Our Adventures in Nevis


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After skipping our 2009 winter trip, we decided to make our 2010 vacation a big one. We wanted someplace in the Caribbean. Something a little more exotic and off the beaten path. After a lot of research, we settled on the West Indian island of Nevis.

As part of the Nevis/St Kitts Commonwealth, this little gem is the smallest sovereign nation in the Americas. The island's name is from the Spanish name Nuestra Señora de las Nieves (Our Lady of the Snows) because of the clouds that often cover the peak in the center of the island.

Nevis has a lot going on here for such a little island. The whole history of the Caribbean - Indians, sugar, slaves, rum, pirates, Spanish armadas - all played out here. The weight of the history is amazing. We had a great time and found it to be a charming, relaxed island with friendly people, a lush landscape, fascinating landmarks, and killer rum punches.

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Our first view of Nevis from the plane. It's a small, round island dominated by the 3,232 foot Nevis Peak.
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We landed in nearby St. Kitts. Here's the city of Basseterre. We took a ferry to Charlestown, Nevis from the little dock next the the hideous cruise ship complex.
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When we landed there was a cane field on fire next to the airport. Dramatic, but harmless.
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Our first view of the Nevis from the ferry. Wow.
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The ferry at the Charlestown dock. We got to ride up front with the cargo and some of the crew.
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We stayed at Butler's House. It's gated, but only because they're trying to keep the island's goats out of the gardens.
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Butler's House was built in the 1700's as the main house of a large sugar plantation.
Tulum photosThe house sits a ways up the slope of Butler Mountain on the east side of Nevis.

They've done a lot of landscaping and the whole property has wonderful views of the ocean.
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The big terrace on the side of the house was a great place for morning coffee.

Tulum photosHere's one of several sea grape trees that provide a lot of shade. Their leaves rattle in the wind.

There are also almond, mango, sour orange, and a huge sandbox tree.

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The ruins of the original kitchen
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We enjoyed the pool almost as much as the monkeys did.
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This is the porch when we had a lot of our meals and spent most of our evenings.
Tulum photosMore of the landscaping with the old chattle house in the background.
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The master bedroom had double doors that opened onto the terrace and a wonderful ceiling fan.
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The kitchen also opened onto the terrace and was fully equipped.
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The dining room was gorgeous, but a little formal for us. We often ate out on the veranda.
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The 2nd bedroom was plenty big. There was also a small sun room with a daybed.
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The gardens were just full of flowers. No idea what this is, but there was a whole hedge of them.

Tulum photosThe hibiscus here grow to be trees.

They have a lot of plants growing wild that we've only seen as house plants in 6-inch pots.

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Our second night there was Dave's birthday, and rather than go out, we decided to grill. It was lovely.

Tulum photosPottery shards that previous guests had found on the grounds.

It sounds like they are always kicking up artifacts.

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The view from the pool of Butler Mountain. It's on the back side of Nevis Peak.
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The view from the pool of the Atlantic was just incredible.
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Primate eyes, they're watching you - one of our first up-close encounters with the local troupe of Green Vervet monkeys.

Tulum photosSince the French brought them to the islands as pets, their population has soared, making growing anything pretty tough.


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We'd see these guys hanging around the grounds every afternoon.
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They estimate that there are as many monkeys as people on Nevis - about 10,000 each.
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The ruins of Cottle Church on the Round Hill Estate. This was one of our first stops when we toured the island.
Tulum photosJohn Cottle built it in 1824 as a place for his family and his slaves to worship together.

Tulum photosBut because the practice was against the law, the church was never consecrated by the Anglicans.

Between an earthquake in 1974 and Hurricane Hugo in 1989, the church was pretty much destroyed. It is currently under restoration.

 


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A little further south is Oualie Beach. The Hurricane Cove Bungalows are on the hill and St. Kitts is in the distance.
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More of St. Kitts in the distance. It's a nice, calm beach for swimming.

Tulum photosOur first rum punch at The Gallipot restaurant. Very tasty.

We also had great fresh fish and amazing lobster there.

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Further south on the west side of the island is Sunshine's Beach Bar. They have a great view of Nevis Peak.
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The view of Pinney's Beach from Sunshine's. Their very potent rum punches are called Killer Bees - some rum, then some passion fruit juice, then some more rum. Wheeee...
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A little further south is Coconut Grove restaurant. We had an excellent lunch there.
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The view of Coco Beach from the restaurant. We had a nice swim and hung out on the beach after lunch.
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Golden Rock Estates is a great former plantation built way up on Nevis Peak. It's now a hotel and restaurant.

Tulum photosThis is what's left of the tower for the windmill they used to crush the sugar cane.

It's been converted into a honeymoon suite.

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This is one of the pots used to boil down the sugar cane juice into sugar and molasses.
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The view from the new dining area at Golden Rock. We ate here a couple of times - great food, even better rum punch.
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We found this little beach off of a side road by the medical school.
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We found this sea urchin skeleton there. The sand is mostly volcanic and very rich and fine.
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Somebody left their boat there. Looks to still be in okay shape.
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Buetiful beach. The medical school at the end of the point in the distance.
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Sheep (tails down), goats (tails up), donkeys, cows, pigs, chickens, and monkeys all shared the road with us.
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Some local houses. They typically build a small house and add rooms as the family grows.
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This place has taken a couple of beatings from hurricanes. Building a stone first story and a wooden second story is common.
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Two houses down the road from where we stayed. We liked the pebbled detail on the blue one and all of the little trim on the other.
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We stayed just blocks from Jimmy Buffett's infamous Domino College. It's a little market/bar with a reputation for recreational drinking and some serious games of dominos.
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We found their sign just lying by the side of the road. The place was pretty quiet when we were there, but the joint across the road was usually busy.

Tulum photosThe Caribbeans have no fear of color.

This is the Cafe de Arts restaurant down by the ferry dock.

Tulum photosMr. Chicken came by to get a snack while we stopped for a cold drink.
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The ferry dock and crane in Charlestown. This port handles mostly people and light cargo. There's small deep-water port on the south end that handles cars and freight.
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This old scale was used to weigh cotton and is now part of the park by the dock. Nevis still produces some Sea Island cotton, mostly for export to Japan.
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We stopped in at the farmer's market. Most of the produce here comes from the Dominican Republic.
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Ginger - it's a key spice in a lot of West Indian cooking. We got some nutmeg and a little pineapple that was very tasty.
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This is the birthplace of one of American's founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton. It's now a museum.
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This is the house next to where Hamilton was born. History is a funny thing.
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The ruins of the Coconut Walk Estates sugar mill. It operated until the 1950's and was one of the last mills on the island.
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The remains of the windmill. What a view. In the early 1800's Nevis produced the best sugar cane in the Caribbean.
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The windmill powered this press that crushed the sugar cane to produce the juice.
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A wheel from the mill. It was probably hooked up to the windmill with a belt drive and used to power the press.
Tulum photosThe smokestack is part of the boiler. The cane syrup was boiled down to make sugar and molasses that were either exported directly, or fermented into rum.
Tulum photosThese pots were used to make cement putty. The putty mortared together hand-cut stones for many of the building on the island.
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From Nevis you can see Redonda (the little island) and Montserrat. A volcano on Montserrat exploded in 1995, destroying a good part of the island. The air is hazy in this photo because the volcano blew more ash up the week before we got there.
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A cow taking a break at Nelson Springs. Admiral Horatio Nelson was stationed in Nevis at one time. His job was to stop trade between the British islands and newly-founded America. He used these springs to get fresh water for his ships.

Tulum photosNevis is where old Brits and their automobiles go to retire.

Here's an old Mini Moke from probably the late '60s. We also saw lots of "Series" Land Rovers still in use.

Tulum photosParadise - a hammock at the Nisbet Plantation beach bar.

You can see St. Kitts in the background on the other side of all that indescribably blue water.

Tulum photosThe ruins at Hamilton Estate. This sugar plantation is way up the hill on Government Road.

Nevis was known as the "Queen of the Caribbees," for the quality of sugar it produced.

Tulum photosA huge gear used in the milling process.

Many of the mills were run by Sephardic Jews who brought their sugar-making skills with them when they got kicked out of Brazil.

Tulum photosAnother smokestack.

Nevis gets both hurricanes and earthquakes, so it's always amazing to see old structures like this still intact.

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The sugar trade was built on slaves. When slavery was abolished in 1834, the industry pretty much disappeared.
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On our last day we took an early ferry to St. Kitts to tour a bit of the island.
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Caribelle Batik has a small factory and a beautiful store on the Romney Manor Estate.

Tulum photosTHe gardens around the shop are incredible.

The property was originally owned by Thomas Jefferson's grandfather.

This is the old bell tower that called the slaves to work.

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Here's a small area when they demonstrate the painstaking process used to create batik.
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The Wingfield petroglyphs - art carved into rock by the Carib Indians who originally settled these islands. The one on the right sure looks like a monkey to me.
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The Brimstone Hill fortress was built on this hill on St. Kitts to defend the profitable rum and sugar trade.
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Kitties always find us on our trips. This guy was the Brimstone Hill welcoming committee.
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The view back toward the interior or the island was stunning.

Tulum photosThe English built the fortress using slave labor over the course of 100 years.

The fort rises 800 feet over the Caribbean. This is the main stairway.

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These are part of the outer battlements. The walls are nearly 7 feet thick.
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Firing ports are cut into every wall.

Tulum photosOne of the many cannons. This one overlooks the village of Salt Town.

From here the Brits could see and control traffic to Nevis, Montserrat, Saba, St. Martin and St. Barts.

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The village of Salt Town with Saba in the distance.
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The main courtyard. In 1782, 1,000 British troops defended the fort against a 50-ship French armada.

Tulum photosIt took the French a month, but they eventually conquered the fort - blowing 40-foot holes in the walls.

The Treaty of Versailles was signed the next year, returning St. Kitts to the British.

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The fortress has been preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage site. It was an amazing place to spend our last day of vacation..