Lifestyle » Vol. 37

The Mediterranean joins the Caribbean in Antigua


By Charles L. Mitsakos

Christopher Columbus would be surprised if he sailed to Antigua today, more than 500 years after his original voyage, to see that he could enjoy the comforts of the Mediterranean, and especially his home town of Genoa in the Italian Riviera, on this island in the Caribbean.

The mixture of West Indian, African and European cultures is seen in the island’s art, music, architecture, cuisine and culture. The blend of cultures and Antiguan and Barbudan tradition of hospitality to others encourages return visits.

sandalsantiguacHaving spent time in Greece, Italy and Monaco, as well as on the French and Italian Rivieras, Stella, my interior designer spouse, and I became even more aware of the Mediterranean influence throughout the island recently while guests at the all-inclusive Sandals Grande Antigua, an American Academy of Hospitality Sciences Five Star Diamond Resort and Spa. Although we had vacationed on this Caribbean island since 1970 and at this resort since 1993, we weren’t prepared for the dramatic changes that had been made. Perched on a hilltop overlooking Dickenson Bay, the new addition includes 180 luxurious concierge suites with a Mediterranean flair; Mario’s, an exceptional Italian restaurant, along with three other restaurants; and the largest freshwater pool in the Eastern Caribbean. The changes complemented well the Caribbean Village accommodations and four restaurants that made up the original resort.

Stella was delighted by the Mediterranean-style accents in our room, such as the full-height marble columns; mosaic tiles; artwork; custom-designed, hand-turned mahogany furniture with leather trunks and fabrics from Italy and Turkey; Italian Giallo marble bath fixtures and whirlpool tub for two. I experienced the personal Mediterranean “touch” during a spa treatment my first morning on the island at the resort’s Red Lane Spa. I thought I was back on the French Riviera.

But the European influence in Antigua is not limited to Sandals. A trip to historic Nelson’s Dockyard across the island, with J.J., our personable taxi driver and guide, gave us a chance to see more of Antigua’s beauty and Mediterranean connections. After visiting the museum and other historic buildings at Nelson’s Dockyard, J.J. drove us up to Shirley Heights Lookout, which overlooks the island’s south coast and the bay at English Harbor. It was a perfect spot to sip a Planter’s Punch, made (of course) with Antigua’s English Harbor Rum, while awaiting a dramatic green flash at sunset. We joined many folks from France and Italy who had sailed to Antigua on their yachts before heading back to Sandals Grande Antigua.

The Mediterranean has indeed become part of the Caribbean.

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A freelance travel writer, Charles L. Mitsakos is professor emeritus of education at Rivier University in Nashua, N.H. He lives in Massachusetts.

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