Canada and nine Caribbean Islands
Trinidad, Grenada, St Vincent, Barbados, St Lucia, Martinique, Dominica, Guadeloupe and Antigua
Sunday 15th July. We departed from London at 2:15pm.
At 7:45pm local time we were in Toronto in the Hungarian Hut restaurant in
Queen Street, having goulash and schnitzel for $7 - super value, but we were
too tired to do it justice.
Mon 16th. Canada. Selby Hotel, Toronto, 7:30am, up and at 'em.
We got a metro and bus to the Skydome. Didn't stay in the hotel, but went
on the guided tour ($7 each), peeked in a private box (costs $1.5 million
for 10 years, and you furnish it yourself), walked through the changing rooms,
sat in the commentators' box and leant against a roll of astro-turf, which
is complete with a zip to fasten it to the next roll. Then we had lunch at
the Hard Rock Café overlooking the pitch - potato skins and spicy
chicken. Then we went up the CN tower to the main observation platform ($10)
and up again to the space deck ($2) to the highest public observation platform
in the world (1,465 feet high).
|CN Tower, Toronto.|
|Downtown Toronto from the top of the CN Tower.|
We then walked via Union Station and a soft frozen yogurt stand ($3, delicious)
to the Eaton Centre, a shopping mall. Then went by metro to Christina's,
a Greek restaurant on Danforth Road, which was very good, but at $65 for
three of us, not as good value as some.
Tues 17th. Selby Hotel. 9am. Self-service breakfast in the lobby of the hotel.
We went down to the Flat Iron building and photographed the mural, and
looked in the craft shops opposite with their scented candles, door chimes,
etc. Then we got the tram to the waterfront and strolled around, and had lunch
at the Harbour Diner for $52 for three.
|The Flatiron Building, Toronto.|
In the afternoon we visited Casa Loma ($7 for adults, $4 for children),
which was an impressive building but all the furniture has been sold. Then
rushed back via the shops to buy films, etc, in time to pick up our bags and
get to the airport.
Weds 18th. Trinidad. Landed at the airport at 1:15am.
At 3am we collapsed into bed at Moniques Guest House, Saddle Road. After
a bit of a lie in, we got going at midday and got a maxi-taxi into town (TT
1.50 each). We walked up Frederick Street and confirmed our onward tickets
at Liat Airline, then stopped at an Indian café for a 'roti' for lunch,
which was excellent. Then we wandered up and down Frederick Street window
shopping, down to the lighthouse and back, until the heat overcame us and
we got a taxi back.
After a reviving shower we set off to the Café Savanna at the Kapok
Hotel for dinner. We had super Callaloo soup, the local speciality, and fiery
prawns. It was good, but in a different price range to lunch.
Thurs 19th. Met Lindsey Gillette, a business colleague,
for breakfast and he took us to the Hilton for a buffet. Came back to Monique's
and sorted out the hire car, then set off into the hills. We drove along winding
mountain roads to Maracas bay, a lovely sandy beach almost enclosed between
two headlands. Had a swim and a sunbathe, then retired for something to eat
just before a tropical storm drenched everything. Had bake and shark (shark
steak butties, TT 4 each) with delicious lemon leafy sauce.
Then a long, long drive over the mountains and down again to Arima. It
only looked like 30-odd miles on the map, but more like 60 on the clock. Drove
back to Port of Spain - we followed the main road straight into town and
ended up in the bus station!
We tried to find a steel band, and the Hilton directed us to the Mas Camp
Pub, so after dinner of pop and peanuts we went to the pub to hear 'Pandigenous',
a really good steel band. Stayed longer than we planned and got back exhausted
Fri 20th. Breakfast at Monique's, then off in the car
to photograph the 'Magnificent Seven' - well, five of them. One is the Anglican
Bishop's residence, and next door is the Roman Catholic Bishop's. The 'White
House' was owned by a cocoa magnate, but he fell into debt and had to sell
it and the new owner painted it all white - it's now the Prime Minister's
office. The last one, the mock castle, was built by a German magnate who
told his wife she could live anywhere she liked - however, after he had built
the castle for her she said she wouldn't live in such a monstrosity and it's
been empty ever since. Sheila bought four mangos for $6 for breakfast tomorrow.
|The castle, Port of Spain, Trinidad. It was built by a German magnate who told his wife she could live anywhere she liked - however, after he had built the castle for her she said she wouldn't live in such a monstrosity and it's been empty ever since.|
Then we set off down the highway towards San Fernando, to see the pitch
lake at La Brea. We found it without trouble and were taken over by Moses,
who acted as our guide for $10 each. First we saw a cashew tree - after they've
taken out the nuts they make wine out of what's left. Then, with a continuous
running commentary we went to the plant where the pitch (or rather asphalt)
is boiled, strained and put into barrels. Then we went down to the lake itself
and found bubbling sulphurous mud and gooey molten asphalt pools. We managed
to get no more than our hands dirty. The ever-present pressure of the methane
gas keeps the asphalt on a level, and all the holes made by excavation are
soon naturally filled in.
|The Pitch Lake, Trinidad.|
We drove back to Port of Spain, stopping for a roadside roti on the way.
That evening, we set out to eat at the Hilton, but found that the à
la carte menu was off and it was a buffet instead (chef's night off?). We
asked a chap in the bar about other places to eat, and he advised us to try
JB's, 'just up the road over the hill'. After driving for several miles we
asked for directions and a chap in a car said he was going that way so we
should follow him. We followed him for several more miles and finally arrived
at JB's, where we had excellent crab backs to start (shells stuffed with
crab meat and herbs) followed by chicken cordon bleu, steak and kebab. Drove
back exhausted as usual.
Sat 21st. Down to the airport for our Liat flight to
Granada. We tried to send a Trinidad postcard before we left but the old
post office at the airport had closed because they're building a new one
which isn't open yet. The girl at the tourist office offered to post it -
she's acting as unofficial post office until the new P.O. opens!
Grenada. We went to the Hibiscus Hotel, which was very pretty,
but not quite on the beach. Walked round to the Spice Inn to use their beach,
and the receptionist showed us the rooms - the 'pool rooms' each have their
own private pool and patio. Had lunch and then flopped on the beach for as
long as we could stand it. In the evening we caught a bus into Saint George's
(EC 1 each) and walked round the Careenage, all round the Lagoon and up the
hill to Mama's Restaurant. There's no menu there, you are just served with
a selection of about 18 dishes - salads, meat, fish, etc. No hope of finishing
it all but we didn't do badly.
|The Lagoon at St George's, Grenada.|
Sun 22nd. Breakfast at the Hibiscus, waiting for the hire 'Moke' to turn up.
The Moke arrived, so we had a sunbathe by the pool. Then, when Sheila had
her tan for the day, we set off, straight through St George's and up the
west coast to Gouyave. We found the Dougaldson Plantation but it seemed to
be shut. There was no sign of activity so we left.
We went over the hills to Betty Mascoll's Plantation House at Morne Fendue
where we'd booked lunch. Unfortunately, due to a misunderstanding we were
booked on Monday and the restaurant is closed on Sunday. However, she offered
to cook us something (which we declined) or drinks (which we accepted), starting
with a rum punch (ice cubes, an inch of rum, lime syrup, Angostura bitters
and nutmeg on the top) and moving on to a Bentley (ice, lime juice, Angostura
bitters). Betty then started telling us about all the fruit growing on trees
around the house - mangos, limes, soursop, avocado, yellow apples, sweet
apples, tangerines, oranges and cherries. She brought us different varieties
of mango to try, and some soursop ice cream, and we sat on the veranda and
she told us about her family. Reluctantly we eventually left and drove on
to Grenville, which was shut, all except for an ice cream parlour, so we
stopped for ice cream.
|Sheila sampling the fruit from the gardens at Betty Mascoll's Plantation House at Morne Fendue, Granada.|
Then we drove back across the mountains, stopping at Grand Etang (a lake
in a volcanic crater) and at the Annandale Falls. Arriving back at St George's
we had a little tour of the town (partly unintentional) and finally found
our way up to the fort for a view of the harbour and the town. Then down
to the St James Hotel nearby for tea in the lounge. We drove back for a bath,
then into town again for an Italian meal at the Portofino Restaurant overlooking
Mon 23rd. We had an early morning drive to Lance aux
Epines before we gave the car back, then down to the beach for some serious
sunbathing. The weather was perfect and we went pink. Tried snorkelling and
found lots of multicoloured fish. Jamie found some super shells. Then we
got the maxi-taxi into town to do some shopping just before the shops shut.
Had a walk round town and a homemade ice cream in what turned out to be a
lady's front parlour. We carried on walking, but we were so tired that when
the maxi-taxi drivers started fighting over us to take us back to the hotel,
|In St George's, Grenada.|
We drank lots of home-made lime juice from the limes we collected yesterday,
had dinner at the hotel (very nice, $35 for three), then packed.
Tues 24th. At 6am we checked into the airport for the
7:10 flight, to find the airport practically deserted. There was one person
at the Liat check-in, two at passport control, two for a security check and
us - no other passengers in sight. Other passengers started arriving at about
ten to seven, and the flight left on time at ten past, in a STOL Twin Otter,
with us in the front seats, an arm-stretch away from taking over the controls
if the pilot dozed off.
Saint Vincent. We arrived and checked into CSY (Caribbean
Sailing Yachts), which is a marina with a hotel as a sideline. We had a super
room with a balcony overlooking the yachts and a nearby beach. Caught a maxi-taxi
into town and had a look round, stopping in the Philatelic Bureau to buy some
stamps and miss a rain shower, then once round the town via the market, etc.
Caught the bus back to the Chicken Roost for lunch, where Sheila managed to
spill beer over Jamie's new stamps, which made them rather wavy and her rather
unpopular. Back to the hotel for a snooze, then had an excellent dinner at
CSY - fish soup and wok fried chicken with ginger sauce.
Wed 25th. In the night hurricane Albert caught up with
us from Grenada, with strong winds and driving rain. We got up in the morning,
looked out of the window at grey, overcast skies and went back to bed. We
decided to pass the time by having a bath but there was no hot water - on
enquiry we were told that it's heated by solar power, so there won't be any
until the sun comes out!
We went into town to buy Jamie some replacement stamps and have another
look round. We had lunch at the rooftop restaurant at the Cobblestone Inn
which was very good, then back to while away the afternoon until dinnertime.
We had an exceptionally good meal at 'The French' restaurant - casserole Fruits
de Mer and a huge fillet steak with tarragon cream sauce.
Thurs 26th. We booked a day at Young Island (a private
island) and went over on the ferry. We weren't allowed to use any of the beach
accessories, but we could snorkel or sit at the bar. The snorkelling was
fantastic, there was a coral reef and places where they'd made mounds of
stones underwater held in place by wire, full of fish and eels. We had a
fantastic buffet lunch, then lolled about at the bar chatting to some residents.
We reluctantly dragged ourselves away and flew to Barbados. On arriving
there we found that all the hotels seemed to be full, and finally ended up
at Rydal Water Guest House which was not quite what we'd been expecting.
Fri 27th. Barbados. Sheila got up early and set
off in search of somewhere else to stay. She found the Bresmay Apartment
Hotel just down the road, so we hired a car from Coconut Car Hire and moved
down there. Our room had a kitchen, living room, bedroom, bathroom, dressing
room and patio. After a rapid unpack we set off in the car to Sam Lord's
Castle - a Marriott hotel centred on a house built many years ago by Sam
Lord. We looked round the house, the beach, the turtle pool and finally swam
in the swimming pool(s). Eventually we dragged ourselves away and drove to
Sunbury, a plantation house which was closed because we were too late. It
has beautiful furniture (we peeped through the windows) and a collection of
old plantation machinery in the grounds.
|Sunbury Plantation House, Barbados.|
We drove into Bridgetown and had a walk round. Although it was after 6pm
the place was very lively. We walked up Swan Street which is a sort of open
air market between normal shops and had a beer at a bar with a balcony overlooking
all this bustle, then walked back to the car. Drove towards our hotel and
stopped at the Taj for a reasonable Indian meal with live music.
Sat 28th. Up early(ish) and after breakfast in the apartment
and collecting the laundry from the laundromat, we set off for a tour of
the island. We drove round the Bridgetown bypass and up the coast road through
Holetown (where the first English settlers landed in 1627) to the Shell Gallery
at Carlton. The shell shop was closed but the owner's son opened it for us
after breaking off from working on his computer. The shop was in part of
a plantation bungalow in a beautiful setting on a hill overlooking the sea.
We drove through Speightstown and inland to Saint Nicholas Abbey, a pretty
plantation house built in 1650, where the gardener said he used to work at
Kew Gardens. Drove down Cherry Tree Hill with beautiful views of the Atlantic
coast to Morgan Lewis Mill, the only intact mill on the island, which was
used for grinding sugar cane. Then on to the Atlantis Hotel in Bethsheba
for lunch, with a superb view over the sea. Then we went back into Bethsheba
for a sunbathe on the beach, although it was far too hot for comfort. When
we couldn't stand it any longer we moved on to Harrison's caves, with very
interesting rock formations, stalactites, etc, but rather touristy. Finally
we went to the Flower Forest just before it closed, a beautiful walk through
all sorts of luxuriant tropical flowers and trees, with hummingbirds humming
and monkeys crashing through the trees. We returned to our hotel and collapsed
on the balcony with a beer and peanuts. After quite a lot of beer and peanuts
we went to bed.
|Morgan Lewis windmill, Barbados.|
Sun 29th. Jamie went on a one-day Scuba diving beginners'
course. The morning part was at the pool at the Divi Southwinds so we lay
and baked in the sun as he learned. Also on the course were Barry, an Englishman
who worked for the American Diplomatic Service and his sons Ben and Sam; the
instructor was called Andrew. We had lunch at the Divi with Barry, Ben and
Sam then went back to the Scuba place for the afternoon session. We set out
in a boat through quite choppy seas to a bay near Bridgetown, where we anchored
near a sunken wreck and the divers set off. Sheila and I snorkelled over
the wreck (a fairly recent Greek ship, not an ancient galleon) and watched
the Scuba-ers, particularly Jamie who had to be restrained from going inside
every hole in the wreck. As each person's air ran out they surfaced, and
we set off back. That evening we met Barry, Ben and Sam and went for a meal
at The Carvery - excellent roast lamb, beef and ham with roast potatoes,
salads, etc and sorbet to follow.
Mon 30th. Got up and packed in a desultory sort of way,
with a break for a sunbathe by the sea, and then by the pool. Finally we
packed up and went to the airport. The airport was pretty chaotic with people
trying to get to Trinidad, where a lot of flights had been cancelled because
of the coup (which we had luckily missed by a week).
Saint Lucia. However, our flight left about on time (in a
De Haviland Dash 8 this time, with the wings above the windows so you can
see down) and landed uneventfully at Vigie Airport. This is St Lucia's older,
smaller airport and the terminal building is really just a wooden shed. We
chose a hotel and got a taxi there, only to find that it was all of a minute
and a half's drive, and we could probably have walked! Our room looked out
over a beautiful curving sandy beach round a palm-fringed bay to one side,
and the end of the runway to the other! However, it's not a busy airport
so this didn't bother us.
|Vigie Beach, St Lucia.|
We had a sunbathe on the beach and then discovered happy hour at the bar.
Tried Pina Colada which was great, and Sunny Smile which had a bit too much
Pernot in it. We finished with another Pina Colada and went to dinner at
the San Antoine restaurant on a hill overlooking the capital, Castries. This
was the best meal and the best view of the holiday so far - we were looking
out of a great arched window with huge wooden shutters, over the town and
the harbour which were all lit up. The food was absolutely fantastic too,
but don't mention the price!
Tues 31st. We had breakfast at the Vigie Beach hotel
in the cool of the morning, then onto the beach for a sunbathe and a go in
the hotel's little sailing dinghy, but it was too windy to learn windsurfing.
Then we went into town to postpone our flight to Martinique until the day
after tomorrow, so that we can eat at San Antoine again.
We went to 'Rain' restaurant on Columbus Square for lunch of Rotis and
Lime pie (not together), then a walk round town - into the cathedral, down
some shopping streets, to the philatelic bureau in the post office which was
very poor compared to St Vincent, through the market, to the Lands and Surveys
Department to buy a survey map, and finally to the duty free shopping complex
by the harbour. We got a taxi back, then had a panic because we left the
cine-camera in the taxi. Got another taxi and rushed back to the duty-free,
where the first taxi driver was sitting having his lunch, and recovered the
cine camera to everyone's relief.
|Lunch in 'Rain' restaurant, Castries, St Lucia.|
We hung around till happy hour, then tried White Scorpions, Banana Daiquaris
and of course Pina Coladas. That wiped us out so much we had a light dinner
at the hotel, listened to the steel band a bit (not as good as Pandigenous
in Trinidad) and went to bed.
Weds 1st Aug. We tried to hire a car, but everyone else
seems to have got them first. Finally we got one by walking down to the airport,
and drove into Castries to get my driving licence stamped. Then we set off
down the 'West Coast Highway' - not one of the best roads we've ever driven
on! We stopped first at Anse la Raye, a very pretty fishing village, and
strolled round looking at the fishing nets, old buildings, etc. Set off again
over even worse roads and drove through Canaries, which didn't look so nice
so we didn't stop, and on to Soufriere, with excellent views of the Pitons,
two perfectly conical mountains, on the way down. We had a 'roti' lunch and
strolled around, watching them selling fish straight out of the fishing boats
that had just come in.
|Boats at Anse la Raye, St Lucia.|
|The Pitons, Soufriere, St Lucia.|
We drove up to the 'drive-in volcano', which you couldn't drive into and
wasn't a volcano - it was pretty impressive though, with bubbling sulphurous
pools and a foul smell that's supposed to be very good for the sinuses. Drove
back to Diamond Waterfall, which is approached along a path through lush
tropical rain forest planted with all sorts of fruit trees, cocoa, etc. We
stopped for a cup of tea in Soufriere to let a tropical thunderstorm pass,
then set off back along the west coast highway, which was more or less a
gravel stream bed running with the recent rains. After freshening up at the
hotel we went back to San Antoine for dinner, which was just as good as before,
still one of our best restaurants ever.
Thurs 2nd. Up early, checked out of the hotel, checked
into the airport, returned the car and waited for the flight to Martinique.
Then they announced that it would be "about two hours late" and we sat there
as various other flights to Martinique on different airlines left. When the
next Liat flight to Martinique had boarded and we were still waiting, I went
and asked if there were any spare places on it, and after counting up the
boarding cards the chap said yes, three seats, did we want them? So we dragged
Sheila out of the café in mid-cup of coffee, they sent someone to
fetch our case and in five minutes we were off!
Martinique. About 20 minutes later we landed and when the
plane had stopped and the door was opened we waited for someone else to get
off, but they were all staying on to the next place, we were the only ones!
We thanked the pilot, who was doubling as air steward and opening the door,
etc, because there wasn't a stewardess on the flight, and went into the terminal,
which we seemed to have to ourselves. It was huge, to handle Air France jumbos,
with a great big baggage reclaim hall where they started up the conveyor
belt just for our case - it's not often that ours is first off!
We arranged to hire a car, but we had to wait for it to arrive so we had
a salami baguette for brunch, then drove to Diamont where we were booked into
the Marine Hotel. It had a nice view but tiny rooms, with the kitchen on
the balcony. It overlooks the sea but there is no way down. We had a swim
and sunbathe by the pool, then went down to the supermarket to buy the ingredients
for breakfast. Then we set off and drove into Fort de France, the capital,
which is by far the biggest town since Toronto and seems very French (and
the driving is positively Parisienne!) We had a walk round but everything
was closing so we had a beer on the balcony of a café. The prices
are about double anything we've encountered so far - a small bottle of beer,
brewed locally, costs over £1. Drove off to find the Coq Hardi restaurant,
and found the Bristol Hotel by accident; unfortunately it was closed for
holidays, because it looked very good - a little run down but atmospheric.
With help from a motorist who led us most of the way we found the restaurant
and had excellent steaks.
|HMS Diamond Rock, Martinique. Used by the British in 1804 as a sloop of war, they manned it against all odds for 17 months and succumbed, legend says, only when the wily French invaded, first with rum -- barrels of it as bait for the thirsty British -- and then with regiments.|
Fri 3rd. After some time struggling with the electrics
we got the kitchen working and had breakfast on the balcony. Halfway through,
the hotel staff came knocking on the door to say it was time to move to another
room because they wanted to do something to ours, so we carried most of our
stuff next door then finished our breakfast. After completing the move we
sweated out the morning by the pool and arranged a Scuba trip for Jamie in
the afternoon. This turned out to be a great one - they went to a cave beneath
a coral cliff and saw lots of different fish (different to the ones in St
Vincent). We went and looked at the Novotel (no different to our hotel really
and twice the price) and bought dinner at the supermarket (cheese and salami).
We had dinner on the balcony with Barbados duty-free Mateus Rosé wine.
Sat 4th. Had breakfast on the balcony - this could become a habit.
Finally we set off for our drive round the island. Went through Anse d'Arlet,
Trios-Islets, didn't stop at Josephine's museum, and into Fort de France.
Sheila bought some duty-free perfume and we got some cream for Jamie's coral
stings, and we had a drink in an Italian café where the very helpful
proprietoress booked a table for us at a restaurant she recommended for the
evening. We set off and drove to Saint-Pierre, with a view of mount Pelée,
and round through Trinity, Tartane, Riviere-Pilote and St Luce and back to
Later we set off to find the restaurant, the Villa Creole, and got there
after getting lost two or three times. There then ensued some confusion; we
had asked the Italian lady who booked the table to ask if it was alright for
us to be there in short trousers. What they seemed to have actually reserved
was a special table for people with short legs - they showed us how we could
stretch our (wooden?) legs out and rest them on the opposite seat! However,
we kept our feet firmly on the ground and had a good meal.
Sun 5th. We drove to the airport ready for the next flight.
However, the next flight was not ready for us - the plane was stuck in Grenada
with some problem and Liat had people waiting in airports up and down the
Caribbean. They treated us to lunch in the airport restaurant (at those prices
no-one would eat there unless someone else was paying) and we continued to
wait. Suddenly after five hours came the first announcement about our flight
- "immediate boarding at gate two" - and it was. Within five minutes we were
taking off, but in the wrong direction. They had brought another aeroplane
from somewhere, but after collecting us it had to backtrack to St Lucia to
collect people there before going to Dominica.
Dominica. When we finally landed it was at an even smaller
airfield than Vigie - the passport control, baggage reclaim and customs were
all in an area the size of a large living room. We went to the Castle Comfort
Guest House, which is also 'Dive Dominica' and arranged for Jamie and Sheila
to go Scuba diving tomorrow. We set out for a pre-dinner stroll but didn't
get very far. We came back to watch the sunset and had a nice dinner at the
guest house - they only do rooms with dinner and breakfast included, so we
|Castle Comfort guest house, Dominica.|
|On a street in Roseau, Dominica.|
Mon 6th. Had an excellent breakfast, then we set out
in the boat for Scuba and snorkelling. We went to the hot springs, where hot
water bubbles out under the sea and there were lots of coral, fish and things.
Sheila achieved her first Scuba dive, with some coaxing! Much later we returned,
and after a rest set off to walk into town with Patty, the Scuba instructor
who had talked Sheila into it. We got as far as Fort Young Hotel, had a drink
and came back, then had a rest, dinner and bed.
Tues 7th. Guadeloupe. Flew on time this time (well nearly).
We hired a car and drove into town. It was another big, bustling and very
French place (smell of Gauloises in the air). We asked about hotels at the
tourist office and went to the Bougainville, and ended up with the best room
in the place, a suite on the top floor with two balconies. We walked around
town and bought salami and cheese for the evening meal, and checked out perfumes
for Sheila. Then we had a drive round the northern part of the island to
'Porte d'Enfer' to see the Atlantic crashing against the cliffs and feel
the wind whistling by. Then back to the hotel for dinner in our suite.
|The market in Bssse-Terre, Guadeloupe.|
Wed 8th. We packed everything into the car and had a
short drive round - through Gosier and then over the bridge into Basse-Terre
to the next turnoff, then back to the airport. The flight to Antigua
was on time - we were just sitting in the departure lounge wondering how to
pass the time when a Liat woman ran by gesticulating to us - come on, boarding
now (no announcement or anything sophisticated like that) so we grabbed our
things and walked briskly to the plane.
Antigua. We arranged car hire for tomorrow and booked into
the Trade Winds Cove Guest House. It was another big room with kitchen, bedroom
and sitting room, but not the cleanest ever. We relaxed in the sun by the
pool for a while, and walked down to the mega-expensive resort hotels on
the beach. In the evening we walked down to the Coconut Grove restaurant,
right on the beach. It was just like a film set - right beside the tables
were palm trees and fine silver sands, with the sea gently lapping a few
yards away. I had lobster (for the first time since Rangoon) and it was a
whopper, complete with its legs and things. Good food but not cheap. We walked
back along the beach and struggled up the hill.
Thurs 9th. The hire car arrived on time as arranged and
off we went. We stopped in St John's to report a lost cine-camera battery
at the police station and to buy a map at Lands and Surveys, and had a drive
round - well, a crawl, they have a traffic problem. The place was also heaving
with tourists because two cruise ships were in - the Song of Norway that
we saw in St Lucia, and the Cunard Countess that was at Guadeloupe.
|Antigua - cruise ships.|
We set off across the island to English Harbour and went to Clarence House
overlooking Nelson's Harbour. Unfortunately all the cruise ship tourists did
so too, so it was very crowded. We drove up to Shirley Heights, the lookout
point for the harbour then down to the dockyard itself, by which time most
of the other tourists were leaving. One of the dockyard buildings has been
converted into a superb-looking hotel, but of course it closes for the holidays,
starting today! Some of the other dockyard buildings are shops, cafés
and a museum, and we stopped in the café for meat patties and a cup
of coffee. After pausing in a bar while a tropical thunderstorm went by (the
bar was closed) we went back to the car and drove to the St James Club but
weren't impressed, then to Parham which could be pretty but isn't, and back
to St John's. We mingled with the cruise-shippers in the duty-free shopping
malls but found that things were the same price as in England.
|Admiral's Inn, Nelson's Dockyard, Antigua.|
|In Saint John's, Antigua.|
We went for happy hour at the Coconut Grove and tried some of Oliver's
potent inventions, then went up to Clouds restaurant to book a table for that
evening. We ascertained that a tie is required but a jacket isn't. Later
we went to Clouds and had a superb meal (although not an all-time great like
San Antoine) while watching the lightening as a storm drifted away to sea.
Before the meal we had a cocktail called a 'Hurricane' so we finished the
day slightly tipsy.
Fri 10th. Had breakfast on the balcony enjoying the view
and feeding cornflakes to the lizards. Then we went down to the Halcyon Cove
(one of the mega-expensive, all-line-up-on-the-beach hotels) for Jamie to
go for a Scuba dive and we lay in the sun. Had a short drive into St John's
to look for another suitcase, then back for happy hour at the Coconut Grove.
We couldn't decide where to eat so we settled for a pizza just down the road.
Sat 11th. Had breakfast on the balcony again. The cornflakes
became a major attraction, with three lizards and two birds fighting over
them. We had a last swim and sunbathe at Halcyon Cove, then went to the airport.
Canada again. The flight was on time and we flew to Toronto,
but unfortunately the suitcase didn't. We found that it was one of a batch
that didn't get loaded onto the plane and it was still in Antigua. This was
slightly inconvenient, especially as Air Canada said if we told them where
we were staying in Toronto they'd deliver it to us, but we weren't staying
- we'd hired a car and planned to drive to Niagara Falls. We told them we'd
ring and let them know, and set off and drove to Niagara. This turned out
to be a huge mistake because it was a holiday weekend and all of Canada and
half of America had gone there too. We arrived about 2am to find ourselves
among cars roaming the streets looking for a hotel with vacancies. Finally
we gave up and started heading out of town, and about ten miles out we found
the most awful motel with a room for $35. At 3am who cares, and we collapsed
Sun 12th. A new day and things don't look quite so bad.
We drove back to Niagara Falls and went up the Skylon Tower for our
first view of the falls. It was still early and shrouded in spray and mist,
but it soon started clearing. We went for a walk in the park along the cliff-top
opposite the falls, which is all very pleasant, then we went up to the edge
of the falls themselves which are spectacular. We lingered a while watching
the boats go right up to the base of the falls to get the occupants soaked,
then drove towards Niagara-on-the-Lake, stopping at a vineyard on the way
to sample the wares. We got to Niagara and checked into the hotel we had
pre-booked, the Queens Landing Inn, which was palatial compared to last night's.
We walked around Niagara a bit and had tea and scones at a tea house. We
went to look at the Apothecary Shop, a 'museum' shop, and talked to the proprietor/shopkeeper
who had been stationed in Godalming after the war. Later we had a drive round
looking at the historic houses mentioned in a brochure (the owners/occupants
must hate tourists doing this), then went to a Chinese restaurant that had
been recommended, and it turned out to be excellent.
Mon 13th. We ordered breakfast in the room, and luxuriated
in the ambience of a good hotel. The log fire crackled in the grate as the
rain pattered against the window. Eventually we got going and drove down
the parkway beside the river Niagara, and across the Rainbow Bridge into
the USA. We found we had been sensible to get our visas in advance
or it would have cost $50. Drove into Buffalo and right out again - it's grotty.
Drove on and on, and finally got to Watertown near the Thousand Islands,
where we had an unexpectedly good meal in 'Art's Jug', an Italianish style
restaurant which was quite nice inside but looked like a big shack outside.
We stayed at the New Green Parrot Motel, which was immeasurably better than
the first motel in Niagara.
Tues 14th. Had a nice breakfast in the Parrot Diner,
then drove to the Thousand Islands. We stopped at Alexandria Bay and
booked a boat trip round the islands, which was very good. Andy the guide/commentator
knew who owned which island, how much they paid for it, etc. etc. After the
boat tour we drove back into Canada and went to Ottawa, which
turned out to be a very pleasant place. We had a quick walk round the shops
before they shut, then tried to find a bed and breakfast place - we had a
short panic when they all seemed to be full, then we were referred to Henrietta
Walker's b&b. This turned out to be very good- $50 for the three of us,
with breakfast, and right near the market area. The market is a Covent-Garden
style place with street entertainers, lots of restaurants, etc. and we wandered
round for a while soaking up the atmosphere. We had an extremely good lasagne
at Oregano's ($52 for three of us, with trimmings) while Jamie was adorned
by the balloon lady, who made him a huge bow tie, a hat with a Canada Goose
on the front, a red nose and a pink and blue daisy, all out of long thin
|Just one of the Thousand Islands in the St Lawrence river.|
Weds 15th. After yesterday's pleasant summer evening
we were looking forward to strolling round the shops and taking photos in
the sun. Unfortunately this morning it was raining. Undeterred we set off
for Sheila's ration of shopping. The market had superb fruit and veg and
we found Hungarian delicatessens packed with hundreds of different salamis,
cheeses, etc. Then Sheila found that makeup was half the price it was in
England and emptied a chemist's store. Jamie bought a Chinese writing set
with his name carved on a stone stamp and a saying 'to give is to receive'
carved on another - the Ying and the Yang, Dragon and Phoenix. In the process
of looking for the writing set we went for a drive round Chinatown, and on
the way found a Chinese restaurant that was recommended and was packed with
Chinese people, always a good sign, so we booked for this evening.
Later in the afternoon the weather cleared up so we walked towards the
parliament building, stopping on the way at Chateau Laurier for tea. The chateau
is Ottowa's 'Grand Hotel' built in 1916, and we discovered that they had
a special promotional offer of a double room with breakfast for $99, and
no extra charge for Jamie (this latter concession may have been because the
receptionist had studied in Leeds and worked in Guildford). This made up
our minds about where to stay tomorrow night! We continued our walk over
the canal and round the parliament buildings, all very spectacular. Later,
we went to the Chinese restaurant which was even more packed. When we finally
got seated we ordered what would have been a normal meal in England, but
little did we know.... the first course was two small soups and a won ton.
When the first soup arrived it was in a big tureen with three small bowls
- aha, we thought, misunderstanding, and started to explain that we only
wanted one soup. Yes, the waitress said, this was a small soup, and the next
one was just as large. We were therefore full up before the main courses
arrived, and they were equally substantial (and delicious). We were completely
defeated and managed to eat about half of it, before gladly accepting the
offer of a doggy bag.
|Parliament Building, Ottowa.|
Thurs 16th. We confessed to Jane at the B&B where
we were going, and moved to Chateau Laurier. We started by having a complete
re-pack of the suitcase, so our rather nice room was immediately knee-deep
in holiday debris. The we went on the guided tour - the hotel itself is a
tourist attraction and they run tours which include going through an underground
tunnel to the conference centre, which used to be the main railway station
and was built at the same time as the hotel. This has a strange 'whispering
dome' which gives a stereo effect if you stand in the right place and talk
to someone. Also on the tour was the royal suite where the entourages of
royalty and heads of state stay (apparently protocol dictates that the actual
royalty and heads of state stay at their embassies).
After a swim in the pool we retired to Zoe's Lounge for tea (deja vu -
we were here 24 hours ago) and I had a walk round the parliament buildings
taking photos because the sun had come out. Then we walked round more shopping
malls until all the shops had shut. By this time we had developed a yearning
for real north American food for dinner - hot dogs. So we had a beer in the
courtyard of the Vienna Café and asked where the best hot dogs in
town were, and were directed to Zak's Diner. Zak's is more like a 1950s museum
than a restaurant - there are juke boxes on the walls and old records playing
- north American culture at its peak. The food was terrific though - we had
the Diner Dip to start, tacos with sour cream, spring onions, green peppers,
cheese and hot sauce, then enormous hot dogs with fries and rings. Got back
to the hotel room in time for the last few minutes of the son et lumiere
at the parliament building from the vantage point of our window.
Fri 17th. We checked out of the Chateau and drove to
Toronto. Because we were late leaving, it's a long way and the traffic
in Toronto was busy, it was 4:30pm before we got there. Nevertheless we went
to 'Wonderland' as planned and, as it didn't shut until 10pm we decided five
hours would be enough. Jamie and Sheila went on all the hairy rides (several
times) while I waited. Then we went to check into the Selby hotel where we'd
booked a room all those many weeks ago. Unfortunately there was a bit of
a problem - we'd asked for a quiet room because of the disco but they hadn't
saved one. After going and vibrating to the beat in various rooms all over
the hotel they gave us the Hemingway Suite, a really nice (although slightly
shabby) room at the front. When they offered it to us at the price of a standard
room ($70) we pointed out that we'd paid less than that before, and on checking
the computer (the wonders of science) they found that we had indeed only
paid $55 as a special discount because we'd been referred from the airport
through Travellers Aid. And so we got one of the best rooms of the holiday
for one of the cheapest prices. We went across the road to Michael K's eatery
for another all-American meal - Boston clam chowder and shish kebabs. Huge
helpings again and excellent value.
Sat 18th. Another self-service breakfast in the lobby of the Selby Hotel - we've come full circle. We set off and walked down Bloor and Yonge Streets looking in shops, going through malls and stopping for a hot dog on the way. We ended up at Union Station but the frozen yogurt shop was shut and the Royal York Hotel wasn't as interesting as the Chateau Laurier. We walked back via the Saint Laurence market which was full of cheese and salami shops and went back to Eton's mall where there was a very good Mexican band playing outside. We got the subway back to Sherbourne Street and had a drink in Michael K's eatery, then drove to the airport and flew to London.
If you would like to read about more of our travels, click here --->