A Carmen Miranda look-alike welcomed us to Antigua as we left the Carnival Freedom. Her male counterpart was playing the drums at the end of the dock. Put us in a very good Caribbean mood. However once we entered Heritage Quay (pronounced key) we were beset on by men offering to give us a $20 taxi tour of the island. The cruise director had warned us about taking a tour from one of these guys. Cruise passengers in the past have missed the boat departure, because of a taxi breakdown, or poor sense of time on the part of these tour guides. So, we side stepped each one who approached us. Finally I did tell one that we didn't want a ride, just directions to the museum. He was so startled he graciously told us how to find it, just a short walk away.
Walking to the Antigua-Barbados Museum, Bill warned me to watch my step. Good advice. There are deep grooves between slabs of concrete on the street. I'm sure it is to allow rain storm run-off, but they were real ankle-grabbers. The museum is located in the oldest surviving building in St. John's. It was the former court house. This is not a Class A museum like the Smithsonian or The Field Museum. But its the little museum that tried. Displays were arranged in chronological order starting with the formation of the island through volcanic, sedimentary eras and earthquakes. We learned that the highest mountain called Boggy Peak has recently been renamed Mount Obama. There was a nice display of stone-age tools found in the bay. There was an unsual basket the original people called a cassava squeezer. The casava root is processed in it by squeezing and evenutally becomes a flour like tapioca. We saw a model of the square waddle and daub housing structures used a hurricane in 1951 knocked down the last ones. There was a section of the museum devoted to the slave trade and how it was linked to the plantation life. What downgrades the museum is the lack of professional signage. But I applaude that there were signs and explainations at all. We learned more about the Caribbean from this one museum than on the whole rest of the cruise.
Now that our brains had been fed we found a place to feed our bodies. Hemmingway's Caribbean Cafe occupied the second floor and balcony of an 1800's building on St. Mary's Street. Not owned by Ernest the Author, but he did stay here when it was a boarding house. I loved sitting at our balcony table enjoying the colorful buildings of the historic area. Bill loved watching the drivers below and how they managed to cram their vehicles into tiny parking places. Bill stuck to the breakfast menu which always suits him. I was adventuresome and ordered Conk Fritters and Key Lime pie. I think we even heard some Jimmy Buffet music floating up from the sidewalk vendors. For the atmosphere alone I would recommend this place...but the food was awesome, too.
We shopped along Heritage Quay and on Thames Street and Redcliffe Quay. Remember the $20 tour taxi drivers harassing us earlier?...well their wives, sisters and aunties took up the harassment as we poked around in the stall markets. "Sweetie, Honey, Sugar" was the way they addressed us. Very persistant and frankly there was nothing there I wanted to buy. Redcliffe Quay was different. We found a nice gallery and a pottery shop. I bought a blouse at the boutique Island Girl and a tea towel at the Linen Shop.
Back on board ship we watched party boats arriving. Just as at St. Thomas, we found the bay at Antigua lovely.