Thursday, March 20, 2014

Love Beach

As our last full day in Antigua was now upon us, the plan was to take a bit of an island tour with Jeaux and Matinder. Boo and I were the last of our Dinner Club members still here with J&M; so, we could finally all fit in their car and hit the road - not that the island's all that big. It is surprising how hilly it is and how varied the vegetation is however.

We kicked off the day with - surprise, surprise - another of the beautiful beaches as it was an easy drive from Jeaux and Matinder's villa and it allowed us to see a local community not far from the Jolly Beach resort. I never tired of watching Antigua life pass by as I kept an eye out for brightly coloured homes and buildings. Our next stop would leave present day life and and look to the years gone by as we visited Betty's Hope - an historical sugar estate that is in the process of being restored as a national park. Not only did we see close up one of the many cane-processing windmills that dot the island, it provided some insight into the island's colonial past.

As we drove to our next beach, we happened upon a picturesque church. I noticed a small cemetery across the street and asked to stop knowing that Boo would be far more interested in a cemetery than in yet another beach. I have to admit it was one of the more intriguing cemeteries I've visited - and that says a lot seeing as how travels with Boo do tend to take in a higher number of resting grounds than most folks' vacations would normally.

Cemetery detour or not, we made our way to yet another spectacular beach (picture on top of post) - this time fronting the Atlantic Ocean rather than the Caribbean - where we were among a small handful of people. All that splendour almost to yourself is simply what vacations are meant to be. Unfortunately, we didn't have a bottle of wine with us. We were able, however, to buy some Carib and Wadadli beers to go with the snack we picked up at the beach food stand.

Our real destination was the Love Beach but we still had one stop to take in - one of J&M's favourite galleries on the island - the added bonus being that it was set in a truly stunning tropical garden. Most of the island isn't incredibly lush as there are definite water supply problems, but this space was riotously verdant - awash in flowers that Vancouverites would never see anywhere except in insanely expensive bouquets. Again, I had to regret not having a bottle of wine that we could have opened and lounged around sipping while taking in all the charm of the location.

Luckily, Jacquie O's Love Beach was hardly lacking in allure - or wine. Half restaurant, half secluded beach, this would be my idea of a day at the beach. Private cabana lounges provided comfort, shade and luxurious access to the Caribbean. We only had time for the restaurant but at least we now had access to some libations. Jeaux and Matinder have gotten to know the manager/sommelier at Jacquie O's and I could tell that she'd definitely be a person to know if you were staying in Antigua. A transplanted Aussie gal, Sheila was chock full of stories of the impromptu parties that erupted at the Love Beach and, I ask you, how can a place be wrong when its greeting board message is "Resolution #14 - Champagne is always the answer."

1563.  2012 Chateau Sainte Roseline - Lampe de Méduse Cru Classé Rosé (Côtes de Provence I.G.P. - France)

We did not pop the cork on a bottle of bubbly ourselves but we did opt for a wicked rum punch and for what was likely the freshest of all the Rosés we'd tried on the trip. Typical of Rosés from the South of France, two-thirds of the wine is made with Cinsault and Grenache, turned out I got a bit of an unexpected tropical treat in that the balance is made up of Mourvèdre, Syrah and Tibouren - and I had yet to add Tibouren to my Wine Century Club tally.(Too bad we didn't have the the 2013 vintage because it also contained Rolle.)

The person who came up with the concept of Provençal Rosé clearly had occasions such as this in mind when he or she first started squeezing grapes because we could have kept on sipping away on this for hours. Unfortunately, the bottle quickly disappeared. We weren't about to let the moment slip away though. We took another look at the "compact" wine list (which likely doesn't change much because it was carved in wood) and were about to settle on a Sauv Blanc. We were debating the brash acidity and flavours of a Kiwi version versus the more subdued nature of a Sancerre (at twice the price) when Sheila came by and recommended a bottle she had that wasn't on the main list. She'd just happened upon a couple cases of a new wine that she figured could meet all our needs.

1564.  2012 Comte LaFond - Menetou-Salon (Menetou-Salon AOC - France)

She was right. Like wines from neighbouring Sancerre, this Menetou-Salon is made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc and it is subtle in its expression of acidity and "green." I mentioned earlier that Sheila would be a good person to know to get the best out of Antigua. Perfect example.

Our late lunch was quickly morphing into the dinner hour - well, at least, into happy hour - and we had to reluctantly call an end to our honeymoon at the Love Beach. Jeaux had invited her Mom to join us for dinner and she needed to get a start on those preparations.

So, with our beach view and our now empty glasses in hand, we couldn't help but bemoan the fact that we couldn't come back and do it all over again tomorrow. And the day after that. We bid "adieu" to Sheila and hit the winding roads back to Jolly Beach.

The whole day had made it abundantly clear that we were just going to have to journey Antigua way again - hopefully sooner than later.

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