• Jumby Bay Turtles

    Meet the real jet-set of Jumby Bay

    The exclusive private isle where endangered sea turtles reign supreme

    turtles 10 Kathryn Levasseur

    Paying a visit to Jumby Bay’s most revered residents is not without its restrictions. The private island’s reclusive community have several requirements. Picture ID must be carried at all times, no person will be admitted without prior approval, noise must be limited to a loud whisper, and there should be absolutely no flash photography. Reprobates will be immediately and unceremoniously escorted back to the mainland. Jumby Bay’s distinguished inhabitants may lay claim to one of the most exclusive addresses in the region but that shouldn’t be taken as an excuse to dress to the nines either. Recommended attire for a rendezvous includes sensible shoes and a raincoat.

    The reasons for such stringency are fairly simple. The island’s treasured hawksbill turtles – listed as critically endangered since 1996 – are the subject of the world’s longest-running hawksbill research and protection programme. And they’ve called this place home far longer than their human counterparts.Next year will mark the 30th anniversary of the project which is entirely funded by Jumby Bay’s homeowners. The last three decades have seen almost 450 sea turtles tagged for monitoring and the number of those nesting on Pasture Beach increase three-fold.

    Dr Seth Stapleton, from the University of Minnesota, is the man tasked with overseeing the study’s critical work. “Hawksbills’ primary threat was harvest for their shells,” he explained. “The beautifully coloured tortoiseshell was used to make products such as jewellery and sunglasses. Although the trade is now banned and turtles are protected under various regulations and agreements, the historical harvest was so large that their numbers are now a tiny fraction of what they were a couple of hundred years ago.” The project first came about when turtle expert Dr Jim Richardson was invited to Jumby Bay in 1986 by prominent Antiguan lawyer John Fuller to investigate a potential hawksbill nesting beach. The creatures had always been perceived as too skittish to study but the results of that first trip proved promising and the research continued.

    The meticulous work involves hourly beach patrols every night for the duration of the five and a half month annual nesting season. Females laying their eggs are identified and steps taken where necessary to ensure the precious yield is safe. “In 2014 we had a record year with nearly 90 turtles nesting there. When the project started there were about 30,” Dr Stapleton said. “It’s fantastic to think that we see every single turtle nesting on Pasture Beach. This really sets this project apart. “What’s even more remarkable is that we’re continuing to see some of the same turtles that were first tagged in the late 1980s returning to nest here. They were originally tagged when they were around 15 to 20 years old and a few are still reproducing decades later.”

    0I6A3559The unique scheme has seen more data collected about the elusive creatures than anywhere else on the planet. “Jumby Bay has been instrumental in providing much ecological information. Many details we now take for granted we learned there – for example, that hawksbills don’t nest every year; they nest four or five times in one year, laying around 150 eggs each time and then skip a year or two,” Dr Stapleton continued. “But there’s still so much we don’t know, such as how long they live. My ballpark guess would be 50 to 60.”

    Because turtles are tagged when in their so-called ‘nesting trance’, most of the data collated is about adult females. Researchers are now taking genetic tissue from the hatchlings to compile information about the males too. For Dr Stapleton, who has been involved with the project since 2004, the work extends beyond a scientific endeavour and into a clear passion. “I find sea turtles fascinating when you consider that they’ve been around for millions of years,” he said. “And how they conduct their lives is interesting too; they spend just a fraction of it on land. They go into the water as a hatchling and then are not seen again until they’re about the size of a dinner plate.”

    Like all animals, turtles play an important ecological role. “Hawksbills are a keystone species,” he continued. “They primarily eat sponges which helps keep sponges in check and contributes to the overall health of coral reefs.” Dr Stapleton’s plans for the upcoming months include deploying, for the first time in more than a decade, three satellite transmitters to track hawksbills’ movements. “We’ve had the locations of a few turtles reported to us by fishermen who notice the tags and call them in but this will enable us to better assess where they travel after nesting. We’re also very excited about a genetics programme led by a graduate student at the University of South Carolina,” he said. “That work is assessing the relatedness of hawksbills nesting on Jumby Bay and in Antigua, including incidences of mother-daughter pairs. This will help us to better understand how long it takes Caribbean hawksbills to reach maturity.”

    Of course, none of this would be possible without the support of Jumby Bay’s big-hearted homeowners. “To my knowledge, there is no other project like this that’s completely funded and supported by residents,” Dr Stapleton concurred. “The hawksbill programme is a significant part of the island’s community and we are incredibly grateful for that.”

    turtles 4 Kathryn LevasseurOne of the biggest challenges facing the species’ continuation is the limited number of hatchlings which survive the omnipresent predators. With just one in 1,000 making it to adulthood, the odds are stacked firmly against them. Exacerbating matters further is hawksbills’ late maturation; they don’t usually begin to reproduce until they’re at least 15 years old. For Ashton Williams, a board member of Antigua’s Environmental Awareness Group (EAG) which hosts occasional turtle watching nights at Jumby Bay, that’s even more reason to step up efforts to protect them. Sadly, he said, a small number of turtles are still killed for their meat on the mainland.

    “We were following turtle tracks recently at Rendezvous Bay when the marks suddenly stopped. We could see where a turtle had been flipped over and dragged away. Thankfully the younger generation aren’t that interested in turtle meat but some of the older folk still have a taste for it. There’s also a myth that the eggs are an aphrodisiac,” Mr Williams explained. “I tell people the eggs are not a magic potion; the only thing they will give you is very high cholesterol.”

    Like Dr Stapleton, Mr Williams’ affection for the animals is tangible. He has been working with the country’s marine life for the last 35 years. “I love turtles’ gracefulness and their ability to navigate such vast distances. But what I love most about them is their determination. The female leaves her environment and puts herself in so much danger all for the survival of her offspring,” he said. “When she goes into her nesting trance she’s totally vulnerable to predators. To go through all that just to be killed by a man, it really hurts."

    Happily for Jumby Bay’s reptilian population, the protected haven today has the proud status of one of the world’s densest hawksbill nesting sites with one every two to three metres. Guided by the light of the moon, thousands of tiny hatchlings scurry their way into the ocean each season. Once there, it’s over to the mercy of Mother Nature. Only she knows what fate awaits them then. 

    Visit for more information about the Jumby Bay Hawksbill Project, including how you can help support its work.

    by Gemma Handy

  • Virgin territory

    Virgin territory

    richard branson 2Almost four decades after buying his own piece of Caribbean paradise, Sir Richard Branson is one of the region’s most famous residents, entrepreneurs and ambassadors. A keen kitesurfer and sailor, the 65-year-old is known too for his philanthropy which has extended to supporting Antiguan cricketers. Here the British billionaire businessman – who prefers to describe himself as a “tie-loathing adventurer and trouble-maker” – speaks exclusively to Luxury Locations The Magazine.

    • What do you love most about the Caribbean?
    It has to be Necker Island. It is a beautiful jewel in the British Virgin Islands and the place my family and I call home.

    • Have you ever been to Antigua?
    Yes I have been to Antigua. It is a fantastic country and one I visited when Virgin sponsored the Antigua Hawksbills cricket team.

    • What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
    My mother always taught me never to look back in regret but to move on to the next thing. The amount of time people waste dwelling on failures rather than putting that energy into another project always amazes me. A setback is never a bad experience, just a learning curve.

    • What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?
    I normally wake up around 5am and answer my emails. I try to always do some exercise too in the morning and will normally go to either the gym, play a game of tennis or go kitesurfing.

    • What’s your proudest achievement/biggest regret?
    My proudest achievement is becoming a husband, a father and now a grandfather to three wonderful grandchildren.

    • What’s the most important advice you’d give somebody starting a new business?
    Here are my top five ‘secrets’:
    Number one: Enjoy what you’re doing. Starting a business is a huge amount of hard work, requiring a great deal of time; you had better enjoy it.
    Number two: Create something that stands out. Whether you have a product, a service or a brand, it is not easy to start a company and to survive and thrive in the modern world. In fact, you’ve got to do something radically different to make a mark today.
    Number three: Create something that everybody who works for you is really proud of. Businesses generally consist of a group of people, and they are your biggest assets.
    Number four: Be a good leader. As a leader you have to be a really good listener. You need to know your own mind but there is no point in imposing your views on others without some debate. No one has a monopoly on good ideas or good advice.
    Number five: Be visible. A good leader does not get stuck behind a desk. I’ve never worked in an office – I’ve always worked from home – but I get out and about, meeting people. It seems I am travelling all the time but I always have a notebook in my back pocket to jot down questions, concerns or good ideas.

    • Environmental sensitivities have long played a role in your business ventures. What would you say to encourage more people to help protect our planet?
    It’s really in our hands whether our children and their children inherit the same world. I believe business can be at the heart of the solution to our environmental problem and think customers should demand businesses adopt green measures or invest towards a greener future.  

    • What do you do to relax?
    I find exercise helps me relax a lot; if I’m on Necker I usually go kitesurfing.

    • What’s your all-time favourite album?
    Mike Oldfield’s ‘Tubular Bells’.

    virgin 20092384366• Tell us one thing people don’t know about you?
    People may find it very hard to believe but I was very shy when I was a young man.

    • Who do you most admire and why?
    I have long admired Nelson Mandela. He had amazing courage and conviction overcoming a corrupt political system. Nelson Mandela’s life story is one of those great examples of truth being even stranger than fiction.

    • You have already left a tremendous legacy – what would be the one thing you would most like people to remember you for?
    To have created one of the most respected and admired companies in the world. Also through our foundation Virgin Unite, to have encourage and inspired people to believe that they can make a real difference – all they need is the confidence to get out there and give it a go.

    by Gemma Handy

  • Indian View - an oasis in the hub of the harbour

    Indian View – an oasis in the hub of the harbour

    IMG 4885mainPrivate island living may once have been the preserve of Johnny Depp and Richard Branson. Today, however, one of the most exclusive addresses on Antigua’s world-famous west coast is accessible in more ways than one. The 33-acre oasis of Harbour Island – set in the heart of desirable Jolly Harbour – offers all the tranquillity of a secluded haven, without the prohibitive price bracket and loss of vital amenities. And getting there doesn’t even require a boat ride. The picturesque manmade isle is connected to the mainland by immaculately maintained concrete lanes.

    One of the brightest jewels in its crown is Indian View which cuts an elegant figure against the striking blue waters of the marina. The aesthetic minimalist exterior is complemented by clean white walls and understated neutral environs. But its piece de resistance is the spectacular setting with perfectly framed scenes of local landmark, the Sleeping Indian hills, which lent this place its name. Couched among restrained tropical vegetation, the single-storey three-bedroom home boasts wonderfully cool temperatures both inside and out. Indian View was thoughtfully designed to make the most of the benign trade winds felt here all year round.

    The front driveway has enough parking spaces for two or three vehicles, including a covered area for rainy days. Solid wooden doors open into a tasteful open-plan interior with a welcoming, homely atmosphere. Attractive artwork and objets d’art have been handpicked to enhance the impeccable styling throughout the villa. A perfectly proportioned kitchen with high-end chrome appliances, centre island and wine cooler gives way to a pleasant lounge with contemporary rattan couches and tables. Attention has been paid to fixtures and fittings, chosen both for style and longevity.

    IMG 4879mainDeep mahogany-toned beds, chests, doors and blinds are exquisite against the bright white paintwork. High vaulted ceilings and tiled floors augment the light, airy ambience. To the left of the property is a generous air-conditioned master suite with its own lounge/dressing area, a luxurious en-suite with rainfall shower, and a walk-in closet. A double bedroom and a spacious twin are on the other side, both fitted with air-conditioning units and built-in wardrobes. They each have their own shower room decked out in stunning marble with hardwood units. There is an additional guest washroom along with a storage and utility room.

    The glorious shaded verandah and sundeck can be accessed via glass doors from the lounge, master suite and second bedroom. This is where Indian Villa really comes into its own. The property’s proud new owners will be spoilt for choice when it comes to al fresco relaxation and entertainment. With an abundance of loungers and dining table for eight, the terrace backs onto a sun-drenched open deck where a centrepiece pool hugs the edge of the harbour. Here, flanked by arresting scenes of rolling hills and passing yachts, it’s hard to imagine a more idyllic paradise to call one’s very own.

    Indian View is for sale at US$1,750,000 exclusively through Luxury Locations. Email or call (+268) 562-8174 for details or to arrange a viewing.

    by Gemma Handy

  • Locations to love, memories to cherish

    Locations to love, memories to cherish

    Nelson’s Dockyard National Park offers a variety of venues for unforgettable occasions

    LJ 158 of 190Wth its graceful 18th century buildings set in the heart of rolling Caribbean countryside, few places are as conducive to romance as the Copper & Lumber Store Hotel. The lovingly preserved former British naval base – complete with period furnishings, hand-hewn beams and weathered brickwork – offers a wedding venue of unsurpassed elegance for intimate gatherings and large affairs alike. The hotel’s 14 beautiful suites – some featuring four-poster beds and Juliet balconies – can accommodate up to 50 overnight guests.

    Whether seduced by the colonial charm of the cobbled Georgian courtyard or the stunning waterfront with its pastoral surrounds, this enchanting property guarantees an exceptional backdrop for the ceremony and photographs. The hotel is just one of a handful of captivating locations within the absorbing purlieus of Nelson’s Dockyard National Park. And its team of talented event planners can turn their hand to staging everything from nuptials and anniversaries to reunions and graduations.

    The observation decks at Dow’s Hill interpretation centre – which has an 18th century fortress as its centrepiece – afford panoramic views over both English and Falmouth Harbour. The 15 square mile park also encompasses picturesque Pigeon Point beach, loved for its calm shallow waters fringed by ivory sand and sea grape trees. The wide open spaces are ideal for marquees for up to 200 guests. More than 20 years of bespoke event planning for the National Parks Authority have done nothing to diminish marketing manager Eloise Francis’s passion for her work. “We have a wonderful team of friendly staff who genuinely love what they do,” she says. “All our events are tailored to suit, with a variety of extras to choose from to make every occasion unique, special and unforgettable.

    “The entire park is so picturesque and brimming with colour from days gone by,” she adds, “it’s like a living history complex. Like an empty stage, all you need to do is bring on the act.”

    Image by Jason Pickering


  • Singulari mega resort


    Singulari, Antigua’s first mega resort, to create 1,000 jobs

    Developers behind the country’s first mega resort say job fairs to hire hundreds of locals to help build it will be staged within weeks. Groundbreaking on the US$1bn multi-hotel, residential and commercial project is scheduled for this autumn with construction due to begin early next year.

    Named ‘Singulari’ in tribute to its unique design, the mammoth 1,600-acre development will be the largest of its kind in the Caribbean – 50 per cent bigger than the regionally-heralded Baha Mar resort being created in the Bahamas.

    In addition to the employment opportunities, Singulari is being lauded as a major feather in the nation’s tourism cap and further proof of growing investor confidence in Antigua & Barbuda.

    A spokesman for China-based developers Yida International Investment Group confirmed locals would be given first priority during the hiring process. “We will host sessions to educate the locals about the project and invite all of those interested to apply,” he said.

    singulari-aerialAround 200 jobs will become available later this year when the land is prepared for development, and a further 800 next year when construction starts.

    The spokesman continued: “Over the next 10 years, Yida Group and its global partners will create an additional US$2bn of gross domestic product and economic value to Antigua, including sales of real estate, creation of new industries and origination of foreign direct investment all across Antigua.”

    Spanning 900 acres of land in the north-east and 700 acres of tiny isles including Crump Island and Guiana Island, Singulari will include several luxury hotels, hundreds of private homes, a school, hospital, marinas, two signature golf courses, an entertainment district, horse racing track and the region’s biggest casino.

    The mainland section will form the development’s central hub complete with nightlife and duty-free shopping facilities, a business district and light industrial area. Crump Island will see the construction of elegant hillside homes with private docks accessed by a fully-serviced mainland marina complex. And Guiana Island will be transformed into an exclusive Jumby Bay-style array of 80 to 100 luxury, low density homes.

    The development has garnered some controversy over its potential environmental impact on the area’s nature reserves. The Yida spokesman said investors were “very aware” of the need for eco-sensitive practices. “We will be undertaking special measures to ensure that the natural beauty and ecosystems of the north sound area of Antigua remain unspoilt for generations to come,” he said, adding that the group had a “special interest” in working closely with, and giving back to, the local community. Previous schemes Yida has been involved in overseas have been coupled with ‘goodwill’ investments in educational scholarships and healthcare.

    Sam Dyson, of Luxury Locations real estate agency which introduced the Chinese investors to the island in May 2013 and negotiated the deal with the land’s liquidators, said he’d been impressed by Yida’s “vision for the country”. “Yida has a strong reputation internationally for environmental, corporate and social responsibility. We really liked their ethos and their commitment to making a positive contribution here in Antigua.”

    In June, lead investor Yida Zhang agreed to personally fund the tuition of more than 100 students who were unable to afford their fees at Christ the King High School in Old Parham Road.

    Mr Dyson continued: “Yida is committed to hiring hundreds of local people and ensuring the development is environmentally sensitive and that the nature reserves are meticulously maintained. We were delighted to introduce Yida to Gilbert Boustany, representing the Stanford liquidators who own the land, as we believe Singulari will provide Antigua & Barbuda with an economic boost and galvanise the destination as a tourism force to be reckoned with.”

    Mr Dyson said the Jolly Harbour-based firm was looking forward to showcasing the development’s first properties next year after being appointed sales and marketing agents. 

    by Luxury Locations real estate

    Click here to read more

  • Outdoor World

    Outdoor World Yamaha VikingBlazing a trail across Antigua

    The new Yamaha Viking is revving up hillsides and battling bush. We find out why this mighty machine is taking no prisoners.

    Move over traditional ATVs. There’s a new kid on the block. And it’s meaner, mightier and more resilient than any of its plodding predecessors.

    The Yamaha Viking has stormed onto island and is ready to conquer whatever comes its way. Potholes, puddles, brushland and beaches are no match for this three-seater highway hero, equipped with a robust proven 686cc fuel-injected engine, power steering and tough acceleration. But this is far from a gas-guzzling, testosterone-inspired toy aimed at meatheads who spend their weekends perfecting their handbrake turn. Hell, with enough safety features to make a mobility scooter look risky you can even bring the kids on board.

    Fully kitted out with seatbelts, padded headrests, automatic transmission in 2WD and 4WD, cup holders and lights, it runs on petroleum and is licensed for the road just like a standard car. And with options including windscreen, fender flares, grab bars, stereo and speaker pods, it doesn’t feel entirely dissimilar to one either.

    Viking-red-buggyAboard this multi-terrain machine, low emissions don’t mean sacrificing vim and vigour. The high-tech liquid-cooled engine pulls hard through the rpm range whether traversing tarmac or blazing a trail through the bush. An added bonus is the specially designed doors which help keep the mud, water and dirt on the track where they belong. Ideal for everything from recreational off-roading to the weekly grocery shop, Antigua’s oft-lamented pocked highways mean the vehicles are already proving a hit with long-suffering motorists the length and breadth of the island. The Viking can transport up to 600 pounds of gear in the open back (which comes with tie-down hooks as standard and optional covers), while the heavy-duty hitch is capable of towing up to 1,500 pounds.

    Glynn Grummett, manager of Outdoor World – the only authorised dealer for Yamaha on island – said the Viking is equally comfortable both on and off the road. “You can drive it anywhere and it’s built for anything, which makes it ideal as either a workhorse or a plaything. The fact that it has three-seats across, sets it apart from other side-by-sides. “It’s also wider, more stable, higher, longer, and you can carry more. They are suitable as an everyday run-around, for a weekend trip to the beach or for a jaunt up Boggy Peak. “It switches from two-wheel to four-wheel-drive just like on a car, except that it will go anywhere a normal car won’t go - or even a normal ATV.

    The Viking is built to conquer and it does.” In addition to selling them, Outdoor World’s Old Parham Road store offers servicing, repairs and maintenance too. Glynn added: “To anyone considering getting one, just think of the fun you will have.”

    With more Yamaha Vikings due to arrive on island soon, it’s time to buckle up and prepare for the ride of your life. The smiles are free of charge and 100 per cent guaranteed.

  • LogiQ

    logiqredUnravelling logic

    Vincent ‘LogiQ’ Pryce – one lyric at a time

    Forging a successful career as a musician is the stuff teenage dreams are made of. For very few does it become a reality. And for one growing up in the ghetto of a tiny Caribbean island the odds were stacked even higher. Today Vincent Pryce is one of Antigua’s proudest exports as a multi award-winning rapper and hip hop artist, whose talent and tenacity have earned him acclaim from the tumbledown streets of Point to the bright lights of LA.

    Music’s in his blood, coupled with an innate creativity which finds a multitude of avenues along which to flourish. Whether rhyming lyrics in his head or pursuing his passions for sketching, graphic design and cooking, it provides a constant soundtrack to his life. It’s the beat to his stride, the backing vocals to his existence, the cadence to his aspirations. And it’s a love that can be traced all the way back to that north-west village three decades ago where the sound of calypso and country, reggae and soul were as constant a feature as saltfish and homework.

    “I was born into music,” he says. “My parents are music lovers and had dozens of cassettes and records. I would play them over and over, especially on weekends, and learn all the songs word for word - until I started to rewrite my favourite tunes in my version using my own lyrics.” He credits his humble roots to a self-sufficiency that has endured all the way to adulthood. “My father is a fisherman and my mother a housewife so we didn’t have much growing up. Being the first of four children I had most of the chores around the household. Plus, with no money to throw around, I had to get side jobs, from helping out in a neighbourhood grocery to sweeping the floor in a tailor shop.”

    It was an interminable refusal to take life at face value that earned Pryce his stage name, ‘LogiQ’. “My peers in school used to tease me when I asked teachers questions like, ‘why is water wet?’. And, how could they be sure what they were teaching us in text books was even factual,” he laughs. “They called me ‘logical’, always trying to make sense of everything, and the name ‘logic’ just stuck.” Roadside trucks loaded with turntables, MCs and DJs to form an impromptu street party have long been a staple on the Caribbean music scene. It was while hanging around these ‘sound systems’ in the early 90s that Pryce formed a friendship with the musician Kem Hodge, aka Kemistry, who also ran a barbershop. “I would go cut my hair on Sundays and listen to hip-hop greats like Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, and Run DMC.”

    It was those musical greats that inspired Pryce and some like-minded friends to form a hip-hop/dancehall group, the first of its kind in Antigua. Da Rock 1761 travelled as far as Europe, opening for a number of major acts including Stevie Wonder, Mary J Blige, Shaggy, Morgan Heritage and Wyclef Jean.

    logiq2In 2012, Pryce became the first male vocalist to be signed to LA-based music project Sweetbox. A collaboration with Japanese singer Miho Fukuhara for the single ‘Zeitgeist21’, with its superbly stylish video, proved a major hit on YouTube. Earlier this year, his single, ‘All 4 Love’, featuring his compatriot songstress Asher Otto, was another internet smash. The fourth released from last year’s Sweetbox album, it gave viewers a glimpse into Pryce’s childhood through stunning cinematography laying bare the realities of growing up in Point, offset by some spine-tingling lyrics.

    He is currently hard at work on his solo debut album, with a number of international producers including Antigua’s Justin ‘Jus Bus’ Nation. Since 2011 Pryce has been an official face of telecoms provider Digicel. Last year’s impossibly catchy Caribbean-wide TV ad featuring Pryce performing ‘Digicel makes you smile’ to the tune of ‘Gangnam-Style’ has further propelled him to household name-status. If he hadn’t been a musician, Pryce thinks he’d probably have been a full-time chef. The father-of-two recently launched his own high-end catering firm, preparing dishes such as his favourite steamed fish for luxury villas and cocktail parties.

    But music is never far from his mind. “I am always making music, there’s always a song being created in my head. I could never explain it but even when cooking I’m rhyming. Sometimes I’m chilling on a hill or a beach somewhere or hiking with my friends, which is a good way to get the battery recharged, but we usually end up making music anyway.”

    For Pryce, the fact that he is today making a living from what he loves to do most is a special kind of joy. “Not many of us get to do that so I am grateful for such a blessing.” He admits it hasn’t been easy pursuing music as a full-time career. “It takes a lot of patience and sacrifice. In the music business, success doesn’t come overnight. I have lost money, romantic relationships, friendships, time and energy. But if you want it bad enough you will find a way; you just have to believe in yourself.”

    Despite a string of awards - best ambient song in the 2012 Hollywood Music in Media Awards being one - Pryce has remained true to his roots. “I am a humble, down to earth individual. Despite the flashing lights and TV cameras I’m really just a lover of life and all it has to offer.”

    Out of all the rave reviews and accolades, when asked for his proudest achievement there’s one that stands out like a beacon. “When my mother told me I did a good job on my last music video and single,” he says. “I’ve had a hard time convincing her that what I do is not just a hobby but my way of life, so that has to be it, that compliment from her.” And that, he adds, means more than anything.

  • Starting with a blank slate

    Starting with a blank slate

    Sugar Ridge AntiguaThe beauty of a self-built Sugar Ridge home

    Every year, more and more people choose to bypass conventional house-hunting in favour of designing and creating their own home. Starting from scratch comes with a wealth of advantages: a bespoke design that meets your needs - rather than those of a developer - and the potential to reduce costs, are just two. When complete, most self-built homes are worth considerably more than the building expenses. And the extra effort poured into overseeing the project and making the crucial decisions that accompany each step of the process, is offset by an incredible sense of pride and achievement.

    With its idyllic location, overlooking the charming township of Jolly Harbour and a magnificent expanse of aquamarine sea, the Sugar Ridge resort ticks most boxes in the ‘dream holiday home checklist’ on positioning alone. And with a plethora of luxurious amenities, the uber-chic complex on Antigua’s fashionable south-west coast has forged a firm status as one of the country’s most acclaimed vacation spots. Those who wish to extend the holiday indefinitely by purchasing one of its 54 fully-serviced home sites, all with stunning sea views, can buy a pre-designed property or draw up their own.

    For one Pennsylvanian couple, the option to create without compromise and retain control over everything from the structure to the finishes was cardinal. Yves, 54, and Jenn, 48, first visited the island in 2012 to enjoy a few days’ relaxation after a strenuous sailing trip through the Grenadines. Antigua was an obvious choice for a sojourn thanks to its central location in the Caribbean archipelago making it easily accessible and convenient for island hopping. A search for accommodation started with a perusal of travel website TripAdvisor.

    “Sugar Ridge is highly rated and was just what I was looking for as our group wanted to wind down and be pampered after our very active sail. It certainly lived up to its reviews,” Jenn recalls. “While we were there we noticed a building project above the resort. We made some inquiries and that’s when we found out about the Sugar Ridge housing development.” The couple arranged a tour of the first completed house, Villa Seaglass, with Luxury Locations’ Nadia Dyson. Jenn says: “We were stunned by the view and the house design.”

    Sugar Ridge CaribbeanWhen the couple, who work in the retail industry and have two teenage children, learned the villa was available for rent, holiday plans for the upcoming year were set without hesitation.That next fateful vacation set the wheels in motion to planting some permanent roots. “During our stay at Seaglass we had meetings with Sugar Ridge developer Aidan McCauley, and Nadia,” Jenn continues. “Those meetings kickstarted the dream becoming a reality.”

    Research into market prices around the region revealed Antigua to be excellent value for money. Work is now well underway on the couple’s three-bedroom single-storey villa, with pool and Jacuzzi, and detached one-bedroom guest cottage. Completion is due next spring. “There’s something to be said about starting with a blank slate. You end up with a house that reflects your personality, not your builder’s,” Jenn says. “The view from our new home is indescribable so the most important factor for us was how best to ‘bring the outside in’.”

    Sugar Ridge’s specially made Italian sliding glass walls ensure not a millimetre of the spectacular sweeping vistas from its hillside vantage point is forfeited. Doors and windows will be thoughtfully placed to allow the gentle trade winds to flow through from all directions. The interior will be a vision of natural elements complemented by a beach-inspired palette, while rich tones in the furniture will lend tasteful splashes of colour. With a carte blanche to design their home free of restrictions, and professional assistance from Sugar Ridge’s development team every step of the way, the process to date has been largely headache-free.   

    “The initial stress is the learning curve of building a home as a non-citizen. And you need to master patience and diligence. ‘The devil’s in the details’ is the quote to live by. But the final reward makes it all worth it,” Jenn says. “To anyone else looking to self-build, I would suggest talking to others who have done the same; their opinions and advice are invaluable. Ask this magic question: What do you know now that you wish you had known when you were building your home? “Research in depth the entire building process whether you are an Antiguan citizen or not. Keep asking questions and getting answers from start to finish. Building a home in Antigua has the same intricate system of licences, fees, legalities and contracts as any other developed country.”  

    Two years since their first auspicious trip to the island, Jenn and Yves are staunch advocates of the country’s unique qualities. “Antigua is breathtaking, welcoming and therapeutic,” Jenn says. “Most of all we love the views of the ocean, the weather, the beaches, the interesting topography and its lushness. I love the island’s tagline: one beach for every day of the year. The people are warm, friendly, quick to offer a helpful hand and generous in their information and advice. And the taxi rides are always exhilarating!” she continues with a laugh, “The drivers can dodge anything and still get you there safely.”

    Sugar Ridge’s stylish boutique hotel is complemented by a high-tech gym, a luxuriant spa offering various avant-garde massages and treatments, a pool and vast sundeck against a verdant backdrop of emerald hills, and two restaurants including the esteemed fine dining establishment Carmichael’s. Once complete, the couple’s elegant new holiday home will be available for rent - as well as providing an exclusive retreat for their Stateside loved ones. “Our friends back home are very excited for us and are hoping to be on the ‘A’ list of initial invites to experience Antiguan island life.”

    Jenn continues with a smile: “But our children still have no idea. We plan to pretend to rent a house for a family vacation. We’ll walk in the front door and I will have their names on two of the bedroom doors. The reaction should be priceless. “As for us, Antigua will give us what we don’t have in Pennsylvania. It will complete us.”

    by Gemma Handy

  • Two men in a (very small) boat

    twomeninaboatTwo men in a (very small) boat

    Meet the bodacious Brits who battled seven metre waves, a marlin attack and a capsizing to win a transatlantic rowing race

    We’ve all met them. Those seemingly judicious types who appear quite normal and sane, until they suddenly announce – perhaps mid-dinner party or over a quiet beer – an intention to do something utterly barmy. Totally harebrained. Like rowing-the-Atlantic-kind-of-crazy. Now, sailing across it is one thing. By all accounts, no mean feat either. But rowing. All three thousand abdominal-crunching, wave-crashing, shark-dodging miles of it. In a boat the size of a modest garden shed. That’s another entirely.

    Little surprise then that when Mike Burton and Tom Salt announced their plan to do precisely that, their friends and family thought they were stark raving mad. Throw in the fact that neither of them had ever rowed before and it’s an easy conclusion to reach. Turns out they’re not alone. Every two years, a handful of adventuresome folk take to the open seas from the Canary Islands to Antigua for the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, dubbed – little surprise here – the world’s toughest rowing race.

    The devil-may-care duo, both from England, first met aboard another boat while training for the Clipper Round The World Yacht Race in 2009. It was during that 11-month voyage that the first fateful seeds of their unthinkable undertaking were sown. Tom, 30, admits, however, that when the subject was revisited a year and a half later he could “think of nothing worse”. But misgivings gave out to the “thrill of the unknown”, coupled with a desire to test his endurance skills to the max.

    Undeterred by the fact that more people have been into space or climbed Mount Everest with success, Tom and Mike, 54, began the hunt for a suitable boat. Anyone who thinks the market for such a vessel must be rather limited would be correct. After finally acquiring the 6m by 1.5m structure, aptly-named Locura (Spanish for ‘madness’), which would be their amphibious home for the epic journey, the next milestone was the intensive physical training required. “We trained for around 90 minutes a day, particularly the stomach muscles to cope with all the rocking and rolling and bouncing around,” Mike, from Bridlington in Yorkshire, said. “We also spent a lot of time on the boat, which wasn’t easy as I am from the north-east and Tom lives in London, but getting the boat a year before the race helped. Neither of us had any rowing experience but we didn’t really need it. Our background of time spent on the ocean was far more valuable; if you’re used to being on the sea it’s a big plus as you’re used to big waves and getting very wet.”

    twomeninaboat2Locura’s ‘category zero’ status means she’s fully equipped to tackle the ocean’s toughest conditions – handy when feeling as insignificant as a whitebait in a world full of whale sharks, entirely at the mercy of Mother Nature and her notoriously fickle moods. After stocking up with 90 days’ worth of freeze-dried food – safe in the knowledge that in the event of major disaster the rescue vessel could be, oooh, several days away – the pair, along with the 15 other competing boats, set off on December 2 last year. “For the first 48 hours it’s not too bad,” Mike recalls, “Then you go through a difficult phase because you’re not used to the routine. Once you get used to that, it’s reasonably ok.”

    With someone perpetually on the oars, Mike and Tom, who works for TV channel BT Sport, rowed in two-hour shifts. “I personally found it quite challenging. You row for two hours, then have two hours off for something to eat, grab a quick sleep, write a blog, fill in the log book, and then you’re back at it again,” Mike, who has his own engineering company, continued. “The weather was fine for the first couple of days, then we hit very bad seas with six or seven metre waves. You feel as small as a toothpick. There is a support boat that tries to position itself in the middle of the fleet but within days the fleet was hundreds of miles apart. If you decide you want to give up, it’s four or five days away. We capsized once. I was fast asleep and Tom was on the oars when I felt a huge bang crash wallop. I woke up dazed and it took a few minutes to realise I was sat on the cabin roof. Tom was in the water; we shouted to each other to make sure we were both okay. The boat self-righted and we spent the next three hours sorting out the carnage." Electrics had been shorted, the cabin flooded, and extra batteries needed for vital water desalination and sat nav equipment had been destroyed.

    But that wouldn’t be the only calamity. Mid-interview, almost as an after-thought, Mike throws in: “Oh did I tell you we were attacked by a marlin?” Ahem, no. “It was a big, big marlin. It attacked the rudder with its dagger-shaped nose but luckily didn’t damage it. It also put a hole in the boat which we didn’t know about for 48 hours. We went down below with snorkelling gear to do some maintenance and saw this huge hole. It meant we carried more water than we wanted but thankfully nothing worse than that.”

    After just over 41 days at sea – the men a combined 18kg lighter in weight due to the punishing physical toil – Locura became the first boat by more than a week to make it to the English Harbour finishing line. “We didn’t expect to win and we didn’t set out to win. Our focus was to be as prepared as possible and get ourselves as fit as possible. The primary concern was to get across, and if we could get a position that would be fantastic. Our boat was a very high tech, new design. That was a major reason why we had such a big lead ahead of all the rest. It was a very orchestrated entrance, with lots of journalists and photographers. Our family and friends had flown out so they were there too. I felt like a celebrity – which was the last thing I wanted,” Mike laughed.

    After six weeks of freeze-dried food, specially constituted to provide the four to five thousand calories needed every day, the first thing Mike tucked into was a “really nice, juicy apple”. Despite the gruelling schedule, and the series of marine-themed mishaps, Mike said he wouldn’t hesitate to do it again. Another bonus was the US$124,000 raised for the pair’s chosen charity, the Generous Hearts Foundation for orphaned children in Romania. “I absolutely loved the experience, I really did find it fantastic,” he added. “It’s a very simple existence; it really comes down to the very basics of eating, drinking and rowing the ocean. It’s a great time to reflect.”

    by Gemma Handy

  • Bright and Beautiful Botany

    botany1Bright and beautiful botany

    Creating the ideal island garden

    There’s a notion that, come middle age, one turns to God or gardening. For Barbara Japal, a homegrown enthusiast of all things botanical, it was the latter. Tucked away on a sequestered Parham hillside, Barbara’s garden is a vision of electrifying colours, sharp citrus aromas and thoughtfully created relaxation spaces which melt effortlessly into the pastoral landscape beyond.
        A cornucopia of vibrant bromeliads, dappled caricature plants and seasonal fruits and herbs, complemented by dainty pathways, an aviary and koi pond, awaits the lucky visitor. Tourists to Antigua are consistently enchanted by the vibrant flora and fauna that characterise our twin island nation. And those who choose to make a home here are usually keen to emulate nature’s bounty in their own private garden. But however much glee and gusto one pours into the landscaping, without the right knowledge of the country’s indigenous vegetation, climate and soil, your hard work can end up resembling little more than a horticultural graveyard of drooping one-hit wonders. Or, worse, a breeding ground for havoc-wreaking bugs thanks to an ill-chosen invasive plant.
        Patience too is paramount. Barbara’s flourishing surrounds are the result of 15 years of diligent guardianship, in the face of countless “trials and tribulations, hurricanes and droughts. Most people want a variety of things in their garden. They want colour and they also want instant size, rather than waiting for trees and shrubs to mature,” she says.
        Unlike some of its Caribbean neighbours, Antigua has few restrictions on the importation of foreign plants. But that should not, as Barbara points out, affect the need to garden responsibly. “Many of our palm trees are now suffering from lethal yellowing which came as a result of a leafhopper insect. All plants are supposed to be quality inspected and sold with a relevant certificate. The problem is, people don’t really know what to look for. It’s always best to buy from a reputable local nursery, such as Dawn’s in Fitches Creek, or Annette’s in Paradise View, Dickenson Bay.”
    botany3    Barbara uses nothing but all-natural fish emulsion to fertilise her plants. And judging by the thriving array of everything from anthuriums to orchids, it’s sufficient. “We often get droughts in Antigua,” she continues. “So it’s important to plant things which can survive without much water, like bougainvillea which are so beautiful and in flower almost continually. Spider lily is a wonderful plant to keep your garden green and pretty all year round with its lovely white flowers. Oleanders prefer a dry climate too, and have a nice scent and year-long blooms. Ferns are also very easy to grow. And I think every garden should have banana trees.”
        Other recommendations include frangipani, which grows wild in the island’s rocky coastline areas, and national flower the ‘dagger log’, seen lighting up hillsides nationwide with its striking yellow petals. “One thing to be wary of is neem trees. They are used in bush medicine but they’re also very invasive and need to be controlled or they will take over the whole garden,” Barbara continues. “It’s important to know the soil in your area and amend accordingly, for example, marl soil will be better suited to certain plants than clay.”
        Some years ago, Barbara’s passion for gardening saw the rejuvenation of the dormant Antigua Horticultural Society, first founded in 1986. She has been its president since 2009. The society’s efforts are currently concentrated on the US$400,000 development of the country’s first botanical garden.The two-acre site off Friars Hill Road, on the outskirts of Cedar Valley Golf Course, is to be named ‘Agave Garden’, the genus to which the dagger log belongs. Boasting a vast horticultural centre selling sustainable plants and trees, including one of the region’s largest collections of agave and aloe, it’s set to open by the end of the year as a prime tourist attraction. There will also be a reference library, gift shop, refreshment bar, and an all-important hotline manned by experts to answer callers’ gardening queries.
    botany2    The project has received two major boosts since works commenced. One in the form of a US$50,000 grant from the Global Environment Facility (GEF). The second was the discovery of an abundance of herbs used in traditional bush medicine already growing at the site. The plans have since been expanded to incorporate a medicinal garden featuring native herbs like ‘cattle tongue’, said to reduce fever, ‘no-yo’ for coughs and colds, and ‘nunu balsam’ to aid the digestion.
        “The Agave Garden will be open to anyone who wants to come and visit, to sit in a nice oasis and smell the flowers, buy local plants and get information about their care, as well as potting and composting.” Barbara, who gained much of her botanical know-how studying in New York, is today one of Antigua’s most ardent advocates of protecting and nurturing our magnificent environment. “Gardening is the most therapeutic thing you can do,” she adds. “I just love it; the way you plant a seed and see it grow, it’s like ‘wow’. On top of everything else, it’s oxygen for the air we breathe. That’s why I think every house should have a wonderful garden or at least plants, not just for beauty but for nature, to keep it going.”

    Visit for more information.

  • Philosophy of perfection

    Daniel EchasseriauPhilosophy of perfection

    The meat and potatoes of Carlisle Bay’s recipe for success

    Chefs, like philosophers and mathematicians, are apparently big on theories. Amid the gleaming chrome and flawless surfaces of the kitchens at Carlisle Bay, where cuisiniers wax lyrical as they baste, blanch and blend, four principle notions abound.One: a chef is only as good as his last dish. Two: a head chef who acts like a drill sergeant causes the food under his charge to taste ‘blocked’. Three: a passion for cooking from an early age can be sensed from the flavour. And four: all the best chefs originate from the countryside.
        These, I am informed with unblinking solemnity, are not hypotheses but facts. And together they comprise the secret ingredients of the internationally acclaimed luxury resort’s recipe for success. Executive chef Daniel Echasseriau’s (right) gusto for gastronomy was born in the pastoral surrounds of Brittany in his native France. “I spent most of my younger years in the garden,” he recalls with a smile. “While my friends were out partying I was always helping my father outside. I learned to get my hands dirty and have a respect for food from watching it grow. We produced all our own fruit and veg, we kept rabbits, chickens, ducks too. We’d make our own crème fraiche, cheese and yogurt from local cows’ milk and we even made our own apple cider and wine.”
        By the age of 15, Daniel had found his vocation. And, if online reviews which declare every Carlisle Bay meal a feat of culinary éclat are anything to go by, his lifelong fervour for food is firmly entrenched in the taste. It’s 26 years since Daniel’s first job at Parisian Michelin star restaurant La Tour d’Argent. “Training at a Michelin star restaurant really teaches you finesse, perfection and a certain discipline too,” he says. Since then, he’s taken his skills to a host of far-flung places including Gambia, Bora Bora and Saudi Arabia before joining Carlisle Bay two years ago. The super-stylish, family-friendly resort offers a variety of dining options that each cut the mustard, from relaxed beachside fare at Indigo, to a delicious Italian-inspired lunch at Ottimo, or a romantic dinner for two at East, famed for its fine Asian cuisine.
    carlislebayOptions for those who long to dine with their toes in the sand include a private barbecue or a table for two on the water’s edge. And romance doesn’t get much sweeter than an intimate candlelit dinner on the jetty with the Caribbean Sea lapping gently beneath. “Guests love the fact our food is always fresh and there’s a wide variety,” Daniel continues. “The resort is very open to ideas – they love to see new creations. For me it’s all about the product, learning when and how to get the finest items in each place I work. These days there’s more and more concern about where produce comes from. I love to work with freshly-picked fruit and vegetables and just-caught fish, it makes me really happy.”
        Daily changing specials allow the kitchen teams a chance to flex their culinary muscle and concoct unique creations. Authentic Antiguan meals like goat water are modified and infused with the resort’s je ne sais quoi. Mahi mahi fillets are roasted and served with citrus gremolata, cucumber vinaigrette salad and turmeric mashed potato. Traditional international dishes are given a twist such as the free range chicken breast marinated in pineapple juice, or fish served up on a banana leaf. All preferences, appetites and dietary requirements are equally catered for with ingenuity.
        “One of our most popular dishes is our Caribbean paella which we cook in a huge pan in the middle of the restaurant so people can actually watch their food being created in front of them,” Daniel says. With an abundance of produce easily available, the focus is on seasonal fare. The mango months spawn a plethora of mouth-watering jams, salsas and salads. Tangy passion fruit and creamy papaya add sapidity to sorbets, tarts and ice creams. “I live in Swetes – I call it the jungle,” Daniel laughs. “A lot of farmers live near me and I often buy fruit and vegetables from them at 4am as they leave for market. We also have our own herb garden at the resort. We use a lot of tarragon which is very nice and mild here, plus rosemary, basil, coriander, thyme, chives, mint and lemongrass.”
        Daniel’s sous chef Sebastiaan Seegers, from Holland, likes to draw inspiration from his environment. Formerly based at the five-star Six Senses in Yao Noi, Thailand, he joined Carlisle Bay in March 2013. “I always ask my chefs for ideas for new dishes,” he says. “One came up with green plantain and poached red snapper, with fish-head stock and a tomato and ginger broth with bok choi. We fine-tuned it a little and it’s been hugely popular with our guests. Antigua is a beautiful place to work as a chef. Every new place means adapting to the surroundings and what’s available. Here we are lucky as the ingredients we have to import are minimal.”
    Carlisle Bay Antigua cuisine    For Sebastiaan, who has been cooking for 21 years, the greatest pleasure is customer satisfaction. “When making any dish there are around 20 things that can go wrong and that’s the main challenge. I like to get everything right and see my guests happy at the end of the day.” With one of the best seasons on record – and another on the horizon – patrons at the 10-year-old resort certainly appear to be just that. In addition to sublime food, the five-star all-inclusive offers an array of first-rate facilities. They include an award-winning spa, nine tennis courts, watersports, sunset yoga on the jetty, a huge library, garden and rainforest walks, even cookery mastery classes.
        Visitors not occupying one of the plush 82 suites are welcome to make a dining reservation or book a day pass. The upcoming winter season will see a number of improvements including a refurbishment to all bedrooms, and a new beach restaurant, the Jetty Grill. The imminently opening latter will feature daily changing salads and grills, and some interesting wines by the glass. The recent surge in popularity of Asian cuisine, heightened by the fame of places like Tao and Nobu, will see the East menu revamped with the addition of modish sharing platters.
        With competition in today’s dining industry greater than ever, Carlisle Bay chefs know there’s no room to rest on one’s laurels.“You have to prove yourself every single day,” Sebastiaan says. “Your food tastes best when you put your heart and soul into it.” Daniel agrees: “It’s about driving yourself to the max. A chef can never get complacent. In this business, every day is Champions League.” And that’s one more theory that won’t be disputed.

    by Gemma Handy

    Visit or call (+268) 484-0000 for more information about dining, accommodation or day passes.

  • A gentleman and a Calypsonian

    king-short-shirtA gentleman and a Calypsonian

    Poverty, pride and patriotism – Calypso legend King Short Shirt’s rise to royalty

    Long considered the voice of social conscience, Calypso music is characterised by its upbeat West Indian rhythms, punchy lyrics and harmonic vocals. With roots in 17th century West Africa, the genre has a proud history of challenging the powers that be through satire and stinging censure. And few performers have earned their stripes as soundly as McLean Leroy Emanuel, aka King Short Shirt.

    Over the last five decades, the man they call ‘The Monarch’ has earned the country’s Calypso Crown 15 times and put the nation squarely on the world’s musical map. Here the charismatic septuagenarian discusses his childhood, his hopes for the dying artform - and how to make fungee fit for a king.

    First things first, how did you get the name?

    Growing up as a boy from a poor family, my sister ‘Tiny’ used to make all my shirts. To save on material, they were always much shorter than the norm. In the street the other kids used to call me ‘Short Shirt’ and I took it as a nickname. When I decided to get involved in Carnival, the organisers asked me what my Calypso name was. I said I didn’t have one and they said, well, what do people call you? I said, they call me Short Shirt and it stuck. I would have liked a fancier name, (laughs) like Lord Kitchener, Obstinate or Mighty Swallow (Calypso contemporaries) but, out of lack of finance, came a name.

    What was it like growing up in Antigua?

    I grew up in Point and I now live just around the corner in Villa. I grew up in paradise. My father was a very good fisherman so we were never hungry. In those days, things were very different to now. As boys we used to ride on go karts, shoot birds, or cut out of school and go down ‘washing basin’ for a swim. That’s what we used to call it, the area where Deep Water Harbour in St John’s is now.

    How did you get into music?

    I think music is in me. The question is, how it comes out of me (laughs). I was always singing when I was a boy, I’d just make up songs about things I saw. Later, I started winning the Calypso crown and getting famous. The key to my longevity is with assistance from our talented songwriters like Stanley Humphreys who I have worked with for more than 30 years and has written over 100 songs for me, and Marcus Christopher and Shelly Tobitt. I’m a political person, I like politics, I always wanted to express things other people may not be able to without my podium. I am glad and happy to sing songs to help and educate. Quite often it’s got me into trouble, and made some politicians not like me! I see things that are not right - people suffering, people being hungry, or people misbehaving in public office. Thankfully we do have free speech in Antigua now but that wasn’t always the case.

    What’s the future of Calypso?

    It’s in danger. I think younger artists can do more to save it. They really need to keep it the way we had it with good social commentary, songs that make you laugh. The soca people need to bring some interesting lyrics, not just loose ‘boom boom boom’ lyrics. Over in St Thomas, my 10-year-old son ‘Prince Short Shirt’ just won Junior Calypso for the third year running.

    What’s your favourite Antiguan dish?

    Did you know I am actually a chef too? From 1963 to 2006 I ran Shorty’s Glass Bottom Boat tours. I used to do all the cooking for the trips; local recipes, like fresh conch curry, red bean rice, served with fresh mango and pineapple and Shorty’s famous rum punch. I am a good fungee and okra man; the secret is a little nice butter, a little salt, blend it with some okra, have a little saltfish or ling fish nicely stewed down with garlic and thyme, and tomato paste to give it a little colour. That’s a Sunday morning breakfast right there.

    What makes you a proud Antiguan? Why should more people visit?

    I think it’s one of the finest places in the Caribbean. It’s a beautiful country, the layout is nice and the people are friendly. Our soil is fantastic and we grow the best fruit and veg. I am a resident of the United States but I spend most of my time here. This is home and there’s no place like home. I would tell tourists, come and see paradise, come and enjoy our 365 beaches, there’s even more to be discovered. Come and meet people like me and Vivian Richards and the rest of the superstars here; you will have no regrets.

    How would you like to be remembered?

    As a wonderful person who really loved the artform, his kids, wife, friends, fans and his country. And as one of the greatest Calypsonians who faced this earth. If I could give people one piece of advice, I would tell them to be caring and to look after their children. They are our future doctors, politicians and judges. They are our future, everything is in their hands.

    by Gemma Handy

  • Jolly’s hidden jewel

    Jolly’s hidden jewel

    Supreme solitude in the hub of the harbour

    The Watch House AntiguaThe Watch House may be one of Jolly Harbour’s best kept secrets. Ensconced in the heart of the fashionable west coast area and its abundant first-rate amenities, it simultaneously offers enviable seclusion, and jaw-dropping panoramic vistas. Its broad verandahs, teased by soft trade winds, are prime locations to survey the purlieus of the marina, the arboreous mountains to the east and the resplendent aquamarine waters beyond.

    Accessed by a blink-and-you’d-miss-it gravel road just past the main commercial centre, the five-bedroom two-storey villa at the top of the hill feels like a serendipitous discovery. In fact it was the cloistered setting which enticed its current owner to build here. Former Governor-General Sir James Carlisle to be precise.

    “The land used to be owned by my relatives,” Sir James says. “They grew cotton in years gone by – I used to pick the cotton during my school vacations as a little boy.” Construction on the house began in the early 2000s, during Sir James’ 14-year term as the Queen’s official representative to Antigua. Aside from sentiment and blissful schoolboy memories, there were a few more practical considerations to be taken into account when drafting the blueprint.

    The Watch House Jolly HarbourFirst and foremost was the need for privacy and security. “There’s certainly a great deal of privacy, and it’s within a gated community. I have always loved the views too,” he continues, “Not only do we have sea views, we also have the mountains and the golf course.” Born and raised on island, Sir James’ vision was for his new home to be of authentic Caribbean design. And who better to create that than eminent architect and long-term Antigua resident Andrew Goodenough. “The style is traditional to the region – we have the wide verandahs and the steep ceilings to keep it cool. There’s always a breeze here, you hardly ever need to use the air-conditioning.” The final factor was rather more subjective. “Because I was in public office we had to entertain a lot of high officials. We needed nice spaces for socialising, but not overly formal. The house will definitely appeal to someone who likes entertaining,” he smiles. 

    The large shaded verandah at the front of the house is ideal for gatherings. Exquisitely styled, it’s a vision of distressed wooden beams, terracotta tiled flooring, comfy sofas, dining table and chairs for 10. It overlooks the vast garden’s tropical mature trees, swimming pool and sundeck, as windchimes provide a mellifluous soundtrack to the hustle and bustle of the harbour beneath.

    The smaller verandah on the east side boasts an equally stunning scene of perfectly manicured grounds, and more places to lounge, dine and relax. Built on sheet rock and featuring original stone, the property is sturdy and robust enough to withstand stormy weather. Inside, the ambience is bright and airy thanks to numerous doors and windows, all fitted with wooden hurricane shutters, which keep the interior light and comfortable. There’s an indescribably homely feel as soon as one sets foot indoors. The front door opens into a small reception area with elegant period-style furniture suiting to the traditional architecture. Shipped in especially from Puerto Rico it adds tasteful mahogany accents throughout.

    The large kitchen, with stylish distressed wood units, features modern chrome appliances, a centre island with four-burner stove, and a separate built-in oven. The kitchen leads into a large lounge filled with intriguing objets d’art. Solid purpleheart floors, laid over cement, banish any noise from the rooms underneath. A long hallway runs the length of this rectangular shaped villa, giving access to an elegant master suite with four-poster bed, his and hers walk-in closets, and a huge en-suite with bath and shower cubicle. Also on this floor are two double rooms, both with en-suites, a single bedroom, and a guest washroom. A wonderful study with built-in wood cabinets is the perfect spot for undisturbed work.

    Carlisle-Hilll-bedroomThere are air-conditioning units throughout the house. The downstairs area would make an ideal self-contained apartment and even has its own entrance which opens onto the pool area. There is a generous double bedroom, a large bathroom with over-sized shower cubicle and a spacious family room. An additional extra room is currently used for arts and crafts but could be turned into a kitchenette. The house occupies a 1.9-acre site. Included in the sale is almost five acres of neighbouring land, subdivided into approximately half-acre plots. Every plot boasts a stunning view and could be bought individually or collectively.

    After almost a decade in the property Sir James and wife, Lady Emma, are preparing to relocate to the south of the island. For Sir James, there is one aspect of life at The Watch House that he will miss the most. “We get the most glorious sunsets here. As a little boy I loved to watch the sun disappear into the horizon.At school we learned that the earth goes around the sun,” he adds with a smile. “But watching the sun drop over the edge like that, I was quite sure they were wrong.”

    Price on request. For more information or to arrange a viewing call Luxury Locations on (+268) 562-8174.

    by Gemma Handy


  • Asher’s ambition

    asherAsher’s ambition

    Itchyfeet’s rising star is making global waves

    A shaft of light casts its beam over a young girl, supine in a bedroom, eyes closed, earphones eliminating the needling of an irked mother. It’s a familiar scene, mirrored by tenebrous teens and long-suffering parents the world over. Except that this is not the story of your average youngster. And Asher Otto is far from ordinary.

    When the music video to ‘All 4 Love’ went viral earlier this year, it drew gasps of breath from audiences moved by Asher’s euphonic voice, the haunting rap it accompanies, and the poignant depiction of life in Antigua’s back streets away from the bright lights of our five-star resorts. The video itself is a work of art, showcasing not just the remarkable talent of this unassuming girl from Yorks, but that of rapper LogiQ Price - her compatriot, collaborator and friend – and its local directors and producers.

    Stark cinematography takes us on a journey through the muddy alleys of Point, and the austere reality of a home with no running water, as LogiQ gives us an impassioned glimpse into his humble roots. And then Asher’s voice cuts in. Unforced. Raw. As rich and resonant as an oboe. She has the sweet solemnity of Lauryn Hill with a compelling flavour that is entirely her own.

    It’s her intriguing presence and harmonious vocals which never fail to draw an audience, regardless of the venue or day of week. And which have propelled ubiquitous live act Itchyfeet from unobtrusive ‘pub band’, as manager and guitarist Paddy Prendergast modestly dubs it, to something quite special. In person, an hour before Itchyfeet are due to perform at Jolly Harbour eatery Al Porto, she’s unfeigned, younger and shyer than the on-stage persona would imply. Pizza arrives mid-interview and is redirected to an adjacent empty table to be eaten later. If she’s hungry it plays second fiddle to impeccable manners.


    At 20 Asher has a worldly wisdom about her eyes, offset by the guileless resolution of one aware of the obstacles on the rocky road to international success but eminently focussed nonetheless. Music’s in her soul. She grew up listening to international staples like The Beatles, she imparts, thanks to her mother’s US upbringing. In fact it was precisely her broad musical knowledge that first impressed Paddy on the fateful day they met in November 2011. Now, more than two years later, he’s adopted something of a fatherly role towards his protégé from the vantage point of one fully au fait with the whims and quirks of the minefield-laden industry.

    A keen songstress from childhood, Asher enjoyed sporadic appearances on ABS TV after graduating from Antigua Girls’ High School. “One day they called me in to perform and Itchyfeet were playing too. I sat and watched them, and they sat and watched me,” she recalls. “We got chatting and Paddy asked me if I wanted to sing a few songs with the band. I’d never had that kind of experience before so of course I did. He asked me to join after that.”  It’s now nine years since Ireland-born Paddy made Antigua his home. Prior to that, with both a music degree and a post-grad qualification in recording and production under his belt, he founded his own record company in London which he ran for 20 years. Itchyfeet was born in 2008 out of a shared enthusiasm by a group of expats.

    “I was very happy to be playing in a pub band,” he says. “I mean I’m 50 and someone pays me to strap on a guitar and play for three hours and pretend I’m 17 again. What’s not to enjoy? And then I met Asher and I thought, ‘wow, this is someone who really deserves to be here’. We were very lucky to have the combination of my experience and her talent. From the first time I heard her sing I thought she had a good voice and potential – but that wasn’t what impressed me,” he continues.

    “What impressed me was that she came over and started talking to me, she knew our set and had a broader range of musical knowledge than anyone else I had met here.” Asher’s musical tastes depend largely on her mood, she says. “I like all kinds of music – R&B, rap, soul, hip hop, a bit of everything. Growing up, my mom played a lot of different music. I love Beyonce, Amy Winehouse, the Fugees. But I’m just trying to be myself and make my own style.”
    If there’s one thing she wants people to know, it’s that she writes all her own songs. “I get inspiration from everything I see and do. For example, when LogiQ came to me with his rap, he really wanted people to see the struggle he’d been through. I knew him anyway and the words just flowed.” The artistic collaboration garnered additional exposure through pan-Caribbean TV channel Tempo.

    “My mom cried when she saw the video,” Asher smiles. “She watches Tempo all the time. In fact if you call my mom and ask her when it’s likely to be on, you will get a list of the exact times because she watches it non-stop.” Coupled with her recent hosting of Tempo programme Caribbean Countdown, the appearances have had a dramatic effect on her erstwhile relative anonymity.

    “A few months ago I could walk into town and perhaps see a couple of people I knew. Now people are saying, ‘hi Asher, you’re the one that has that video out’. I feel really lucky and blessed to be here,” she continues. “It’s all I wanted, just to reach people and touch people with my writing. To hear that people love my original music is the best reward I could have.”

    Work is now well advanced on a number of tracks set to form her debut album. Meanwhile, the hunt for a suitable record deal continues, one ‘bad fit’ having already been turned down. “It’s about finding a relationship and finding people you can trust, who want what you want, someone who recognises in Asher a real opportunity and a real artist,” Paddy says. “It was always felt from word go that Asher will have a career in music, no ifs or buts about that. The only question is, at what level? Like any talent it all comes down to luck and a lot of hard work. And much of that is putting yourself in the way of opportunity.” Doing so from a small island is a double-edged sword. “She has done 200 gigs in two years and been paid to do so,” he continues. “If she lived in New York, the chance of that would be nil. Social media means we can reach beyond Antigua relatively quickly and cheaply but we really need to be going to big cities and playing before big tough audiences, wooing them and the critics.”

    Asher admits it’s stressful balancing almost nightly gigs with rehearsals, and still finding time to write songs. But this, Paddy states, is all good training for later on. “You have to go on stage looking your best and being your best, you get home between midnight and 2am, and then, after four hours sleep, it’s time to get up for a TV appearance. Even though you’re enjoying it it’s hard work. That’s when you dig deep inside and ask yourself how much you really want to do this.”

    To Itchyfeet’s adoring crowds however, there’s little sign of the exertion taking its toll on its rising star. Paddy adds with a laugh: “People come up to me all the time and say, ‘you know what, she’s really special’. And sometimes they say, ‘you’d better do right by that girl or there’ll be trouble’.” Whatever lies ahead for Asher, one thing is for sure. Her rare talent is one that resonates long after the show’s over, the punters have left and the lights turned out. Until then it’s time to leave them to take to the stage once more. After some pizza.

    by Gemma Handy

  • Living la dolce vita

    Living la dolce vita

    Why foodies are smitten with Ristorante Paparazzi

    paparazzi-4Socialites beware. Paying a visit to Ristorante Paparazzi will not result in a fusillade of camera flashes, or even so much as a mention on Page Six. The superstars here are entirely comprised of the eatery’s amiable servers and innovative chefs who are blessed with culinary alchemy – the rare and celebrated art of turning base ingredients into gold.

    In just three years, from its prime waterfront location, Ristorante Paparazzi has muscled its way ahead of the competition and forged an oregano-scented path all the way onto some of the globe’s most esteemed food pages. It’s also garnered more accolades than you can shake a breadstick at – third best restaurant in English Harbour and best wood oven pizza in the Caribbean being just two. Judging by the number of ‘fantastico’ reviews on Trip Advisor, it would appear it’s pretty popular with Italians themselves – proof indeed that its claim to ‘home-style cuisine of the old country’ is as genuine as its gorgonzola.

    paparazzi-3The extensive menu – coupled with a wine list painstakingly chosen to complement every dish – features an abundance of both traditional plates and inspired creations, such as the grilled octopus salad in green herbs sauce with fennel and arugula, and Angus tenderloin with rosemary potato, asparagus and beef reduction. Oozing with ambience and bustling with hungry punters on a Wednesday night, the family-like atmosphere enveloped us from the moment we set foot inside. This was further enhanced by a warm welcome from owners Christina and Diego Taibi.

    From our table just steps away from the ocean and with views over adjacent Nelson’s Dockyard, we revelled in the wonderfully authentic décor and tucked into the complimentary fresh bread and mouth-watering tapenade with glee. A recent addition to the menu is the ‘raw bar’. While this does nothing to assist the already agonising decision of choosing a meal from the myriad standard options, it’s relished by aficionados of such delights as fresh oysters. I opted for beets carpaccio with goat’s cheese infused with pistachios, and sprinkled with ‘drunken grapes’ which set the tastebuds off into spasms of delirious joy. My companion chose mahi mahi ceviche with fresh cilantro which she declared divine.

    After much deliberation I next plumped for homemade ravioli stuffed with pear and ricotta, in a delicious butter and sage sauce, the fruit proffering an unexpected smattering of sweetness among the flavourful medley. Pure magic indeed. I am ashamed to admit the sauce was so enticing it positively begged to be wiped clean from the bowl. My companion’s spaghetti with butter, white wine, truffle oil, parmigiano and lobster was a vision of succulence, cheerfully polished off with impressive pie-eating-contest speed.

    paparazzi-5Never one to be deterred by the fact I am in fact already full (what’s a little belt loosening between friends?), I chose tiramisu from the restaurant’s selection of delectable-sounding desserts while my companion picked vanilla gelato smothered in espresso coffee. Just in case the caloric intake wasn’t enough, we topped it off with scrumptious Irish coffees complete with brown sugar and cream.

    And that, in a nutshell, is how we came to find ourselves emerging giggling from the restaurant at 11pm, bursting at the seams and giddy with sugar and whisky (although I prefer to blame the grapes). Thankfully the paparazzi were nowhere to be seen.

    by Gemma Handy

  • Cream of the crop at Colesome Farmers’ Market

    bananasCream of the crop at Colesome Farmers’ Market

    Modern consumers are a discerning bunch. To make it onto Antigua’s most exclusive dining tables, fruit and veg must be seasonal, freshly-picked, organic and local. Just some of the reasons why Colesome Farmers’ Market has burgeoned into a thriving enterprise in its five-year history, supplying everywhere from major restaurants and superyachts to private villas and prudent passersby.

    Here, in the heart of All Saints, nature’s bounty bursts forth in all its fructiferous might from the three-acre site which lights up Jonas Road like a bucolic beacon.

    Owner Delrie Cole, born and raised in the area, has been farming for more than 30 years and is a staunch advocate of the ‘buy local’ ethos. “Antigua has one of the best climates for food and our soil is so rich some people have told me they think it’s the best in the world. These days we are seeing a change in eating habits as people become more cautious about where their food comes from – and what happens to it after it’s picked. They want to know that what they eat is healthy. Here we are all about maintaining a local brand. We help backyard gardeners too – if they produce too much we will buy it from them.”

    Produce grown directly on site includes everything from juicy tomatoes, romaine lettuce and bell peppers, to aromatic arugula, tarragon and parsley. Papayas as big as newborn babies vie for space among oranges, bananas and watermelon, plus avocadoes, eggplant, yam and squash, and of course, our national fruit – the coveted Antiguan black pineapple.

    Delrie’s one-stop nutritional shop also sells all-natural sauces, jams and honey, various ‘superfood’ grains like millet, bulgur wheat and black rice, and an array of homemade healthy snacks such as delicious energy-boosting date sweets. “I love making my customers happy,” Delrie adds. “Seeing how excited they get over my produce is what makes me want to get up in the morning.”

    by Gemma Handy

    Colesome Farmers’ Market is open Mondays to Saturdays 7am-7pm and Sundays 7am-2pm.

  • Getting steamy between the sheets?

    Getting steamy between the sheets?

    Villa Azura Antigua CaribbeanTwo of our exclusive villas can help you keep your cool in the bedroom

    Are you outrageously hot in bed? Are sweltering climes and humidity turning you into a demon between the sheets? When the only reprieve is a sky-high air-conditioning bill – and a carbon footprint of Jurassic proportions – there’s little chance of alleviating those sleepless nights.

    Antigua & Barbuda’s tropical temperatures may be a delight by day, but after dark the calefaction can mean there ain’t no satisfaction when it comes to snooze time. Two of Luxury Locations’ most exclusive homes now offer an innovative solution. Their award-winning climate control beds are the perfect partner for rest and relaxation, allowing you to keep your cool in the bedroom and do your bit for the environment at the same time.   

    Air-conditioned-bedThe high-tech Evening Breeze four-poster beds are the latest addition to luxurious villas Kulala and Azura, a stone’s throw away from secluded Long Bay Beach on Antigua’s pristine east coast. The patented system cools, dehumidifies and filters the air around you – silently and with no draft. It also uses up to 80 per cent less energy than conventional air-conditioning. James and Amanda Neal, the villas’ owners, say the pioneering technology has proved a hit with holidaymakers. “When we first built Villa Kulala we felt there was no need for air conditioning as there was always a lovely breeze from the trade winds on the east of the island,” Amanda says. “However we then found that a lot of guests were saying they were uncomfortable at night, especially during the summer months when there is less wind. Knowing the high cost of electricity on the island we were reluctant to fully air condition the bedrooms.”

    It was some time later, when the couple were poised to begin construction on Azura, that they learned about the revolutionary beds being used in a number of high-end resorts across the globe. “They’re designed for countries that have high electricity costs. They have been installed in many resorts and houses, particularly in Africa, since they can run off solar power and generators,” Amanda continues. “Ideally the units are incorporated into the build, as we did in Villa Azura. However, we were so pleased with the beds that we decided to fit them into Villa Kulala too, although this required some modification to the existing beds. We love them because we can sleep in cooled comfort with the windows open without air conditioning the whole bedroom and wasting energy as the mosquito nets contain the cooled air.”   

    Villa-CaribbeanResearch shows that enjoying the right amount of sleep keeps the immune system in balance and safeguards physical and mental wellbeing too. Temperatures in excess of 24 degrees Celsius (75 degrees Fahrenheit) are generally considered injurious to sleep, leading to more wake time and lighter dozing. A cool room is optimum because it mimics what occurs inside the body when one’s internal temperature drops during the night to its lowest level.

    The specially-designed canopy beds mean the area within the mosquito net is kept air conditioned while still permitting the louvred windows to be left open. Amanda adds: “Anyone building a new house/resort on Antigua should be thinking about energy costs and eco friendliness – and we believe our new beds have delivered both to us.” The beds are not the only eco-friendly feature of these two fabulous homes. All interior walls have also been plastered using American Clay, a 100% natural and non-toxic plaster which ‘breathes’ with changes in temperature and humidity.

    Boasting stunning views over local landmark, Devil’s Bridge, from its al fresco dining area, four-bedroom Kulala is a unique retreat for anyone looking for the utmost in peace and tranquillity, and close proximity to Antigua’s world-famous beaches. Just minutes away from beautiful Long Bay, where calm, crystal waters are a haven for sea turtles, Kulala offers unparalleled luxury spanning almost two acres. A nature lover’s paradise, it’s nestled among resplendent gardens with a charming courtyard and infinity pool afore an expansive sundeck offering unobstructed views across the Atlantic Ocean.

    kulala-poolThe thoughtfully designed interior features Balinese timber columns, furniture and artwork, complemented by high ceilings and wooden floors, adding a further touch of elegance and style. The open-plan living area includes a fully fitted kitchen, large inside dining area and a games room with pool table. Also just a short walk from the beach, Azura has three bedrooms, an infinity pool, outdoor gazebo-covered dining area, expansive sundeck and all-weather sunloungers, ideal for soaking up the rays or the spectacular scenery. The vast living room has an abundance of comfortable seating and French doors opening onto the covered verandah and pool with exceptional ocean views. An adjacent sunken den affords privacy and seclusion for quiet work or simply relaxing and watching television.

    The dining area, with quality teak table seating eight, also overlooks a private walled garden. Horticultural enthusiasts will love the beautifully-landscaped surrounds where you can pick fruit directly from the trees. Villa Azura, fully staffed with house manager, housekeeper and gardener, also has a magnificent private terrace above the verandah — an idyllic spot for evening cocktails, sunbathing or stargazing.

    by Gemma Handy

    Both Kulala and Azura are available for holiday rentals and also for sale. Call our team on (268) 562-8174 for more details.

  • Pearns Point project named among world’s best


    Pearns Point project named among world’s best

    pearns-pointAntigua’s US$250m Pearns Point resort and residential project has been named one of the top real estate developments in the world.

    The mammoth scheme currently under construction on the island’s west coast was the only one in the Caribbean to make the top 50 in the list published by Elite Traveler magazine. Pearns Point claimed 45th spot out of a total 248.

    The New York-based bi-monthly publication – aimed at ultra high net worth readers – assessed developments across the globe on everything from location and price, to local amenities, national GDP and billionaire population. Topping the list is New York’s 432 Park Avenue – a set of luxury apartments comprising the tallest residential tower in the western hemisphere. In second place is the St Regis in Singapore, known for its round-the-clock butler service and chauffeur-driven Bentleys.

    The heavyweight ranking in Elite Traveler’s September/October issue once again brings the twin island nation before an international audience and cements its status as a prime place to invest. The 141-acre Pearns Point site will eventually be home to a 60 to 80-suite hotel – managed by a leading five-star brand – plus 60 luxury condos and 50 private homes designed by acclaimed Dutch architect Piet Boon. The deluxe residences are being exclusively sold and marketed by Luxury Locations Real Estate in Jolly Harbour, Antigua, which recently completed the land sale for the country’s first mega resort, Singulari. Luxury Locations’ CEO Sam Dyson said: “This rating is a major coup for Pearns Point, coming less than 18 months after its official launch. Since ground was first broken in 2013, interest has flooded in from the international community. We’ve already confirmed almost US$25m in sales.”

    pearns-1Pearns Point developer Albert Hartog said he was delighted. “This is indeed proof of our promise to bring something truly exceptional to the international real estate market while flying the flag for Antigua & Barbuda. Work is rapidly progressing and we’re very much looking forward to unveiling our first show home soon. The properties will be quite unlike anything the island has seen before."

    Antigua scores two more mentions on the list; Jumby Bay’s celebrity-magnet residences came in at number 146 while Tamarind Hills overlooking Darkwood Beach was placed at 158. Dubbed the ‘private jet lifestyle magazine’, Elite Traveler describes the index as the “definitive guide to the best of the best in residential real estate developments”. Pearns Point even ranks above the US$3.5bn Baha Mar resort in Nassau, Bahamas, which took 79th position. One Sandy Lane in Barbados made number 111. Other Caribbean countries placed included St Lucia, the British and US Virgin Islands, Turks & Caicos, St Kitts, Anguilla, Grenada and Aruba.

    by Gemma Handy

    MOUNTAIN VILLA-pearns-point

    For more information, visit or contact Luxury Locations on (+268) 562-8174.

  • Exquisite taste in a vintage setting

    Exquisite taste in a vintage setting

    Admirals AntiguaHow Admiral’s Inn’s elegant eateries are redefining cuisine

    It may be some time since Lord Nelson himself graced the winsome surrounds of Antigua’s eponymously-named Georgian dockyard. The King of Norway, on the other hand, is both a recent and a regular visitor. The most cursory of glances at this enchanting hub of living history will reveal why it remains revered among luminaries.

    Original 18th century buildings, flanked by elegant stone pillars on the water’s edge, provide an exquisite backdrop for Admiral’s Inn and its two internationally acclaimed restaurants. It’s easy to fall in love with the place before so much as a bite of the food. Happily for their discriminating clientele, Pillars’ and Boom’s fare is innovative, inspired and eminently enticing. Fit for a king in fact. While Pillars is characterised by an ethereal historic charm, suffused with hand-hewn beams and weathered brickwork, against an elegant waterfront setting, its poolside counterpart Boom is more casual, a tranquil place to while away an insouciant few hours with light music, daybeds and sublime dockyard vistas.

    What defines them both, says co-director Astrid Deeth, is the cuisine’s consistently high standards, sous-vide cooking method and attention to detail. Sous-vide involves slowly cooking the food in airtight plastic bags in low temperature waterbaths, which not only better seals in flavours but retains all the nutrients making it healthier too. “People are blown away by the food; we have received wonderful feedback,” she says. “Most of our ingredients are fresh and locally sourced from farmers’ markets or local fishermen. Our mixed clientele includes people from all over the world, along with both locals and expats from across the island. We get our fair share of celebrities too,” she continues. “The setting is so unique; you can’t get that view or charm anywhere else.”

    admiralsfoodPillars’ kitchen is presided over by Cordon Bleu-trained Chilean executive chef Juan Gil who boasts a repertoire of culinary skills as broad as the places he’s called home. Since joining the team last year he has further cemented the eatery’s reputation for delectable dishes. In season, Pillars is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. Every Saturday night, the glorious venue comes alive with a themed international flavour and live music. Evenings dedicated to the tastes of Thailand, Spain, India and the Caribbean have proved a hit with guests who can choose from a la carte, a three-course table d’hote or a sumptuous tasting menu with wine pairings.

    Equally popular is Pillars’ renowned Sunday roasts with succulent lamb or beef with traditional Yorkshire pudding and all the trimmings. Breakfast, lunch and Sunday brunch are easygoing affairs. Lunchtimes feature a host of burgers and sandwiches along with winning specials like Thai shrimp salad or green curry mussels, polished off with heavenly chocolate fondant or coconut bread pudding. Over at Boom’s pool bar and restaurant, the focus is on delicious light dishes for lunch or tapas prepared by chef Nickey Hansen from Denmark. Seafood including Alaska salad, moules mariniere and sesame-crusted tuna is his speciality, but meat lovers won’t be disappointed with the Gunpowder burger and Parmesan truffle fries. The new winter tourist season will see the addition of vegan dishes, evening barbecues and a juice bar.

    Both Pillars and Boom are ideally suited to a variety of private events, whether it’s an intimate honeymoon soiree or a large gala dinner, a fun-filled banquet with roast suckling pig and live music, or cocktails and canapés.

    by Gemma Handy

    Visit Pillars’ and Boom’s Facebook pages, or call (+268) 460-1027 for details and reservations.

  • Seafood Fridays

    seafood-fridaysSeafood Fridays

    Perfect recipe for an island institution

    If there’s anything better than dining under the stars in the heart of a Caribbean national park, it’s perhaps when surrounded by enchanting 18th century purlieus and the hum of friendly chatter. Whether attracted by the sublime location, the delectable cuisine or merely the chance to catch up with pals over a drink and a bite, Seafood Fridays at the Copper & Lumber Store Hotel in Nelson’s Dockyard is something of an island institution. And as the tantalising aroma of fresh lobster, mahi mahi and wahoo wafts across the waterfront where the cordial crowds converge it’s easy to see why.

    From around 7pm each week – regardless of the month or the weather – the lively al fresco shindig draws in a melting pot of locals and tourists alike. For most, says food and beverage manager Laurence Lloyd, it’s all about the ambience. “It’s a very relaxing atmosphere to meet up with old friends and make new ones. It’s a family-friendly meeting place, a social gathering for wonderful food, with light background music kept low enough to be able to talk easily. Since it started in February 2011, we have watched Seafood Fridays grow in numbers; these days we often get more than 300 guests.”

    All dishes are fresh and cooked to order. Some, like the popular seafood pasta in parmesan cream sauce, are prepared on the spot before your eyes. Other long-standing favourites include fishcakes of lobster, crab or saltfish, conch chowder, fish and chips, and fried snapper, all served with inspired and sumptuous sides. “Our dishes are infused with delicious fresh herbs such as thyme, basil, garlic, seasoned peppers and cilantro to really bring the flavours alive,” Laurence continues. “And for anyone who’s not a fan of seafood, we have a variety of pizzas and steak dishes too.”

    With its cobbled courtyards and gracious colonial architecture, the Copper & Lumber Store is a veritable hub of living history. Happily, for its largely insouciant guests, it’s entirely lacking in stuffiness. Convivial staff greet guests like old friends, while antiques that would, in other parts of the world, be imperiously carted off and placed in glass cases gleefully vie for space amongst the weathered brickwork, hand-hewn beams and mellow brass. Whether occupying one of the hotel’s 14 charming suites or not, diners are welcome for breakfast, with delights like the acclaimed Copper & Lumber pancakes on offer from 7.30am to a generous 11.30am every day.

    The restaurant, which has free WiFi, also serves up a smorgasbord of international fare for lunch, from tuna sashimi to grilled chicken salad, West Indian roti to Philly steak sub. Crisp salad platters are topped off with heavenly dressings, such as the tangy passion fruit vinaigrette - the recipes for which are a closely guarded secret. Another kept firmly under wraps is the extra special formula which continues to maintain Copper & Lumber’s status as one of Antigua’s most celebrated establishments.

    by Gemma Handy

    Copper & Lumber is open daily for breakfast and lunch. Dinner is on request with 24-hour advance notice. Call 460-1058 for reservations.

  • Repeat victory for Luxury Locations

    OPP awards won by Luxury Locations Estate Agents AntiguaRepeat victory for Luxury Locations

    Another double win at prestigious international property awards

    If there’s a better way to start 2015 galvanised and reenergised than more esteemed awards for our dynamic team we’re yet to find it. Luxury Locations was honoured to defend its title as one of the globe’s leading real estate agencies at November’s prestigious Overseas Property Professionals (OPP) Awards in London.

    Once again, we fought off challengers from far and wide to reclaim our gong as third best real estate agency in the world – and took home a silver in the regional category for good measure too. The double victory – just five and a half years after setting up business – is a coup d’eclat not just for us but for Antigua & Barbuda too, reinforcing its might on the international stage. Now in their seventh year, the OPP Awards reward the “best and brightest” stars in the overseas residential property industry. Entrants in 38 categories were judged by a panel of experts with winners presented with their trophies at a glittering ceremony at Novotel London West on November 28.

    For us, the awards were the crowning glory on a string of successes in an exceptionally auspicious year. Last summer saw Luxury Locations facilitate the land sale for the country’s first mega resort – a development slated to be worth US$3bn over the next decade. And one of our exclusive listings – the US$250m Pearns Point resort and residential project – earned a spot in Elite Traveler magazine’s round-up of the world’s best developments. Sales continue to progress for Pearns Point, tipped to become one of the globe’s most exclusive addresses. Meanwhile, all signals point to another buoyant year ahead for our property industry. We were delighted to take on two more major exclusives in the shape of the acclaimed Tamarind Hills development along with homes at the Blue Waters resort as we bolster our position as market leaders.

    OPP AwardsLuxury Locations’ CEO Sam Dyson said: “Momentum continues to build in key housing markets worldwide which is great news for investors everywhere. With prices still relatively low here – and the holiday rental market doing better than ever – more and more people are choosing Antigua to buy a second home.”

    Company founder Nadia Dyson said: “Antigua is hard to beat on price. There are few places in the world that you can still buy a waterfront property with a boat dock in a desirable gated community with excellent amenities for just US$250,000.  “Over the last year we have experienced an unprecedented level of sales. Coupled with the surge in interest from large-scale developers, all indications are that a bright future is ahead.”

  • The Silence From Within

    Free diving AntiguaThe silence from within

    Freediving: Plumbing the depths of the ocean on a voyage to self-discovery

    Since the dawn of humankind, man’s relationship with the ocean has been complex and at times contradictory. A giver of life and nourishment, it’s both a barrier and a link to distant lands, a source of deep fascination yet fraught with fear of the unknown. It’s true that we know more about the surface of Mars than the depths of the seas. For many the water holds a special intrigue, a longing to fraternise with marine life as much as we yearn to fly with birds. And for some it’s the driving force to experience the ultimate symbiosis between man and nature – and go deeper than anyone has ever gone before.

    Freediving is often described as an underwater journey to self-discovery. While scuba diving is for looking around us, freediving is about looking inside. The absence of cumbersome equipment and regulator noise – subsisting on just a single breath of air – is said to enhance inner balance and peace. As legendary world champion Jacques Mayol said, it’s “about silence, the silence that comes from within”.

    While hardly a modern concept – freediving dates back to 4500 BC when our predecessors scoured the ocean for food – it has evolved to become one of the world’s fastest-growing extreme sports. Top competitors can hold their breath for several minutes, reaching depths below 300ft where pressure causes human lungs to shrink to the size of two fists. In Antigua, its burgeoning popularity saw the country’s first freediving course – taught by acclaimed instructor Jonathan Sunnex and scheduled for January 2015 – sold out in 24 hours. Luxury Locations’ own CEO Sam Dyson, Don McIntosh of Indigo Divers and Eli Fuller of Adventure Antigua are among a growing number able to dive deeper than the average scuba diver on just one breath.

    In December 2010, UK-born champion William Trubridge became the first recorded freediver to plunge to 100m (328ft) with his two bare feet and a lungful of air, a discipline known as ‘constant weight no fins’. Like many, his first foray with the sport was entirely organic. “I was brought up on a boat and was always in the water, freediving and snorkelling,” he said. “The sea was both a playground and a classroom. I didn’t find out freediving was even a sport until I was 22 and went to the Caribbean on a three-month diving trip. For me it’s about self-discovery as much as world records. It’s unlike anything you can experience above water; you get to experience aquatic life as an aquatic being. When you’re really far down you hear nothing; it’s completely silent – and very, very dark. There’s a detachment from all the senses, and you are weightless so there are no points of pressure or contact on the body. It’s a complete sensory experience that allows you to draw within your own mind.”

    freediving2Trubridge said he thrives on both the mental and physical challenge. “Any sport requires discipline but with freediving you need an acute awareness of your own body and the ability to interpret the signals it gives you. You also have to be able to shut off the mind; it’s like a holistic challenge.” Shutting off the mind could be vital to keeping safe too. Freediving is certainly not without its risks. Fear releases adrenaline which pumps up the heart rate, constricts blood vessels and consumes oxygen which can cause a loss of consciousness.

    Perhaps the most disconcerting danger is a shallow-water blackout. That occurs when the brain shuts down within a few feet of the surface during the ascent. As a diver descends, water pressure squeezes the lungs, condensing the oxygen and giving what feels like a second breath. During the return trip however, the lungs re-expand, dissipating the remaining oxygen and restricting supply to the bloodstream. Trubridge said while perils do exist, accidents are rare and avoidable. “People see freediving as a death-defying stunt but if you practise in the right way it’s actually very safe. My advice is only ever dive with someone else who’s trained, never by yourself. Know the signs of a blackout, don’t focus on depth but technique and being efficient under water. And enjoy it.”

    Trubridge trains for 11 months of the year – a strict programme incorporating breathing exercises, dry breath holds and yoga, complemented by a high-carbohydrate vegetarian diet with plenty of alkalising fruit and veg to regulate acidity in the blood and increase its oxygen uptake. “Breaking a world record is a pretty intense experience,” he added. “You spend a lot of time working up to the moment, aiming for that particular depth, so it’s a sense of relief as well as a cause for celebration.”

    For Antiguan freediver Junior Martin, a passion for the sport came on the heels of earning a living from the ocean. Martin, from Urlings, began spearfishing at the age of 12, catching lobster and fish to sell to pay his school tuition fees. What began as a job has developed into a profound appreciation and deep respect for the nautical world. His subaquatic experiences are as diverse as the local marine life. “It’s like a different world down there. I even see dolphins sometimes, they come very close to me. Freediving gives you a relaxed mind and in Antigua there are so many places to explore – from reefs to underwater caves.” Martin added: “I’m always trying to improve, so I can dive deeper each time.”

    Free dive CaribbeanAs freediving continues to carve a space in the mainstream sports arena, some believe it’s lost its meditative aspect and become a numbers game. And none can boast of such salient numbers as Herbert Nitsch. Dubbed ‘the deepest man on earth’, the 44-year-old Austrian holds the record in the ‘no-limits’ discipline boasting a descent of 253m (830ft) and the ability to hold his breath for an astounding nine minutes. No-limits involves using a weighted sled to go down and a lifting device, such as an inflatable bag, to pull the diver back to the surface. Nitsch, who started diving in 1999, said: “The jumps have got bigger and bigger over the years as people realised it’s not just about yoga and quieting the mind but also about technique. Today we understand more about how the human body functions. And the internet means freedivers have more contact than before so they can share tricks and training techniques, rather than having to invent their own.”

    For Nitsch, it was a seemingly unfortunate airline mishap that would spawn a lifelong love for the sport – and ultimately a career. “I was going on a scuba diving safari when the airline lost all my luggage including my scuba gear,” he recalled.“All I had was my underwater camera and Speedos. I rented a facemask and fins so I could take some photos. I was distracted from the fact I was holding my breath and was going deeper and for longer each time to get my pictures. I was training without knowing I was training.” Like Trubridge, Nitsch was also unaware back then that freediving was a competitive sport. “Someone asked me how deep I could go and when I checked it was 32 metres. He told me to buy some decent fins and try and set some records. I went straight onto the international scene after that.” Fifteen years later, Nitsch describes regular scuba diving as “like running with ankle cuffs”. “As a freediver you can move around easier than with a tank. And you see so much more because the insanely loud breathing noises don’t scare away all the fish.”

    Essential qualities to be a proficient freediver include dedication and the ability to remain “very, very calm”. “Most good freedivers tend to be older as that’s when you know how to better control the mind. Many get into it seriously in their late 30s, early 40s.” A trained airline pilot, Nitsch was a captain for Tyrolean Airways for 15 years before deciding to focus on freediving full time in 2010. “The similarities between flying and freediving are more than I wanted to believe,” he smiled. “Most freedivers see it from a yoga-meditation point of view. Coming from a pilot background, my approach is very analytical. I am always working to train and dive in the most efficient way, fine tuning the weakest link. For me it’s not the quantity of training but the quality.”

    Nitsch has had a couple of close calls, one being an almost fatal attack of decompression sickness, aka ‘the bends’, during a world record attempt in 2012. He later described the episode as like “multiple brain strokes” which preceded months of rehabilitation to learn to walk, talk and move around again. Another narrow escape was from something slightly more tangible. “I had a close encounter with a massive bull shark about three metres long. It was very quick and came straight at me. It was a little scary but I have dived with sharks many times and held onto them; they’re usually not dangerous at all.”

    While modern freediving has myriad formats and disciplines, one feature appears to transcend all: a palpable regard for the special place the ocean occupies in our environment. “The best places I’ve dived are the most remote - French Polynesia and Palau Micronesia,” Nitsch said. “Sadly most reefs these days are close to extinction. Wherever there’s a lot of people there’s overfishing.”

    In February 2014 Nitsch joined Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s board of advisors to help stop the slaughter of aquatic wildlife and the destruction of their habitat. He continued: “A couple of decades ago there were no plastic bags or bottles. Today there’s so much plastic on the beaches you can’t believe it – and on the bottom it’s even worse. People should be more aware that the oceans are not a garbage dump.”

    Trubridge, who set up the TruBlue Foundation aimed at stemming pollution and protecting New Zealand’s critically endangered dolphins, agrees. “Freediving and spending so much time in the water training has given me a sense of place in the world,” he added. “It’s made me very aware of ecosystems – and just how significant we are regarding our effect on the planet.”

  • Majesty on the waterfront

    Majesty on the waterfront

    How artists and artisans helped give Jolly House its edge

    Jolly House AntiguaIf Jolly House had been created with the specific intention of perfectly framed views of the beautiful Sleeping Indian hills, its designers could not have been more successful. In fact its sublime setting – enhanced by a prime position at the entrance to Jolly Harbour’s full service marina – is just a fraction of what this sprawling home has to offer. Its cheerful marigold hues cut a striking figure from across the water. Approached landside, it’s found at the end of a small street in the heart of the gated community which enjoys an enduring status as one of Antigua’s most sought-after locations.

    Entering its solid purpleheart front door, visitors are greeted to an enchanting display of bold stencils and murals lining the interior walls and pillars. An artist is clearly in residence here. And she’s imbued her flair into the property’s abundance of rooms, alcoves, nooks and crannies. A honey-toned hallway gives way to a large drawing or reception room with glass doors leading onto a vast sundeck. This broad 700sq metre waterfront space will enrapture anyone who loves al fresco entertaining. With partially-shaded relaxation and dining areas, a generously-proportioned heated pool with ‘endless pool’ exerciser, and a two-storey gazebo and bar, Jolly House ticks several boxes on the dream home checklist from the outside alone.

    Jolly House CaribbeanReplica cannons cast their steely gaze across the marina while a constant breeze keeps the terrace comfortable all year round. There are two private docks for yachts measuring up to 75ft and 80ft, and a 15-ton boat lift. Entirely remodelled, the property boasts a total of 10 bedrooms – all with en-suites plus two guest bathrooms – and living space of more than 800sq metres.During a wander of the interior, beguiling objets d’art add additional flourishes of character. Balinese-style furniture is infused with vintage pieces. Doors and windowframes are constructed of purpleheart, and floors are an amalgam of vibrant tiles in some parts, wooden boards in others. There are air-conditioning units throughout.

    The kitchen is a charming display of wooden cabinets the colour of mulled wine with yellow trim, suspended utensils and contemporary appliances. With so many rooms to choose from, many of the bedrooms serve an ulterior purpose, such as a study, a gym, even an artist’s studio. The master suite houses a magnificent four-poster bed and relaxation space with sofas. It has its own dressing room with walk-in wardrobe, and his and her en-suites both fitted with bathtubs and luxurious rainfall showers. Doors lead to another huge deck with stunning sea vistas. Jolly House was recently fitted with a new roof and also underwent an extension into an adjacent property. In addition to extra rooms, the latter saw the creation of a loft space used as a glorious open-plan bedroom and bathroom, complete with bath-tub.

    jollyhouse3For sale fully-furnished – and with a plethora of first-rate amenities just a stone’s throw away – this fabulous home’s proud new owner can expect a seamless move and a living experience every bit as blissful as its name.

    Jolly House is listed for sale at US$4,750,000.

    Call Luxury Locations on (+268) 562-8174 for more information or to arrange a viewing or email

  • Come hell or high water

    Elizabeth Jordan 1Come hell or high water

    One woman’s determination to teach kids to sail – and benefit from Antigua’s thriving yacht industry – has taught hundreds of youngsters much more than just the ropes  

    Anyone who’s ever tried to hold a child’s interest for longer than a round of Candy Crush Saga in something, well, altogether more wholesome, knows that maintaining a sense of unpredictability is key. Throw in the teensiest hint of danger and you’re already off to a flying start. Sailing has been described as many things. Liberating and exhilarating, certainly. Balancing, yes, and exhausting too. But boring? Rarely.

    This may go some way then to explaining how an embryonic quest to introduce Antiguan schoolchildren to the thrill of the sport – and ultimately to benefit from the lucrative yachting industry – has resulted in more than 500 youngsters learning to sail in just four years.

    When UK-born sailor Elizabeth Jordan first sought interest from schools across the island in September 2010, pint-sized potential Popeyes signed up quicker than you can tie a bowline, enticed by the idea of a racy new pastime that offered the all-important lure of a possible capsizing. The fact they would also gain valuable life skills like teamwork, discipline and level-headedness was a happy bonus.

    Elizabeth, who arrived in Antigua in 1999 by boat – fittingly – after traversing the Atlantic at the helm of an all-female crew, was struck by the demographic homogeneity of the sailing community during her tenure as commodore of the Yacht Club. “It occurred to me that 95 per cent of the club was made up of white expats,” she says. “Many Antiguans don’t sail so why would they join a Yacht Club? I mean, you wouldn’t join a golf club if you didn’t play golf. Even the name sounds off-putting,” she adds as an after-thought, “sort of elitist.” The steep cost of sailing lessons available at the time was prohibitive for many families. Following some discussion with the government, Elizabeth offered to source funding to create an official academy for local kids to learn to sail and swim for free. In return, she had some stipulations.

    Elizabeth with kidsweb“It had to be called the national academy so Antiguans had a sense of ownership. I also needed to bring in boats and equipment duty free, and school buses to be available to transport the children there.” In February 2010, the National Sailing Academy (NSA) was formed as a non-profit organisation, followed by a grand opening four months later. By then, Elizabeth had already raised an incredible US$50,000. “I went round the yachts begging,” she tells me unblinkingly when we meet. I suggest she must be pretty persuasive to hustle such a sum. “Persistent,” she corrects me, luminous blue eyes twinkling. The money was enough to pay for 12 aptly-named Optimist dinghies to kickstart operations.

    “I still had no idea if the kids would even be interested,” Elizabeth continues. “When school opened in September I went round them to ask. By half-term we were full up; 150 children were coming to sail with us each week.” Tenacious ‘begging’ drew in more funds to pay instructors to teach the lessons. But it soon became apparent that entreating cash from benevolent yachties could not be a long-term strategy. “We needed our own premises to create our own revenue,” she says. A kind-hearted sponsor offered to pay the first year’s lease starting June 2013 on former restaurant grounds in Dockyard Drive. By February 2014 the necessary equipment was installed and the NSA was firing on all cylinders.

    Run by a board of nine volunteers, today it has over 40 vessels ranging from small 10ft dinghies to high performance racing keelboats ideal for Antigua Sailing Week. To help meet the annual US$100,000 running costs, some income is raised through private lessons for adults, on-site budget holiday accommodation and cheap dockage. The large space means the academy can also stage various fundraising events such as open-air movie nights and live entertainment, even weddings, although it remains largely dependent on donations. In addition to sailing, the centre – certified as of August 2014 by the world’s leading authority, the Royal Yachting Association – has taught more than 700 children to swim. The change in the kids as they grow in confidence thanks to their new skills has been “dramatic”.

    “There was some concern when we started out about whether they’d just see it as an excuse to hang out and present discipline problems,” Elizabeth continues, “but they’re so keen to sail it hasn’t been a problem at all. We’re trying to show them just how many opportunities there are in the yachting industry, whether it’s competitive, recreational or cruising. A basic deckhand can earn US$120 a week with no living expenses to worry about. From there you can work your way up to be a bosun, an engineer, a first mate, a captain. In Antigua, we have a huge and ever growing industry and the way into it is to learn to sail.”

    Elizabeth’s passion is palpable in her rapport with the students. Her no-nonsense demeanour, with the tiniest suggestion of disciplinary action for non-compliance, is offset by a natural warmth. “The kids we can help the most are not necessarily the ones on the higher academic plane. The National Technical Training Centre pupils for example are practically minded and can benefit hugely from this. If a child is interested it comes easily and they work hard at it. Sailing is still largely male-dominated; out of maybe 100 boats at the boat show it’s a record if there are three female captains. I call it ‘the glass fibre ceiling’. I always encourage the girls. I tell them I’m a girl sailor and often girls are better; they think about it more and tend to work better as a team. Boys just want to go fast.”

    AR1 0383webTogether with its Jolly Harbour satellite branch, the NSA can hold 90-minute classes for 200 youngsters each week. The addition of sailing and swimming onto the list of national sports allows them to be included in every school’s curriculum. Children can start as young as eight with most able to manage their own dinghy within a term. The use of life-jackets is mandatory and all instructors are qualified first-aiders. “The kids are taught the rules of the water, the need to concentrate at all times and not to panic. The wind can change in an instant and you’re upside down. Part of the training is to make them overturn their boats so they’re prepared when it happens.”

    All Saints Secondary School pals Ryan Tong and Andrew Warner, both 13, have been sailing for three years. For Ryan, the buzz of hiking – leaning one’s weight over the side of the boat to balance it while travelling at speed – is the best part. “When I’m older I’d like to be a captain and sail to America and St Vincent,” he says. Andrew agrees, adding: “I tell my friends they should come and learn how to sail too.”

    Of all the NSA’s proud achievements, the board had one more to celebrate last spring when it became the only training centre in the Caribbean accredited for the RYA’s ‘Sailability’ scheme for the disabled. This season they hope to help 30 mentally and physically handicapped people each week experience the exhilaration of the sport in specially-adapted non-capsizable vessels. “There are no other activities availably locally for disabled people,” Elizabeth says. “It’s impossible to overstate the delight sailing can bring to their lives. Many will eventually learn to sail the boats by themselves but even those who cannot will benefit from the pleasure of being out on the water and the sense of adventure that comes with it.”

    AR1 0318webThese days Elizabeth spends more time confined to her desk in what used to be the Reef Garden restaurant’s kitchen than skimming the ocean waves. Flanked between folders of paperwork, gleaming trophies and displays of complicated-looking knots, she reveals her one definitive wish for the academy’s future. “To go beyond me, to be sustainable for generations to come. Within five years the plan is to have Antiguans running the whole thing. It’s the National academy after all,” she says, emphasising the capital N.

    Before we finish our chat, I have one more question for her. “What do I love most about sailing? The freedom,” she states resolutely, running her fingers through her hair in subconscious tribute to the wind. “The feeling of being where you want, when you want, with who you want, with no cell phone or computer in front of you. And the challenge against the wind, sea and weather. It’s exciting. There’s nothing else like it.”

    by Gemma Handy

    Visit for more information on the NSA’s activities or how you can help.


  • Luxury Locations named third best in world


    ABOVE: Smiles all round as Luxury Locations founder Nadia Dyson accepts the awards from OPP chiefs


    Luxury Locations named third best in world

    Competitive, cut-throat and precarious are all adjectives commonly applied to the real estate industry. Which makes Luxury Locations’ recent feat all the more remarkable. We have just fought off challengers across the globe to be named the best agency in the region – and third best in the world – at the prestigious OPP Awards for Excellence.

    Luxury Locations claimed bronze in the ‘world’s best small agency’ category and gold for ‘best agency in Central America’ - less than five years after setting up business. The Overseas Property Professionals Awards are held each year to honour the finest agents and developers in 34 categories. The glittering ceremony took place on November 28 at London’s Natural History Museum, attended by 450 of the sector’s biggest hitters from more than 20 different countries. The win is not just a feather in the cap for Luxury Locations but also puts Antigua & Barbuda firmly on the map as a major player in the international real estate sector.

    The agency’s founder Nadia Dyson said: “Receiving these awards is a huge honour – particularly at a time when our industry is still recovering from unprecedented global challenges. “We are delighted to receive recognition at the highest level for the incredible efforts of our talented team. Since our launch in May 2009, we have risen to become a local market leader, today representing some of the country’s most exclusive addresses. “Over the last six months we have seen a welcome surge in large scale developments here in Antigua, plus more sales enquiries than the last five years combined. It’s proof indeed that investor confidence in our islands is well and truly on the up and we can all look forward to continued growth.”

    An OPP spokeswoman said Luxury Locations had impressed the judges as an “earnest small agency working hard at building their reputation” in an esoteric market. “We were most impressed by their methodology for ensuring consistent quality and service,” she added.

    Luxury Locations’ CEO Sam Dyson said: “We are very passionate about our work and always looking to go the extra mile for all our clients. “Because we are a small firm we’re able to maintain close contact with our clients to get a real understanding of their needs and requirements. Our unique and innovative marketing strategy has proven to be exceptionally effective over the last year,” he added. Launched in 2004, OPP is the only dedicated trade magazine and website for the international homes industry.

    The awards are judged each year by a panel of leading experts. OPP Group CEO Xavier Wiggins described 2013’s event as a “huge success”, celebrating not only the achievements of the best in the industry but also the surge of confidence in the future of real estate.

    Here’s how our news has been received across the region:

  • Justin Nation

    Putting the Nation on the musical map

    Justin 'Jus Bus' Nation talks motivation, inspiration and the pain and gain of a musical life in a micro-society



    Photo by Anderson Andrew

    If the name 'Jus Bus' is not instantly recognisable as the moniker of an avant-garde music producer and songwriter, then watch this space. The self-taught talent, now hard at work on his debut album, is causing bigger waves than a category five hurricane. At the age of 30, he's already worked with a multitude of greats from Jamaican reggae stars Jah Cure and Tanya Stephens to US heavy-hitters Snoop Dogg and Bobby Brown. Here the publicity-shy Texan-born, Antiguan-raised artist chats exclusively to Luxury Locations The Magazine.

    What did you want to be as a child?
    "I had no clue. I was never one of those children that stood up in class and said 'I wanna be a fireman or a dentist'. "I went through all sorts of ways to express myself, including break-dancing, before I got to where I am now. But let me tell you the day I figured out I could make music I knew exactly what I wanted to do."

    What music did you grow up listening to?
    “As a child I was listening to Stevie Nicks, Journey, Styxx, Red Ryder, Ambrosia, Jackson Browne, Quarterflash, Pat Benatar, Rosemary Butler, Linda Ronstadt, Michael Jackson, Santana, The Eagles, Madonna etc. And lots of classic rock stuff; that might be why I lean towards that genre when singing because I was listening to it on a subconscious level as an infant through my mother who loved music.

    “I am also heavily influenced by Nina Simone who is one of my all time favourite artists, and a lot of classic reggae, hip-hop and rap material. Good music is good music. I dabbled in all genres growing up.”

    How did you get into music?
    "I always loved music. I'm friends with a producer from St Kitts by the name of Jevon, aka Smiff, and he showed me how to make a beat one day with the software he used at the time. After that it was a wrap.

    "I kept fiddling and pushing and clicking until I got the hang of it, day by day, night by night, hours on top of endless hours of constant practice. Over a number of years of pretty much living a gypsy life, in and out of different studios and creative establishments, with the encouragement of a few friends, I taught myself piano, graphic design, photography and song writing.

    "I am now singing and have been working on my own material for the last three years with the help of Torsten Stenzel (Antiguan-based veteran composer and producer) who helped me find my voice as an artist."

    What are you working on right now?
    “At the moment I'm working on several projects. I'm finishing up some work with 'Them Island Boyz' which includes some Antiguan artists - LogiQ Pryce, Drastic and Tha Shya. I'm also working on a few singles for Jah Cure’s new project as well.“I recently dropped an instrumental mix tape called ‘Popcorn & Water: Instrumental Visions’ which features unreleased production work I have done on an exclusively instrumental level. Apart from that I've been finishing up my debut album project with Torsten Stenzel which will feature me more vocally.”

    What inspires you?
    "Everything. Life’s ups and downs, highs and lows, nature, people, culture and my surroundings. Just life in general."

    How would you describe Antigua’s music scene in three adjectives?
    "Seasonal, frustrating and segregated. And, on the flipside, creative, fun and diverse. Two perspectives, six adjectives."

    Any advice for young musicians just starting out?
    "Yeh. Put your seatbelt on; this race is not for the swift but for those who can endure. It's a long journey filled with disappointment but it’s also filled with lots of great opportunity if you work hard. "Patience, persistence, dedication, hard work, understanding and empathy can all help to make you not only a better person but ultimately a better artist and musician."

    How can we ensure young up-and-coming artists get the attention and resources they deserve?
    "By supporting them, spreading the word and encouraging them to be great. It’s also up to the artists to not settle for mediocrity in their work and put in the hours so that when they showcase their work it’s undeniable and can make an impact on people and inspire them. "If people can connect with it then it will spread on its own. It’s a process, things don’t happen overnight and you just have to keep going at it and believing in whatever it is you strive to be."

    What are the pros and cons to producing music on a small island?
    "There is so much beauty within this island’s people and culture that can be useful when trying to be creative and inspire yourself. Sometimes my friends and I take hikes up into the hills or to a beach just to jam out with acoustic instruments and tap into our surroundings that way. "Some of the cons are, you’re isolated to the 108 square miles and your opportunities are slim unless you network outside the country, online and build solid relationships over time. "I also feel like the government doesn't really support artists on a large level. The industry here is still pretty boxed up into one genre of music, at one time of the year. But year-round there are loads of young musicians, writers and creative types actively working at all sorts of genres of music, poetry and art.

    "I think that if we help to support this type of creative behaviour, musically and artistically, our culture in the music and arts sector can evolve greatly. A lot of people get discouraged because from a young age they are being told that they can’t succeed at their dream because it’s not the normal doctor or dentist stereotypical job that their parents see fit for sustainable income. "If the government and more people took it seriously and equally took risks and chances then an infrastructure could be made for year-round arts and music on a more realistic economic level for people - instead of this fairytale, 'movie star' illusion that’s being fed to young kids through TV and internet."

    How has social media changed the dynamics for musicians?
    "Social media allows the independent artist who has no budget to broadcast and stream their music to the world at the touch of a button, free of cost, which is a great tool if used the right way.

    "The downside is that you can easily get distracted in the many different mediums available, not to mention all the content shared on the internet. You can get lost for hours just looking at stupid memes and YouYube videos.
    "The fact there are so many social media and instant messaging applications results in you having to constantly be on your Smartphones and electronic devices which results in you becoming addicted through habit and you don't even realise how it affects your ability to self-reflect, feel emotions and have a healthy attention span.

    "It can also affect the younger generation’s perspective on what's really important as an artist or musician. So many different illusions are being created for them on wealth, fame, grandeur that they get attached to that idea, so instead of becoming great individuals who can inspire each other to be better human beings, they mimic what they see on TV, on the internet and social media, which affects their development on a very negative level. "My advice – don’t be a zombie, get out, experience life and strive for better."

    Out of all your creative outlets (graphic design, photography, songwriting and producing music), which could you least live without?
    “Well I can’t live without being creative so to take any of that away limits me and I don’t wanna limit myself. I always try to challenge myself musically and creatively and I don’t settle for mediocrity. This can be achievable from a small island such as ours or any other island for that matter if you work hard, no matter your circumstances or financial status.

    “I want whatever I do to truly affect people on a positive level. In a nutshell, all I wanna do is inspire people globally with my art and music.”

    What did you get nominated for a Grammy for?
    “Well it was Snoop Lion who got nominated for best reggae album [for ‘Reincarnated’]. By default everybody involved in the project was a part of that nomination which was pretty exciting because I produced a record on the album with Supa Dups and Diplo. The record featured Collie Buddz and the song had a video that got over three million views in less than four months.

    “We didn’t win which didn’t bother me ‘cause my objectives aren’t to win awards but to inspire the masses globally through my crafts. That said, I am grateful to be a part of a Grammy-nominated album.”

    What is the last book you read?
    “The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran.

    If you won $20 million in the lottery, what would you do with the money?
    “I don’t gamble or play so no chance of me winning that. But let’s say I found a winning Lotto ticket and won that much money, I would keep two million of it to help start a foundation for myself and give the rest to charities here on island and in other areas of the world.”

    What question do you most dislike being asked during interviews?
    “Ha. Didn’t have one until you asked that.”

    What’s your biggest regret and proudest achievement?
    "I don't have any regrets; life is a journey and I believe everything happens for a reason. As for my proudest achievement, I would have to say just being alive and being able to express my creativity in so many ways now, considering my odds growing up."

    by Gemma Handy

  • Chefs 2U

    Tribute to a talent

    All of us at Luxury Locations would like to pass on our heartfelt sympathy to the family of Chefs 2 U founder Calvin Francis who died on July 19. Calvin was a long-standing client of ours who will be sadly missed.

    The popular and award-winning cuisinier was just 42 when he was taken ill at work at his Mount St John’s Medical Centre-based restaurant. Calvin has been widely described as a warm, humble and loving gentleman whose contribution to the local catering industry was pioneering and unrivalled. The current edition of our magazine – which includes a feature about Calvin’s business – went to print before his passing. It can be read here:

    Moveable feast
    Private chefs make dining a piece of cake

    food2Preparing to host a dinner party is not only challenging and time-consuming, one study revealed most of us find it more nerve-wracking than attending a job interview. From devising dishes to suit diverse palates, to synchronising cooking times and ensuring the soufflé is a specimen of celestial splendour, the most innocuous-seeming event can suddenly seem like a herculean task.

    And all that’s before you’ve had time to set the table and transform yourself into a vision of unruffled elegance.

    So if you’re unconvinced you can knock up a dumpling like Delia Smith or flambé like Fanny Craddock, despair no more. Whether a corporate function or intimate soiree, a wedding or a plain old ‘can’t-be-bothered-to-cook-day’, Chefs 2 U takes the fuss out of food with its bespoke private chef service.
    Award-winning cuisinier and company founder Calvin Francis discovered the local niche during Antigua Sailing Week 2012.

    “Most of the big yachts have their own chefs on board but we found many wanted to try local food, so we ended up catering for some of them. Then we realised there were a lot of private villa residents on island who wanted that service too,” he says.

    “We offer the full package; we come to the villa, and prepare and serve the meal. We can do breakfast, lunch, dinner, kids’ meals, whatever they want.”
    Clients are sent a sample menu, featuring a wide range of Antiguan and international fare, to tempt the tastebuds before Calvin pays a personal visit to design an individually tailored feast.

    His passion for his work is clear. “It’s the personal aspect of it I like the most,” he continues, “I enjoy meeting with the clients, getting to know them and creating dishes I know they’re going to love.”

    One of his signatures is Antiguan staple, fungee – a thick cornmeal paste – with curried conch. Together they forge a wonderfully nutritious meal of wholly local ingredients, gently spiced with turmeric, coriander and cumin.

    In fact 90 per cent of all ingredients Chefs 2 U uses are sourced locally, many from St John’s Market. “Most of it’s organic and it’s as fresh as it gets,” Calvin says. “People tend to think Caribbean food is very spicy but it’s not, it all depends on the chef. Antiguan food in particular has a lot of heart in it. We take our time to cook it - and enjoy it!”

    It’s now 11 years since the talented homegrown chef set up his thriving firm. After completing a two-year training course at the island’s Hospitality Training Institute, it was during a six-year stint as a sous chef at the exclusive Jumby Bay resort that his career took a sudden and unexpected turn.
    “I was cooking a private dinner for a homeowner… I think it was rack of lamb,” he recalls with a smile. “He liked it so much he asked me to come to Ohio, California, to work in his restaurant.” Calvin didn’t think twice.

    food1“I was surprised but I took the chance. I never expected my career would change like that. I got the chance to do a lot of wine pairings and later moved to a winery in San Diego. I lived there for 10 years and went to culinary school in California before moving back home in 2003.”

    That was when Calvin spotted his first niche – hospital food. That may be something of an international joke but in Antigua it’s no laughing matter. The Heartbeat Café at Mount St John’s Medical Centre, manned by the firm’s 32-strong workforce, serves up a mouthwatering menu of delectable comestibles day and night, seven days a week, to patients and passersby alike.

    It wasn’t long before the firm branched out into catering for weddings and functions. Today, it provides a diverse array of services from stocking the pantries of private properties, to cooking lessons and culinary tours. “We’ve had a huge amount of positive feedback since we started the private chef service two seasons ago. At the last house we cooked for, they asked if they could take the chef home with them,” he laughs. But with a booming business and a solid reputation as an expert outlet with delicious and reasonably priced fare, this time Calvin was staying put.

    He adds with a grin: “I politely told them we’d still be here next time they came back."

  • The wonders of coconut water

    The wonders of coconut water

    They say the groundwork of all happiness is health. And one of the best ways to boost both physical and emotional wellbeing has its roots in one of Antigua & Barbuda’s most celebrated icons.

    Bursting with nutrients and minerals – and with more hydration power than ordinary drinking water – coconut water is lauded worldwide for its unsurpassable qualities. And the best news? It’s free of charge thanks to the islands’ abundant palm trees.

    Coconut Water2Coffee and energy drinks contain high levels of caffeine which can cause anxiety, irritability, insomnia, headaches and abnormal heart rhythms. At just 50 calories a cup, coconut water offers an enormous energy boost, the natural way. Because of its exceptional hydration properties, it is especially recommended for people living in warm climes, or who do a lot of physical work, plus anyone dehydrated through sickness.

    Did you know, the contents of natural coconut water are identical to human plasma? During the Pacific War, it was used for life-saving IVs and plasma transfusions. It continues to be used as a ‘universal donor’ today in countries with limited access to medical aid. Coconut water is rich in dietary fibre, enzymes, vitamin C, minerals and amino acids – but low in calories and cholesterol.

    By applying it directly onto the skin, this terrific tonic has even been credited with reducing acne, visible signs of ageing, stretch marks, cellulite and eczema. Drinking coconut water also boosts the immune system and fights symptoms of the common cold and flu. And it’s completely safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women, and small children.

    So what are you waiting for? In our tropical heat, coconut water is a great alternative to all the chemical soft drinks out there. It will keep you cool, energised and hydrated all day long - while making you healthier at the same time.

    Coconut water is widely available from roadside stalls across our twin islands.

  • Face to face with Ricardo Drue

    Face to face with Ricardo Drue

    ricardo 5It’s not a good sign for soca music when merely typing the word results in the dogged appearance of a red squiggly line and a handful of ‘helpful’ alternative spelling suggestions. Regardless of whether or not we should credit Microsoft Word with the weighty status of a barometer of societal significance, one thing is for sure: If anyone can drag the uptempo genre into the global mainstream it’s Ricardo Drue. The 28-year-old Antiguan-born, Orlando-based performer is one of its most prolific trailblazers. An amalgam of soul and calypso, soca has everything to do with breakneck percussion, frenetic rhythms and some rather risqué dance moves. And nothing to do with soda. Or socks.

    Did you always want to be a performer?
    Ever since I was a little kid. I would take other people’s songs, keep the melody and change the words. Then I’d say ‘hey mom, I’ve written a song’ (laughs). Later I started getting random melodies coming into my head. My inspiration comes from different moods, different things I have gone through in the past, sometimes just being on the road for Carnival, and also from my kids (three boys aged seven, five and three).

    What’s the best part of being on stage?
    For that hour you’re up there you get to encourage, inspire and command – everything people want to do on a daily basis. Carnival 2014, for me, was the best carnival ever in terms of reception from the people, reception for the music and the vibes in general.

    What’s been the proudest moment of your musical career so far?
    Winning Soca Monarch for the first time (Carnival 2014). I’m still in shock. I keep having dreams where I am due to perform the next day and feel really anxious! I am definitely a perfectionist; I am told I need to focus more on my performance, not on what’s going on behind me with the band and dancers, but I can’t help myself.

    What’s your favourite song to perform?
    It always used to be ‘Socaholic’. Right now it’s ‘Vagabond’. I actually expected ‘Vagabond’ to win Soca Monarch, I won’t even lie. In fact, it was ‘Hide & Seek’ that won.

    How do you think soca is being perceived internationally now?
    I think there’s more awareness of it but there’s still work for us to do. People like Bunji Garlin (2013 Soul Train Awardee) and Machel Montano (Trinidian singer/songwriter) are doing well for the art form but they’re just two individuals; we need more ambassadors. I believe we have what it takes here in Antigua if we can open our eyes a little more.

    ricardo 3Who have your best musical collaborations been with?
    Bunji Garlin, Patrice Roberts, Edwin Yearwood, Dr Evil aka Leftside, and Claudette Peters. Bunji is very cool, very reserved. And an incredible freestyler! He asked me what I wanted him to say, I told him exactly what I wanted, he looked at the wall, looked back at me and came straight out with it. I can’t do that like him; I can’t even put my words on paper, I have to sing them.

    You were just a baby when you left Antigua. What was life like growing up in Trinidad?
    A little rough. I mean it was decent really, I had friends, and I didn’t want to leave at the age of 13. But I was getting into trouble and my grandfather, who lived in Florida, thought it would be a good idea for me to go there. Florida wasn’t how I thought it would be; I expected to see all the girls from the MTV videos! Later I went back to Trinidad and started my musical career there in 2009. In 2010 I made my first appearance in Antigua.

    What makes you a proud Antiguan?
    Our beaches most of all; there’s so many I haven’t even been to them all. My favourite one is a very quiet one near Dickenson Bay. And the people too; they’re just real, if they like you they like you, if they don’t they don’t - and they tell you!

    Tell us some of your favourite places to hang out on island.
    Well I’m a night person – I like Studio 79 (formerly Rush nightclub), and Last Call (Friars Hill Road). And I love Halcyon Cove Resort – I often spend two or three days there relaxing by myself. As for restaurants, when I am hungry I go anywhere! My favourite local dish is fungee with saltfish, ducana and plenty of hot sauce.

    What’s the last book you read?
    I’m not sure I can remember but the best one I’ve ever read is The Secret (by Rhonda Byrne). It had a huge effect on me. I really try not to put negative energy into the universe. It’s a very important lesson; if you want it out there, put it out there positively – or don’t put it out at all.

    Do you have an all-time favourite song?
    Probably something by Neyo. I’m going to say ‘Lazy Love’.

    Do you sing in the shower?
    Yes! Often. Anything that comes to mind really; sometimes my own stuff if I am writing it right then or preparing for a show.

    If you could switch places with anyone, living or dead, for a week, who would it be?
    Albert Einstein – just to understand his thought processes as one of the smartest men in the world, to know how he felt and what went through his mind.

    What’s your biggest regret in life so far?
    I don’t have any. There are some decisions I wish I had made sooner, but I think every decision has a consequence and every consequence teaches you a lesson. I try not to live with regrets.

    What are some of the biggest misconceptions about you?
    I have been told I look vain, arrogant and full of myself. It’s absolutely not true. I am actually one of the most reserved people you will ever meet. Not shy, more introspective. I disappear into my thoughts – a lot.

    Tell us something about you that people don’t know.
    A lot of people don’t know I have three kids. I would do anything in this world for my children, even if it meant giving up music. I like to play with them and teach them lessons. They teach me a lot too, the most important thing being that your energy, your vibe, can affect someone standing next to you. Sometimes they will say, ‘daddy are you ok, you seem sad’, and I am like, wow, you can feel that?! If they can feel it, then other people around you can too.

    What are you working on right now?
    Touring (Florida and the Caribbean) for my first album, My Time, which was released in July 2014. For 2015 I will be working on my second album, ID Nation. In the meantime, people can follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter – the keyword is ‘itsdrue’.