Petanque, The Perfect Beach Sport

Recently, while on the island of Antigua we were joined for the day by friends who had recently set anchor in the bay with their well-traveled sailing yacht.  Sitting on beautiful Pigeon Beach, we felt a passing urge to be somewhat more active, but only slightly more so.  Stuart asked if I wanted to play a game the French frequently use to while away the hours, called Petangue.  Well truthfully it was I who first asked, but it makes for a far better story, and sounds far less foolish on my part, to say that Stuart challenged me.

Now admittedly, the French game of Petanque, is something I know very little about, actually nothing.  But I do have a great deal of the traditional American competitive spirit within, and my blind spot for personal shortcomings aides considerably in my willing spirit.  So with virtually no knowledge of the game, no conceivable talent that may translate well, and literally no practice whatsoever, I proudly accepted the challenge.

Petangue is the French version of the more commonly known Italian Bocce, or the British Bolles. The nice thing about Petangue is that it can easily be played while holding your favorite drink or refreshment of the day, something that readily got my attention under the hot tropical sun.  The game is played by tossing a small ball, called a coushette, approximately 15-20 feet to a soft, directionless landing.  You then take a larger croquette sized ball and attempt to get your ball to land closer to the coushette than your opponent’s ball.  Four balls are used per competitor, and there you have the basics.  A single point is awarded for each ball you get closer than your opponent.

The Rookie

I’m not really sure if all the slanderous comments and jibing were requisite, or if these were just voluntary assaults on my character, tossed about purely for my pleasure, but it did seem to add to the general good times and fun in the sand.

Stuart Proudfoot putting me to shame. (Artist Helen Mussell in the background)

After just a few ventings at an offending overhanging branch that had frequently set it’s sights on my ball, I actually made good progress. Fifteen points are required to win a game, and best 3 out of 5 games wins the match. As you may guess, Stuart handily won the match, and while my 2-3 showing wasn’t the stellar report I was hoping for, the effort wasn’t the most embarrassing thing I’ve done in my life either. Perhaps more on that will come in a later post!  In the final analysis we highly recommend this as a quiet, fun beach-time activity with friends. Nothing like killing time limin in the islands!

Live the Life,
JVbytheSea

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Home Sweet Home, A Creole Heritage

The old adage states “There’s no Place Like Home”.  But for us the adage couldn’t be any further from the truth.  We love to travel, and more specifically traveling throughout the Caribbean, and we love everything that goes with it.  Well I guess not really everything, we’re not that much on flight delays, lost luggage, and crying babies.  But that aside, travels are a compelling part of our annual agenda.

Traveling always sets my mind to wandering.  I wonder who has been here before me, what was life for them like, and how was their day to day existence different from my own.  And so naturally there is something about the old Creole styled Caribbean homes of old that causes my mind to dream about its former inhabitants, and of days gone by.

Marigot, St. Martin

Like all travelers we love meeting all the great people along the way, and the ensuing friendships that develop.  And of course we are fascinated by all the new sites and tastes that make a trip a true vacation.  But as a huge fan of the history of these warring islands, I cannot help but fall in love with the simple old historic Creole homes that dot these islands.

Anguilla

In many parts of the Caribbean, the term Creolean is used to refer to a French-speaking person of primarily European ethnicity born in the Caribbean islands.  The term Creole is sometimes used to describe anyone, regardless of race or ethnicity, who was born and raised in the region.

These Creole floorplans are distinctive in that they tend to be asymmetrical, and they always lack interior hallways.  Windows and doors are placed solely for the needs and convenience of the interior layout, and without regard for the architectural effect on the exterior.

Sadly these old homes are rapidly declining

Antigua

and finding their way into obscurity.  For us however, we see these and can’t help but think.  “Couldn’t I be happy to live out my days here, with just the sea as my doormat, and the breeze as my companion?”  We have a photo project underway for a client in St. Martin, seeking to document in pictorial record, some of these old relics of the past.  So if you know of one of these old gems, drop us a line at info@myislandart.com.  We’ll hunt it down and try to include it in our record.  So start scouring the hillsides with your eyes off the beaten path.  Maybe we’ll find our new home!

Live the Life,
JVbyTheSea

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Photo Essay -Vintage Antigua

As the cold weather settles in on the Midwest, our minds are focusing on warmer days and places.  This week we found ourselves thinking about our first ever Caribbean excursion, and decided to share a few of our memories.

Turning the mark during Sailing Week 1999.

Today we’re going back to 1999, and Sailing Week as it is celebrated in beautiful Antigua.  These images are from an early film camera so the quality is not what we are all accustomed to now.  But the memories are real.  Here are our highlighted recommendations for any trip to Antigua.

If you like a little history, don’t miss a tour of Betty’s Hope or Nelson’s Dockyard.

Betty's Hope, the former sugar plantation operated from 1651 for almost 300 years.
Historic Nelson's Dockyard

One of our favorite beaches is Half Moon Bay.  Since hurricane Luis destroyed it’s only resort in 1995, the beach is now a quiet getaway.

Half Moon Bay, Antigua

Nature at it very best can be enjoyed at Devil’s Bridge and Hawksbill Beach.

Devil's Bridge
Hawksbill Beach

Don’t miss a trip to Shirley Heights for the Sunday night Jump Up.  Great Food, Great Music, Great Views!

English Harbour from Shirley Heights

There you have it.  A quick glimpse down memory Lane with us, and a lesson to you in what should make up the To Do List for any Antigua vacation.  Let us know your thoughts.  What would you add to this list?

Live the Life,
JVbytheSea

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Slow Down and Smell The Sea

In this season of hectic rushing to grab that perfect tie for uncle Ned, and a charming knitted hot pad for Nanna, we offer this Public Service Announcement: Slow Down and Smell the Sea Air.

Fighting traffic in and out of the malls takes it out of all of us.  This little video snippet shows you Rush Hour traffic on one of our favorite beaches.  Pigeon Beach, Antigua.

Quiet and pristine, this beach really is a step away from the crowds.  We love the gorgeous white sands and the quiet calm surf.  So remember, during this season of hurrying about, take a moment to feed your inner Beach Bum, and Relax…

Live the Life,
JVbytheSea

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Admiral’s Inn -Antigua

It’s not every day you encounter a hotel that can instantly transport your mind back to the warring days of a seafaring pirate.  Recently however we found just such a location, and this gem is due all it’s lauding.  The Admiral’s Inn on the island of Antigua is a true historic find, and walking it’s hallowed hallways really does take your mind back to a simpler time of plundering, pillaging, and of course chasing after the occasional wench.

Admiral's Inn

Originally built in 1788 as the Pitch and Tar House for the British fleet’s Caribbean outpost, this classic three-story Georgian brick structure has undergone many changes to get to its present state.  Located in the historic Nelson’s Dockyard at English Harbour, on the southeast corner of this quiet island, many remnants of its seagoing past still exist.  Its narrow corridors are lined with nautical artifacts, paintings, and photos of a bygone era.  The 18″ thick brick and stone walls, the massive wooden beams with their hefty iron tie-backs, and its hearthy yellow pine plank flooring throughout, are faithfully preserved remnants from its prestigious past.

Admiral's Inn, Room No. 1

Throw open the windowless shutters, and you can almost see the fair maiden looking longingly for her man to come back from the sea. But I digress…

What began as the Pitch and Tar House, was later relegated to duty as the Engineer’s and Draftsman’s Offices in the 19th century, and was ultimately abandoned altogether in 1899.  Restored in 1954, the building later served as a police station, and as a doctor’s office and residence.  Further modifications in 1960 saw it’s conversion into a hotel by the Engineer’s House Company Limited.  This beautiful old structure has survived the winds of change, and the torrents of more than one passing hurricane in it’s 223 year history.

Situated amidst the beautiful gardens of the Nelson’s Dockyard, the surroundings and large terrace over-looking the water and the yachts lying in anchor, coupled with the building’s historic charm, harken you back to a simpler day.  Remnants too of it’s sailing past abound at every corner of this beautiful property.

 

Early Map of Antigua

The entirety of the Admirals’ Inn actually consists of three buildings situated at the entrance to the historic Dockyard. The main building was planned in 1785, the year after Captain Horatio Nelson arrived in English Harbour as Captain of HMS BOREAS, and completed in 1788. The ground floor was used for storage of pitch, turpentine, and lead, and the engineer’s offices of the Dockyard were relegated to the upper floor.  Some original pitch marks may still be seen at the foot of the stairs.

Ships sailing to the New World typically contained bricks in the hold as sailing ballast.  Since the ship’s return ballast was frequently barrels of rum, I bet that made for a hearty homecoming, the original ballast was ultimately left behind. Thusly, the bricks used in this building’s construction were brought over from England as standard ship’s ballast.  Also, as was the custom of the day, every sailing vessel was required to leave a draft, submitted to their Lordships of the Admiralty, for approval of it’s design.

Admirals Inn Bar

Behind the bar in the hotel’s Lobby you will see a photographic copy of the original Admiralty draft of Nelson’s vessel, the HMS BOREAS (meaning “the North Wind”), a 142 foot 28-gun frigate built at Hull.  The frame surrounding the plan is of lignum vitae, and is an original door frame from one of the entrances to the building.

Sparse, yet adequate furnishings and amenities, complete each of the simple rooms, remaining true to the building’s heritage and proud past.  An attentive staff sees to your every need and is quick to assist, advise, or lend a hand.  A small kitchen prepares daily breakfast and dinner, which is served open air at the feet of the pillars of the former sail loft.  The spacious patio, lined with airy potted plants and small cafe tables, provides a romantic setting for a quiet coffee or a hearty breakfast sure to prepare you for a full day of surf and sand or sailing.

Grounds Surrounding the Admiral's Inn

Our recommendation when vacationing on the island of Antigua, is to take a departure from the norm, and opt to pass on the modernized resort areas of the north and western coasts.  Instead we suggest a step back in time in the historic Nelson Dockyard.  Grab a couple fingers of your favorite spirit, and settle in for a trip through history.  Tell Ruth you were sent by Island Art & Treasures, and walk the halls where Captain Nelson walked.  Aye Matey!

Great Faces, Great Places -Bumpkins Bar and Grill

Approaching from our descent along a rutted and washed out roadbed, our first glimpses of Bumpkins Bar & Grill, a small local bar situated on Pigeon Point Beach, was that of a quiet and lazy Local hangout waiting for the day to awake.

Pigeon Point Beach is a perfectly quiet shore, nestled away from the crowds of the cruise ship taxi stands, and just around the cove from historic Falmouth Harbour.  A bright sun-drenched section of palm-lined sand stretches into the horizon punctuated with panoramic views of Montserrat in the distance.

Pigeon Point Beach, Antigua

The north end of this one particular harbour is anchored by Bumpkins Bar, and a simpler stand there shall never be. Two separate buildings mark it’s limits, surrounded by a dozen or so sea-facing tables. Decked out in a soft lilac and coral palate, the first structure is the bar area, and just a few steps away is the kitchen building serving up traditional Caribbean goodness.

We dined seaside in the open air setting, attended to in impeccable fashion by Marcia. Ever-present, ever-friendly, and a joy to engage. I had the requisite jerk chicken and fries, while my bride had the traditional English fish and chips. Both were excellent beach fare, and the refreshments were generously poured featuring the local English Harbour Rum as the brand of choice.

Bumpkins Bar and Grill

We found Bumpkins amidst off-season, just as the last coats of paint were being applied all across the island, readying for a new season of pink-skinned tourists. Prime time if you ask me. The temperatures are still moderate, as always, and yet the crowds from the north have not yet descended upon her shores.

Should you be fortunate enough to find yourself on the gorgeous island of Antigua looking for a perfect beach, and a perfect bar to pair it with, head on over to Bumpkins Bar and Grill on Pigeon Point Beach. Tell Marcia that you were sent by Island Art & Treasures. The sunshine and friendly
smiles are on the house!

Contact Bumpkins Bar at (268)562-2522 or via email :bumpkins@apuainet.ag