Homeland

I’ve never actually lived there but since both of my parents were raised there, I’ve always had a strong affinity with the Caribbean island of St. Kitts. Growing up in England (where my parents moved as young adults) then Canada, I remember stories my dad told us about places like The Gut, Monkey Hill and Sandy Point, as well as adventures like surfing on a door (he was too poor to have a surfboard) and misadventures like being fed monkey by a friend of the family who failed to mention it until after dinner!!!

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However, traveling to St. Kitts for family vacations was not in the budget so it wasn’t until my siblings and I were in our late teens that we made the first of many trips to the little island my parents called home.

St. Kitts is just 64 square miles with a population of around 50, 000 and in the 80’s it was just a blip on the tourism radar. The airport had just been expanded to allow jumbo jets to land; there was no cruise ship port or even dock; there was one large “resort” hotel (Jack Tar); and a handful of mediocre restaurants/bars mainly in Frigate Bay.

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I still remember my brother and I teasing my dad about the island being so small you could kick a soccer ball from one side of the island to the next. Turns out this was only slightly exaggerated since there is a narrow strip of the island along the peninsula where I’m sure someone like Beckham could kick the ball to the other side…

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Anyway, my parents loved it so much that after my dad retired from General Motors (yes, I’m a GM kid) and my mom retired from Bell Canada they built their little dream home outside Basseterre and became snowbirds, spending summers in Canada and winters in St. Kitts. Of course, this meant that my siblings and I had to “visit the parents” so we’ve spent many vacations on the island…:-)

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The upside was, for those looking for seclusion or privacy, it was off the radar and as the Caribbean became popular with the rich and famous St. Kitts and its sister island Nevis became known for this quality and this is still the case today. In fact, the new Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, was there this past Christmas (when we were there) and we didn’t find out until after he left. Plus, there was a surprising number of private jets at the airport and more mega-yachts anchored offshore than we’ve ever seen.

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Now, with Audrey and I having spent an entire month in St. Kitts (my longest visit ever), that included visits from my brother Colin as well as Audrey’s brother Jerry, his wife Mary and daughter Carolyn, we were truly able to get into the island groove and see how much it has developed over the years.

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And, we’re happy to report that even with an expanded airport, a large cruise ship port, a massive 500-room Marriott resort, and wide array of restaurants and bars ranging from the gorgeous Ottley’s Plantation (a favorite of ours) to Mr. X’s Shiggedy Shack or Reggae Beach it’s still a relatively unspoiled island when compared to others in the Caribbean.

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Although, if you want to get a glimpse of the unspoiled St. Kitts, you may want to visit soon since every time we come there are more condos, villas and hotels and many more on the drawing board. The most current being St. Christophe Harbor, which is a massive project at the south east end of the island (the peninsula) that includes a mega-yacht marina, golf course, private villas, restaurants and a few hotels.

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Up to this point, besides a few beach bars, this area of St.Kitts had been completely undeveloped. However, Christophe Harbor is centered around dredging a channel from the Caribbean Sea to a large salt pond to create a harbor, much like Simpson Bay lagoon in Sint Maarten/St. Martin, which will be surrounded by the aforementioned facilities. In fact, the channel is already finished, the marina just opened (selling 100+ foot docks starting a $2 million USD!!!). And, owners have taken possession of some of the luxurious villas.

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Having said this, unspoiled is a relative term so it depends on what you are looking for. If you a looking for a beach that isn’t lined with high rise hotels, tacky restaurants and beach chairs where people put towels in place first thing in the morning, you have nothing to worry about.

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If your looking for secluded beaches, wild monkeys, tropical rain forests and historic unrestored sugar cane mills that have yet to be converted to yuppie inns you may want to visit sooner rather than later.

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On the downside, if your looking for authentic Caribbean (i.e. poor) towns and villages that seemingly haven’t changed since colonial days no need to rush since, unfortunately, St. Kitts still has too many of these. I’m no economist but I’m hoping the benefits of all this development trickles down to these “unspoiled” towns and villages soon. They may be poor but the people in these places are friendly and welcoming and seem genuinely pleased when a tourist actually stops in town instead of speeding through on their way to Brimstone Hill, the Scenic Railway or their secluded villa.

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On this note, kudos to Jerry, Mary and Carolyn for staying at a quaint little villa in the tiny village of Dieppe Bay, virtually the furthest point away from where Audrey and I were staying at my mom’s house in Basseterre. I’m sure they wanted to be closer to us (right???) but they ended up experiencing a region of St. Kitts that most tourists never see and they said they loved it.

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We’re glad they did and hope you’ll consider visiting St. Kitts if you’re looking for a Caribbean vacation. Our month in my parents “Homeland” was wonderful and we’re back to our normal cruising life now (hanging in St. Martin) but you never know, we may be back in St. Kitts before this little adventure is over…

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3 thoughts on “Homeland

  1. Paul and I had the opportunity of visiting St. Kitts on a Caribbean cruise, and while the visit was short (as they tend to be with cruise ships), we thoroughly enjoyed experiencing the beauty and diversity this little island has to offer. What most impressed us were the people who live in the little towns across the island. As you mentioned, many of the outlying little towns are impoverished, and what struck us is that the many kids we saw on their way to school, were wearing perfectly clean and tidy uniforms. This seemed a testament to a proud and hard-working people, which was humbling for us both.

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