I recently saw a quote on Facebook. You know, one of those that is a little picture with a quote printed on it? It said “Travel is the only thing that you buy that makes you richer.” I just spent a week on a fabulous vacation. One of those that you might only get the opportunity to take every handful of years or so. And I kept trying to keep that quote in the back of my mind.
We just got back from Antigua, a tiny Caribbean nation and cluster of surrounding islands. I have always been a little hesitant to go to an all-inclusive resort since they seemed a little bit “touristy” to me. And, as a foodie, I was horrified about what I read about the food offered at the resorts–Italian bistros, American steakhouses, and so on. Are you kidding me? I didn’t just fly 2,000 miles to eat the kind of food I can get up the street at the Olive Garden!
But, I had an opportunity to get a decent deal on a package at a charity auction I as at earlier this year, and the Hubs was really wanting to try one out. His style of traveling is to just go somewhere to get away and chillax, and I want to see and do and take in the local flavor. So, off we went to Antigua It was easy to get over the antsiness I had about going to an all-inclusive when this is what the surroundings look like:
And, pretty much the whole time we were there, I was on on the hunt for authentic cultural experiences. This picture is of Long Bay Beach, a stunning public beach, around the corner and a 200-yard walk from our resort. Imagine if you never ventured outside the grounds of the resort–you’d never get to see this (It was way more beautiful than the beach at our resort, for the record!). While we were there, a group of local kids were having races on the beach, starting on the sand and swimming out to a point in the water and then back. It was really neat to see the locals enjoying a day on the beach.
At the restaurants, when local food as highlighted, I took it over the standard menu choices. We got spiny lobster, which is a Caribbean specialty on the night we ate in the upscale restaurant on the property. Also, one night the other restaurant had a local special, which as stewed goat with coconut rice. It was similar to what I got at the Jamaican restaurant that used to be Charleston, but better. If you’ve never tried goat, don’t be afraid to. It’s has a wonderful rich gamey flavor. I tried the local brand of ice cream a couple times, and it was very good (how can ice cream be bad?). Of course, we drank lots of beer from Antigua’s only brewery, Wadadli.
|spiny lobster with garlic and butter sauce|
One night, the buffett was themed Caribbean Night, so we sampled ox tail and fried plantains, roti and stewed tomatoes and spinach. I was disappointed that I didn’t get to try any authentic calalloo, since I’d tried my hand at making it earlier this summer. But I think I might try to recreate the roti. Roti is a lot like a burrito; a meat or vegetable filling wrapped in a flatbread. The term “roti” generally refers to the bread itself, but the dish is also called roti. Roti is eaten throughout southern Asia as well as the Caribbean, although it’s thought to have originated in Nepal. The defining characteristic is that bread is unleavened. We had both beef roti and vegetable roti. The filling was basically a curry filling, although it wasn’t really spicy. I think it would be easy enough to make the filling, I’m just not sure about the “roti skin” or the bread.
I realized while on this trip that when traveling, in order to get an authentic experience, you have to go and seek it out. This is true whether you stay in a sheltered resort that has limited cultural offerings, or if you stay in the heart of downtown. It’s a shame that some places don’t celebrate the local culture, and instead create an experience of what it’s thought might be familiar and comfortable to the guests. The very basic premise of traveling requires us to let down our guard and experience something that is unfamiliar. It is when we become good at doing that, that we have the very richest and unforgettable experiences.