow resort.

Coco Beach Resort, Antigua
Since the driver was apparently willing to wait with his friends while we enjoyed the beach, we were not about to complain.  We had no proof this was not in fact where we had asked to go, although Bobby had seen pictures of the place on the shipboard TV and it looked considerably more developed than what we saw before us.  And there was nothing wrong with the location, which we think was called Coco Beach, when the one we had been looking for was Coco Bay.  Looking at a map later, I believe there was in fact a much larger resort by that name a short distance away.

As is often the case with foreign travel, one finds oneself at the generally benevolent mercy of the local tourist machine.  Unless you do a lot of homework and come across as knowing exactly what you want and what it should cost, there is always a slight haze of doubt that you are getting the best deal as opposed to something that has been engineered to create the illusion of same for the profit or convenience of others.

Nevertheless, we enjoyed ourselves, and when we returned to the taxi at the appointed time, we found that our driver had calculated enough time get us back to the ship (always a concern, because -- unless you are on one of the excursions organized by the cruise line -- if you miss the boat, you're on your own to get either home or to the next port).

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