A Travellerspoint blog

St Kitts/Nevis

St. Kitts Music Festival

This weekend, my parents came in (yay!) and I get to play tour guide. They arrived Friday night, got settled, and then I took them out. The first stop was happy hour at Cloud 9, which was a little weak as half the club was closed as they expected everybody to be at Music Fest instead of going clubbing. Next, we went to the top of Timothy Hill to see the view.

For dinner, we went to Spice Mill at the end of the peninsula because I remembered having good pizza there and eating on the beach. However, apparently Spice Mill is fancier than that on Friday nights. The waitress looked mortified that I asked about sitting on the beach and eating pizza. We sat “inside,” which just means that there was a roof over our head- the walls are open. We ordered regular food off of the menu. Of course, in true Kittitian style, they didn't have what I ordered. They brought me some fish instead and when I said that I know I didn't order fish, they got all apologetic as somebody else had replaced the missing meal with fish. They offered me a free drink as I waited for my replacement and apologized over and over. Really, I'm used to it, so it was no big deal. I had already had the bread they bring out (good) and split a Ceasar salad (a little bland). Plus the meal they brought me sounded better than the meal I originally ordered and probably tasted better to. (I ended up with a squash risotto that was very creamy and delicious.) We weren't in a rush to get anywhere. We were just enjoying the calmness of the ocean breeze. The only thing we weren't enjoying was getting bitten by mosquitos. I hadn't had a new bite in quite some time and figured that mossie season was over. Nope. I had several new bites after dinner.

Saturday morning, while my dad slept in, my mom and I went to the Saturday market. I was able to show her a soursop, breadfruit, wax apples, cinnamon in the raw (full bark pieces, not like what you get in a little bottle in the states), dasheen (aka taro), carambola (aka star fruit, 5 finger), passionfruit, and a bunch of other exotic edibles that the various vendors were selling. We picked up several of them and headed back. On the way back, we stopped at Palm Court Gardens, some gardens near my house. Palm Court has some very pretty plants, a restaurant, a pool that overlooks right into the ocean, and an artists' workshop area. Apparently, you can rent any part of it out, get a day pass to the pool, or buy the artists' work at the souvenir shop. The proceeds from any of the activities go to local charities and provide benefits to the community. I thought that was pretty cool. I also really liked the art in the gift shop. I have some weddings coming up and there's a good chance some people are going to get unique, hand-made items from Palm Court as presents. Once my dad got up, we stopped in town to grab a quick snack from Rituals and then headed out. We did a drive around the island, first stopping at Caribelle Batik/Romney manor (previously reviewed here) and the nearby Wingfield Estate. Wingfield is a 17th century sugar mill that is in ruins now and undergoing archaeological discovery. It was neat to see the big bowls that the workers used to boil the cane juice down to sugar. It took less than 15 minutes to walk around, but it was fun. Next up was Brimstone Hill Fortress. There were more people there this time than the last time I was there, but it was still pretty empty. As I had already seen the main fortress and museum area, I probably should have gone hiking to one of the more remote parts of the fort while my parents saw the main part, but I was enjoying my time with them and was totally fine with seeing the view again.

The next part was an adventure. We went looking for Black Rocks. I had been there, but not while I was driving. I went down some tiny side road that I thought took us to Black Rocks, but it turned from pavement into dirt and my parents decided that this couldn't be it since this is a tourist spot. We turned the car around and kept going. We went down the road and finally asked somebody for directions. We got “go back to the last town and you'll see a sign.” We went back and didn't see a sign. We asked again. Finally, we saw the “sign.” It is a small hand-written board that is blocked on one side by the telephone pole that it is hung on. The other side is visible, but you have to know what you're looking for. We went down the dirt road to Black Rocks only to realize that the original paved road we were on that turned to dirt would also have gotten us there. We enjoyed the view for a while, and then kept moving.

For dinner, we went to Ballahoo on the circus because I heard from somebody who previously lived down here that it was one of his favorite places and I hadn't been there yet. We got a table right up on the railing, which meant that we overlooked the circus directly and had a good view of the town. As I'm typing this, I'm beginning to realize that most of what the island has to offer my parents consists of nice views. Nice views of the sea, nice views of the mountains, nice views of the town, just a lot of nice views. Of course, they come with a sea breeze, nice temperatures, and a relaxing vibe.

We had a chill dinner, and although the food was good, I didn't feel that it was so outstanding as to be a favorite. The dessert was good too, and thankfully the waiter didn't put a candle in the cake like my mom wanted him to for my birthday. He did, however, offer us shots to celebrate.

After dinner, we walked right up the street to Warner Park, the cricket stadium. Warner Park was hosting Music Fest 2012- the sweet 16 year of the festival. Saturday night is “lovers' night” and so they had a nice lineup of calmer acts. (Thursday was mostly local bands for “walkup night” and Friday was reggae night featuring one of the Marley kids.) When we arrived, there was a Caribbean jazz band playing all sorts of smooth jazz songs with standard instruments and steel pan drums. The music was good. For me though, it's the type of music I put on the fall asleep, so I wasn't exactly the liveliest fan. Next, they had about 20 minutes of commercials as they changed over for the lady we were there to see... Roberta Flack! We were really excited for her, but she was not that great. It's a concert, so people were singing along, and she shushed the crowd, saying “it's my turn now.” Later, she asked the crowd to sing something that they really weren't into and was berating them (and not in a joking way) to try to get us to sing. Also, her voice has really declined to the point where she really shouldn't be doing concerts, or at least needs to be very selective about what she tries to sing during them. She's a little old to be moving around the stage, so she wasn't that much. All in all, it was kind of bad. Of course, she was followed by another 20 minutes of the same commercials as before. I fell asleep at the concert. I awoke from my doze to Toni Braxton, though. She was really good. She was into her music, got the crown all riled up, and was very obviously having a great time. So, my parents decided we should go down from the covered stadium seating and walk around the grassy festival grounds closer to the stage. As soon as we got out of the seating area and down to the grass, I noticed that it felt like there were rain drops. By the time I looked at the sky, the torrent had begun. I threw up my umbrella and most of the crowd ran for the cover of the vendor tents. We hung out there in the pouring rain, still enjoying the music for a while, until the power started blipping. One second, you could hear Toni, the next, just the instruments as they would carry without speakers. Then, you could hear again. Welcome to St. Kitts and sudden storms. Eventually, the rain subsided and we decided to take our soaked selves back to the car. Even though Omarion was up next, it was after midnight, which is late for my parents and I think they'd had enough.

Music Festival

Music Festival


Palm Court Gardens

Palm Court Gardens


Palm Court Pool

Palm Court Pool


Black Rocks

Black Rocks


View at Spice Mill

View at Spice Mill


View at Ballahoo

View at Ballahoo


Wingfield Estate

Wingfield Estate

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To Dieppe Bay

Thursday, there was a fundraiser at the Marriott that benefitted two local charities- Ade's place, for special-needs people and a breast cancer charity. The fundraiser was “work out for charity.” I had actually never been out back of the Marriott before, so it was kind of cool to get there early and go walk around to see what they had. They have a lot of pools. Also, they have a pizza place whose aroma was all over the area. It was a bit distracting to workout to the smell of pizza. I had a good time at the fundraiser. It started out with the upbeat music and tae-bo style aerobics I'm used to because the first instructor up was from the gym I usually go to (No Limit Fitness in Frigate Bay). Elston (the instructor) was into it and had the whole crowd having a great time. It felt like we were at a big party and happened to be all doing the same moves. The next people were really bad though. They were basically doing squats and lunges that happened to have music in the background. They didn't even always keep beat with the music. While I definitely felt the burn, if that was how my gym was, I'd never go back because it was really boring. Furthermore, the instructors looked like they were making up what moves to do next as we went along. Really, how many different ways can we squat? Fortunately, the event organizers saw that a lot of people weren't really into this style, and sent up the third instructor. This instructor was borrowing the upbeat music from No Limit Fitness. It was better than the guys before, but he wasn't getting into it the way Elston does. As a result, Elston kind of took over and upstaged the other guy. I felt bad for the other guy, but Elston had the crowd going. Everybody was laughing, dancing, and really into the moves. This is what I go back to the gym every day for. Once we had cooled down, they had a raffle. There were actually a lot of prizes compared to tickets bought and I even won a free bingo night at the Marriott.

Friday night, my friends decided that we were going to happy hour at Cloud 9, which is 4:30-5:30. They decided we'd stay till 8 at the latest. We got there shortly before 5:30 and the place was pretty empty. We basically had the whole dance floor to ourselves, which was quite enjoyable. We danced and had a good time. At some point, we left to get something from somebody's house and then get some KFC as it was around 10 and we hadn't had dinner. Surprisingly, KFC was packed, even with little children at that time of night. We kept dancing until the club was too full of people and the dancing was getting pretty raunchy. Then, we headed over to the strip and partied there for a while at the bar that the Grandmasters were playing at. Sunday, there was a party at Dieppe Bay (all the way on the west side of the island) to kick off Music Festival. The party started at “1pm” which meant that when we arrived close to 2:30, the bands were just getting there and starting to set up. We walked around the beach area for quite some time and then got back to the party, which was just getting started, even at 5.

I had stuff to do, so we left to grab some food and go home. We stopped at this little hole-in-the-wall place nearby called Coopers. (You can see it from the main road.) It was actually very good. The macaroni pie was delicious and I was very happy with everything else I got (including plantains, yum!). I recommend that place and I'd go there again.

One thing that amazes me is that Manishewitz is so popular here. I saw it in the grocery store and didn't think much of it, but when I saw it at Coopers, I had to ask. Apparently, that's a standard wine here. The other thing I'm surprised is so popular is the Hamster Dance. I'm pretty sure nobody in the states has played that since the 90s, but I hear it all of the time here.

Dieppe Bay

Dieppe Bay


Diseased Palms

Diseased Palms


Sea Grapes

Sea Grapes

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Every day is just another day in paradise

So, I'm starting to feel like more of a local than a visiting tourist. For example, I didn't just go grocery shopping on any convenient day this week, I waited until Thursday. Why? The boats of fresh vegetables from elsewhere come in on Thursday, so that's the day to go shopping for the best produce you're going to get a store. It may have taken me months to figure this out, but I'm good now. Also, I had to do my first on-island buying trip. Usually, I've been able to get whatever stuff I need in the states and just bring it back with me in my suitcase. However, I didn't really plan on having to go somewhere nice. I got invited to a party on a boat where the dress code was “leisure suit,” whatever that means. I have some reasonable clothes, but my only non-sneakers or work shoes are flip flops, and my younger pair is 9 years old. I spent Friday afternoon scouting the limited shopping selection for nice shoes to wear. There are a bunch of little shops that carry a pair or two, but there are really 2 places to go for some selection. One is Karibhana's and the other is Polo Company, both by the circus.

As I have double-narrow feet, I struggle to get shoes in the US, and it was no easier in St. Kitts. I ran into some girls from work who helped me pick out shoes. They ultimately decided on a pair of black plastic sandals because they were nicer than the faux-leather black sandals. I completely disagree as the ones I got were made of a material that reminded me of the jellies I had as a kid, but I trust their judgement in terms of what would be perceived as “nicer” in St. Kitts.

I wore my new shoes to a party Saturday night on the Freewinds, a boat that was docked in town. I arrived on time, thinking we were going on a dinner cruise. Nope. We were just using the boat as a ballroom. The food was ok, although they didn't share the menu until after we were done eating and when I went up to the buffet, I could never find a staff member to tell me what was what, so I didn't eat that much. The boat itself is rather nice. It is well-kept. The evening was some sort of gala for the Chamber of Industry and Commerce, so food was followed by several speeches. One of the speeches was given by the Prime Minister. I think that if I had known that I was having dinner with the Prime Minister, I may have made an effort to go talk to him, but I didn't know until after. Oh well. There was also an interesting speech about what the Caricom zone can learn from what's going on right now in the Euro zone. Floowing the speeches, they had a band play and a local singer sing. They were good and I expected people to start to get up and dance (as it was fancy party dance-style music), but everybody just sat there watching. I was hungry and was finding it difficult to sit still in my seat, so I rolled. By the time I left, it was around 10pm, which is not an ideal time to go food hunting in St. Kitts. I called up a friend and he took me to some out-of-the-way podunk stand where some lady still had a few veggie patties and fish left. She also had passionfruit juice which was delicious. I'm not sure I could find that place again. I truly feel blessed to be shown these types of places as they are not places tourists get to see, and I bet that most of the expats here don't every get to any place like this either. I'm not really sure how you'd even go about stumbling upon it unless you were intentionally trying to and looking for an adventure.

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Green Valley Festival

This weekend was a long weekend, so I wasn't too worried about sleep- yet. Sunday, I got invited to a beach party with some friends. They go to the beach to find a spot in the woods to lime. Nobody went in/near the water. In the woods, they set up a fire to cook a pot of chicken and rice; a truck running 120 to a full stereo system, amp, mic and all; a table to play dominoes on; and a tarp to nap on. When I got there in the afternoon, nobody was napping. Most people were just chilling or playing dominoes, which I partook in. It was a pretty calm party, but I met some cool people. After, I grabbed a quick nap, and then was off to the real fun. Around 10:30 pm, I headed over to the Cayon area and met up with one of my girl friends. As she introduced me to her friends I felt like I was in a St. Kitts version of Snow White. She was the only other female with a crew of 7 guys, each of whom had dwarf a name like Smiley, Funky, or Dude. We went to the Green Valley Pub, which is where the action was at. The Pub is not at all what I think of when I think of a pub. There is a little room out front, about 10ft by 15 ft that reminds me of a pub, but with seating for 4. The rest of the place is definitely a night club. Ironically, they had a DJ there until about 2am, and not a lot of people were dancing. the few who were, weren't really on the dance floor. Some of what the DJ was playing was "regular music," some was US pop music, and some was some weird stuff. Most of it was good for dancing, so I didn't really understand. At about 2, the band came on. At that point, everybody hit the floor. The band is local- the Grandmasters- and they're pretty good. I danced with my friends literally all night and into the morning. The sun came up and everybody was still dancing. At this point, I was both exhausted and excited. Whit Monday is jouvert day (here, pronounced joo-vay). I had a friend get me into his troupe, meaning I got a t-shirt, got to get all painted up, and got drinks at the troupe's tent. Basically, there is a big tractor that drags around a 2-story "float" that carries the band, just like there was on May Day/Labour Day. The band blasts music all morning as they are dragged around town in a big square. (This band knew about 5 songs and kept playing them over and over.) Everybody comes out into the street and jams. For a block ahead and behind of the band float, the streets are crammed with people dancing. It's a little difficult to move, so the whole procession moves at a pace of around 20 feet per minute. We spent hours going up the hill, over, down the hill, across the ocean side of town, back up the hill and repeat. It was so much fun. Everybody was in a great mood. To the extent that some people were drunk and rowdy, there were cops in the mashup of people to put an end to it right away. Most of the wilder people were in front of the float, which is where I was most of the morning. A lot of families with small kids were towards the back of the float. I got to dance with a lot of ladies from work, a lot of random people, and a bunch of my friends. However, the non-stop dancing since the night before did start to wear on me. At some point a little before noon, my legs were ready to give way. I was dehydrated even though I had gone through a couple bottles of water and had splashed some water from the fountains on myself. I threw in the towel before the wet I was promised. Supposedly, some time after I left, the fire department turns on water and sprays (nicely) the whole crowd. Actually, the reason I have no pictures of my own is that I didn't want to ruin my camera in the water. As soon as I got home, I passed out for a good 2 hours. After the nap and a shower (where I apparently didn't even get all of the paint washed off) I debated going back for the afternoon parade, but knew that if I went, I'd be partying all night again with my friends. I wasn't sure that my sore legs could take it and I didn't think that work on Tuesday would be so easy after 2 nights of partying and no sleep. Plus, the sun had taken a toll on me as well. I regret not going back, at least for a little, but I also probably made the right decision for my health.

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The start of a holiday weekend

Friday night, I saw MIB3 in 3D in the theater here. It was the first show I'd seen there. Honestly, it's like a regular movie theater in the states. There were average-type seats, a regular-sized screen, and a normal sound system. It was nicely air conditioned- I was glad I wore pants, I wouldn't have been upset to be wearing long sleeves. After the movie, we got soft-serve ice cream at the place right next to the theater. It was very watered down and didn't have a strong flavor.

Next, we ended up driving the road that goes around the island. Technically, we were trying to get to black rocks and passed it because it's hard to find in the dark. Regardless of our intentions, I was running low on gas by the time we got back. Fortunately, there is at least one gas station that is open late. After 11pm, you get to pump yourself, which is something I miss, so I was happy about that. Also, this one appeared to take credit cards, which none of the others I've been to do. (Caution- I didn't actually try a card because I was already prepared with cash, but they did have a sign for it.)

Finally, we ended up by the strip, just chilling. I got home pretty late, which seems to be the standard way to do Friday night/ Saturday mornings here.

Of course, that didn't help me want to get up and go to water aerobics on Saturday, but I did. It was fun, but I really liked the pool for what we're doing than the ocean.

Despite being tired after not getting a lot of sleep and also working out, I didn't nap. I showered and met a friend downtown who took me over to Mission. The church in Mission was having a food-fest and Whit Monday event. I was absolutely starving, so I got some Johnny Cakes (basically deep-fried white bread dough) and conkee (you'll have to excuse my spelling). The conkee reminded me of a tamale in that it was a whole bunch of things mixed up, wrapped in an almond leaf, and steamed. I'm not totally sure what was in there, but it was good, whatever it was. It was also pretty filling. On the menu, I noticed monkey. Yes, they eat the monkeys here, just like people in the states eat deer. I didn't get that. Later, I got boiled peanuts (had the same texture as kidney beans, but the ones I got were so salty I couldn't really taste a lot of the flavor), and sand-dried peanuts (they cook them in the sand somehow, and they come out with a very popcorn-ey flavor). In addition to food, they had entertainment. There was a Maypole that some kids danced around and wove different patterns with the ribbons. There were carnival-style dancers accompanied by a drummer and a guy playing what appeared to be a glass soda bottle, but sounded like a flute. They also had a "drag show," followed by a band. The drag show was really just guys in dresses on a stage. There wasn't the glamour I usually associate with a drag show. Also, as this was a church function, the guys were mostly wearing church dresses and not anything too risque. It was a ton of fun to hoot and holler at them though. When the band was playing, and even earlier, when they just had a CD playing, there was a guy dancing to the music. He was very alone and acting a bit odd. At first I thought he was drunk, but the people I was with told me that he's crazy. Based on some of his behavior, I wonder if he was autistic. It really makes me wonder if people here recognize the signs and know what to do about it. In the US there is a big fight for acceptance and understanding right now, and I'm not sure if that is a big enough issue in St. Kitts to even make the radar at this point. What did make the radar is "men," which I found amusing. There are a lot of groups fighting for opportunities and rights for women, but not a lot focused on men. One guy had a shirt on (that I also later saw on somebody else a different day) that said "Save our men. Children need fathers too." It was definitely thought-provoking. Overall, I feel like I got a dose of culture today. I'm not quite sure how somebody who was just visiting and didn't know anybody would get find out about a festival like this, but if you're ever visiting and get invited- go.

Maypole dancers

Maypole dancers


Church Drag Show

Church Drag Show

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