On the Culture Front: Antigua Through the Clouds

The forecast was not good when my girlfriend and I boarded a plane for Antigua this past spring. It was coming up on our one-year anniversary though and feeling in optimistic mood we took off for the West Indies Island. Within a couple hours of landing we were basking in the sun at Curtain Bluff, an utterly comfortable resort awash in faded British colonial elegance. The main draw for me was being able to walk out of our room onto a deserted beach strewn with a half dozen hammocks and nearly nothing else. I even managed to find one shaded by a supporting tree and fell asleep to the sound of the waves crashing into the soft sand. She headed to the bay beach where there was drink service and more hospitable waters. When I joined, it wasn't long before I was floating on my back just off the shore. Because of my newly relaxed state, my body felt like air and effortlessly floated on top. She paddled next to me in a floating pool lounger, and we laughed defiantly about how wrong the forecast had been.

That might have been a bit premature. After another day of sun-baked bliss, the clouds darkened and the sky opened up to release an unprecedented flood. It started as we checked into the lush oasis Hermitage Bay. With just 27 individual cabins accessed by narrow winding pathways through dense greenery that give off a rainforest vibe, this is a place to come to get lost. Unfortunately, with the rain pouring down at a near unrelenting pace, for us it was also a place to get moist. Luckily, the food is outstanding so our days were happily spend in the open air dinning room with a dark wood roof that provided shelter from the storm. A local quipped that it's never rained this much outside of hurricane season. Dishes like a tamarind glaze duck breast served with sweet potato custard and a jerk spiked coconut risotto carbonara helped soften the blow of this revelation, as did a stream of finely mixed cocktails.

A brief respite came one afternoon as we were eating lunch, and the sun peaked out from a dark hovering mass of clouds. I raced for one of the kayaks resting on the beach. My instinct was to paddle as far out as we could (my girlfriend came along reluctantly) and pack as much activity into this gift of a dry spell. With the water lapping at our sides and waves doing their part to carry us out, we moved at a good clip away from land until the droplets started falling again. Then it was a race back to land as the patter increased. All was well until the kayak flipped onto the beach throwing us into the sand. Nothing a massage couldn't fix though. The Spa at Hermitage Bay towers above the other structures and resembles a Buddhist temple. Listening to the ocean mirror the rhythmic patterns of my masseuse put me into a trance before dinner.

Our cottage - with soaring ceilings, a soaking tub and daybed on the covered porch - was another focal point for relaxation. A bath one night proved the perfect cap to a day reading Marc Maron's revealing and acerbically funny memoir "Attempting Normal." I always bring a book when I travel but rarely get a chance to read it. Alternating my gaze between the book and the waves, which crashed violently in the near distance, I was able to finish this surprisingly touching and wise work by the time we boarded the plane home. The forecast predicted rain for several more days.