Today was a loooong day. My friend only had one short class in the morning, so we rented a car and drove all around the island. I wanted to do most of the touristy things on the island in one day, so we started out driving past her school and stopped for lunch at Nirvana / Fairview Great House. This place had a restaurant on site (we were the only customers there, but the food came out fresh and delicious), with gorgeous views overlooking the Caribbean.
I think my favorite food from the entire trip was at the Nirvana restaurant. We each ordered a few small appetizers, and I had a fresh mango martini at my friend’s recommendation (she was driving, so she stuck with water). The best part of the meal, by far, was the Jerk Chicken Wings. Now, I’m a huge fan of buffalo/hot wings – bite size bits of delicious spiciness. But these rivaled even my favorite hot wings. They were a dry sort of wing – covered in herbs and spices rather than a wet sauce.
I only offered to share them with my friend reluctantly – and I was relieved when she said I could eat them all! It was all I could think about (food-wise) for the next several days, and even after I got back to the states. I tried a few Jerk sauces once I got back to the States, and they were all disappointing in comparison. All, that is, until I found that delicious Caribbean Jerk seasoning at Bryant Park during our New York City visit! – In case you can’t tell, I’m very enthusiastic about flavorful food… 🙂
After we finished at the restaurant, we walked around back through the botanical gardens. I’m a big fan of botanical gardens (see my writeup on Hershey Botanical Gardens here), so it was fun to see the differences between the tropical plants here, and the more typical northern plants back home.
I was glad I brought a hat today though, walking around the botanical gardens was H-O-T! There was not much shade, and the sun was testing the limits of my fair skin. So I drank some more water, made myself a mixed drink for the road (you can drink in the car if someone else is driving, though I don’t know what the rules are for the drivers themselves!). We got back to the car and continued on our way.
The next stop on our journey was the Caribelle Batik factory. It apparently used to be an old sugar plantation, so there are still some ruins/remnants of old stone buildings in the area. Getting there required a drive along a narrow twisty road through the jungle, with some sort of spanish moss-type plant life dangling from the tall trees. If you see a man with a monkey near the entrance to this roadway, don’t roll your window down! He will “let you” pet the monkey, and then expect you to give him money for it. He had a couple of friends with him, so we decided to keep driving since we got a little sketched out by it all.
Once we were actually at the buildings, we received a detailed explanation of the batik-making process from the staff. They had an excellent display of the various steps in the process, which goes as follows: they lay down hot wax onto the fabric where they do not want color applied, and then they dip it in one color dye. After it dries, they add another layer of wax to new areas that they want to keep protected, and then they dye it again in a new color.
This process repeats, typically starting with white cloth, and proceeding from light dyes (yellows, etc) to dark dyes (dark reds, blues, blacks). Once the process is complete, they remove all the wax and they are left with a pattern that is the same on both sides of the fabric. She explained that this is one way to tell true batik from a knock-off stamped pattern.
We decided to get a little bit of our Christmas and souvenir shopping done while we were there, so we explored their extensive gift shop for a while. I bought myself a batik top, navy blue with white and pale blue fern patterns. I got my mom a medium blue shawl with pale blue butterflies, and a hand-woven grass box for my brother (to use as a place to store his phone/keys/wallet). I also got myself a watercolor painting of the island by a local artist. I have similar watercolor postcards from New Orleans, so it looks like I’m starting a little collection! I also picked up a small batik drawstring bag that came with 3 or 4 small bottles of local rum. Some of this rum went into the fruitcake I made my dad for Christmas, so everyone of my family members got something from St. Kitts for Christmas!
After we left Caribelle Batik, we drove on to Brimstone Fortress. Now this was a crazy drive – I wasn’t sure the car was going to make it up this twisty, turny, sometime-one-lane road. Luckily there were guardrails at the narrowest turns, but it was nerve-wracking to say the least! The most interesting part was that we actually got to drive through the first two gates into the fortress! If this were the USA, I would imagine you’d have to park far away for fear of ruining the integrity of the historical site.
To get from the parking lot to the highest part of the fortress was still a hike, but it was worth it for the views. We were so high up that it was quiet and peaceful. There were only a handful of other tourists, so we had pretty much the entire fortress to ourselves. We walked around through the historical exhibits set up inside the fortress (no photos allowed there, sorry), and had a nice cool drink at the gift shop/cafe near the parking area. I got a few postcards and a hand-painted ceramic spoon rest, and then we were on our way again.
The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful, though still enjoyable. We rounded the northern tip of the island, and began the drive down the Atlantic side of the island. We stopped for a bit at Black Rocks, which is literally what it sounds like. You can stand at the edge of the island and watch the waves roll in over dark colored rocks. On the days when the cruise ships come to the island, there are tons of little vendors and shops set up here to sell trinkets to tourists. But when we arrived, there was only one vendor. I bought a set of earrings and a small shell bracelet, and that was the end of my souvenirs (and my cash on hand) for the day.
We stopped back at my friend’s house to meet up with the rest of the group, and then it was on to Sprat Net. This is a local place with delicious seafood and wonderful live reggae. Parking is a little challenging, but the inside is roomy and casual. there are flags from all over the world (not just countries are represented, but also sports teams, armed forces, universities, etc).
There’s a dance floor and the beer flows freely (you can order a bucket of the local beer, Carib, for less than the cost of a 6-pack of beer in the US. We had local lobster (not the smooth shelled kind like in the Northeastern US, but a spiny local version that was just as delicious. My friends go there often enough that they know the owners and we each got an extra half of a lobster – it didn’t go to waste! This was a chill ending to a busy but relaxing day.
Stay tuned for Part 3!