I immediately recognised the white wedding gazebo on a wooden jetty extending over aqua waters. A few months prior I had watched X Factor UK with even more anticipation than usual because I knew this time I would be going to the Judge’s Houses too, albeit a little while after the X Factor crew.
The St James Club Antigua was the setting for Nicole Scherzinger’s ‘Judges Houses’ late last year. She turned up with Mary J Blige and Dermot O’Leary to listen to the girls’ auditions against a backdrop of calm clear waters and lush green mountains. That same backdrop was the one I woke up to this week.
The resort is vast – far bigger than I expected. Boasting 6 pools and 4 restaurants, it even has two beaches. My room (and the X Factor auditions) were facing the Mamora Bay; a sheltered beach that is less windy than Coco’s Beach, which faces the Atlantic Ocean. The still waters at Mamora were perfect for bathing; children were paddling and I was gearing myself up for some SUP (stand up paddling) a la Cameron Diaz – except there never quite seemed to be the time..
Because the resort has an exquisite spa. Nestled in the hills overlooking the lagoon, the outdoor massage tables at Tranquillity Spa turned out to be a little more tempting than the watersports. As the masseuse worked away on my big-bag-strained-shoulders it started to sink in that I was in the Caribbean and now would be a good time to relax.
I didn’t spend all day lying flat though, I spent my first morning in Antigua in a harness spinning and crashing through the rainforest.
Thirty minutes from the St James Club is the Antigua Rainforest Zip Line. It was my first time doing this type of activity and I was all for it, until I realised there was an element of skill involved. During a group intro session the instructor explained how zip lining should be done. The aim was to sit back in your harness, legs raised, with one arm behind you holding the wire. This hand must at all times be behind the pulley and not in front – this part was emphasised as he mimed flesh getting caught in the mechanism. If you need to break, we were told, you simply pull down on the line. Don’t grip, just pull.
Sounded easy enough. First zip in I manage to sail it in the seated position with one arm behind as instructed, except right at the end when I seemed to be approaching the trees too fast so I grip the wire behind me in fear. My shoulder yanks backwards and I bring myself to an uncomfortable stop. We have 5 more wires to zip line and, I fear, if I do them all like that I’ll be going home with the use of just one arm. So next zip in I remind myself not to grip but tug. Except my gentle tug takes my hand off the wire. Remembering the ingrained message about not to put your hand in the wrong place on the wire I wave both hands in the air in panic instead. The cord I am dangling on starts to spin. I’m flying backwards shrieking like a mad woman until I land with a crash in front of the next tree. Abi, who had glided graciously before me, is bent double in laughter. I can’t help but cackle. On all but 2 of the zips we ride that day I crash land at the end in a pool of laughter.
(Me doing it all wrong but smiling anyway)
I had the pleasure of dining with Abi, #EliteHop blogger preceding me, for two evenings. The first night we dine at the St James A La Carte Restaurant – the Piccolo Mondo – hidden in the hills near the spa. Being not quite sure of our bearings yet we flag down a golf buggy for assistance and although it was the maintenance man we had hijacked and not the resorts shuttle, he insisted on taking us anyway.
The romantic mood at Piccolo Mondo’s is set by candles and the sound of flowing water but Abi and I are too busy catching up on each other’s travels over dishes of calamari and steak to stare wistfully into each other’s eyes. My second night is Abi’s last. We spend it in the Docksider seafood restaurant enjoying the free flowing wine and ocean breeze. I had wrestled Abi for the hopathon baton earlier that evening, a member of staff kindly taking our photo as the sun set on the dock.
My time at St James is short but allows me to take in two striking sunsets. As Abi departs for London I must hop on…. to a little island called Palm in St Vincent and the Grenadines…
To be continued!
For more information on St James Club & Villas Antigua click here.
The Antigua Zip Line experience can get very busy on the days that the cruise ships are in town. The resort can book you tickets and transfers in advance. Doing 6 zips instead of the full 12 means you will go first and avoid the queues/cut down on waiting time.