Saturday, December 28, 2013


Map picture

No, that is not Morse code. Instead it is a representation of what you will see if you look closely at a World Map and focus in on the Caribbean. I am no expert, but if you measure from Ft. Lauderdale all the way across the Caribbean Sea to where the last islands, Trinidad and Tobago, are located it seems to span almost 2000 miles. For the first half of that distance the Islands are fairly large and easily identified on a map, e.g. Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico. South of that however, things become a little trickier, and before long you see a series of dots, and in many cases there are only names because the dots would be too small to see.

Yesterday and today were days of dot visiting. Yesterday it was a dot (Saint Barthelemy), and today it was a dot dot (Antigua & Barbuda). Saint Barthelemy, or as it is generally called, St. Barts is a political division of France, and as such is somewhat like one of our States, as I understand it. The Island is so small it is almost impossible to locate it on a map consisting of only 8 square miles, however it is home to approximately 9,000 people and also 11,000 cars. In “season” it is almost impossible to move along the roads, as I quickly learned in my short outing. The harbor reminded me of visiting the French coast of Monaco because it was so full of really “BIG” and expensive yachts. In a way our ship was the “biggest” of the big, but not by much.

I mentioned in my last letter that I got pneumonia for Christmas. Well, Santa also left a similar little gift for Lisa. Now she has had to stay on the ship; she has been quite ill and very nauseous. Today was the first time she has eaten anything in two days. Well, as I said, “who needs the fat guy, anyway?”

So my tour of small St. Barts was done by myself, but I was fortunate to get a tour billed as a “Full Island Tour with Helene”. I am glad I could hook onto that group because it turns out that “Helene’s” family came to St. Barts in 1493. Even though she is about 40 years old, she is a locally know activist fighting to save the island from wanton development. In her dilapidated little van was a recently published magazine which featured an article on her many causes and charities she had created.

Two things stand out in my mind about this visit. First was my visit to the Islands one and only airport. On our drive, we reached the crest of a steep, winding road when Helene pulled off to one side and said we would wait a moment. It was just about then that I noticed the airport at the bottom of the hill on my right. The runway was ridiculously short, not to mention that from when I was sitting I am not sure how a pilot would get down over the hilltop and to the runway in time. The winds were blowing in my face at close to 30 mph creating a real updraft from the airport, when suddenly and without warning a twin engine aircraft almost skimmed the top of our van as the pilot literally pushed his plane down into the updraft and somehow made the landing. I gather from Helene that not all pilots are so fortunate. We stood there for some time and an aircraft passed overhead about every 7 minutes making quite a spectacle. My second memory was when Helene invited the group into her home for snacks and to see what it is like to live on the Island. Very simple indeed; no air conditioning, but believe it or not they do have a very slow internet on the island. The visit was appreciated by all, but I was anxious to return to Lisa – where we both visited the Doctor together.

Sadly Lisa was again so ill that she had to stay with the ship while I toured a “DOT DOT.” By that I mean I visited Antigua & Barbuda. Well actually I toured Antigua, since we were told that Barbuda is too small to support any tourism. These two little islands together actually comprise a separate country and indeed have a seat at the United Nations. Antigua is only 180 square miles (so a little larger dot, but still a dot). The history of Antigua is pretty much the same as all the other Islands in the Caribbean chain. The islands were owned by some colonial power or other and populated by slaves to grow crops. Antigua was governed by Great Britain until its independence and today still has many vestiges of that British past.

Unfortunately our tour today was not as memorable as yesterday. We were herded into a minivan where we drove around the island for almost 2 hours without stopping for any pictures. And oh, did I mention that 20 minutes after leaving the ship, we received a phone call asking us to return to the ship to pick up two people who had arrived late? After that our bus would stop repeatedly at some picturesque place and our guide would drone on and on, then it would start up giving no one an opportunity to take a picture. At one point, some of our guests became a little vocal at one stop in particular, and we were of course assured we would stop for pictures – as the bus pulled away- so obviously not at that place. Finally we came to a wonderful viewpoint over the island and surrounding bays, and as incredible as this will sound, our guide one again goes into the beauty of this spot, but before anyone can get a picture the bus pulls out and goes back down the hill only to stop at an “outhouse.” Now why in the world does a tour company think they have a busload of old people, with just about each and every one carrying a camera, if not that perhaps they might want to take a picture? Several of us basically said “foo on you,” and we walked all the way back up the hill to take the picture, but I honestly think the little point was lost on the tour guide. At this point I felt the tour had become a “spam in a can” tour, and so I asked if the guide could phone me a taxi to take me back to the ship. “No problem.” Up jumps the driver, “I’ll take you myself while the groups stops for 45 minutes at Nelsons Dock.” It was implied by both the driver and the guide that this would be our next stop. Well, it wasn’t – they made two more stops, stopping each time for 30 minutes. I was getting a little out of sorts when we finally reach the final stop on our tour, but because the bus is running so late he can’t take me into the ship, and so now he goes and gets me a cab – THANKS.

So tomorrow will bring yet another Dot, St. Lucia; I am sorry I sound so negative. Chalk it up to still feeling under the weather and worrying about Lisa, but right now I am hoping for something just a little different than the average island.

Hope everyone is enjoying the holidays!


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