Basseterre, St Kitts and Nevis - last port of call on the cruise
Saturday found the Epic in the Basseterre harbor in St Kitts. The excursion I’d booked had a later start, so, while I didn’t journal at breakfast, as I took the two desserts from La Cocina which had been delivered to the cabin up to the buffet area, where I had torte along with a banana and water. After a check into the bridge viewing room, where a fellow passenger found a rubber ducky, I descended the 11 flights, exited to the pier, and had a rather long walk to the rendezvous point.
The group was broken in half, and then we were assigned to a pair if solo. I was paired with a rather heavy youngish woman from Winnipeg who had mobility issues (and made sure everybody knew about it.) Fortunately, the tourist van was laid out with a pair of seats to the starboard, and solo seats to port. She took the solo seat by the door, and I found an open window three seats (a pair between) back.
We rode through the port, along the coastal road, passing the veterinary university, a rum factory, multiple churches in varying states and farmland. As this is a former British colony, the van was right-hand drive, so my seat had fewer visual obstructions. Gradually we came to pass along the mount where the Brimstone Hill Fortress surveyed the shoreline and Caribbean Sea. (A place to visit next time.) As we began to round the northern end of the island, the volcano on the island St Eustatius rose through the haze.
Our vans emptied, and we all began positioning for the 6 carriages of the small-gauge train which was imminently due. (I had an urgent need, and cross the road to a dirt pile.) The carriages are two levels, with the lower enclosed and cooled, while those on top were shaded with bench seats around the edges. I opted to go upstairs.
Those on the earlier ride emptied the train into the waiting vans, and we all climbed aboard. A native stood at the head of the car, ready to dispense beverages. Here’s where I learned about “Kodak speed”: no more than 9-10 miles per hour, at that velocity pictures don’t get blurred in the foreground, allowing more Kodak memories. Even our van driver seemed to understand, as he hadn’t raced to the train depot, and slowed when there was a photo op.
Formerly built for and used by sugar cane growers, with the demise of the cane growing industry, the train had been repurposed for the tourist trade. Passing along the edges of towns, residents would smile and wave as we rode by. Agriculture was varied, not the mono-culture of sugarcane, and fields also had livestock grazing. The tumbling ruins of former mills, looking like a stone fez, dotted the landscape.
As we rolled along, our water view shifted from the calm Caribbean to the more turbulent Atlantic, with breaking waves rolling in all along the coast. Two young men, in local costumes, entered each car and performed briefly for the passengers. They wouldn’t take tips, which surprised me. The rails turned more inland, and we were soon surrounded by foliage nearly brushing the sides of the cars. Returning towards shoreline, we came upon a field where campers had set up tents, near a good beach for surfing. Four bridges crossed deeper trenches, a feat of engineering on such a small island. Typically, we would swerve inland to a more stable geology before reaching and crossing the single-track bridge.
As we approached Basseterre, we had a view that allowed us to see the southern end of the island and its sister island Nevis, as these two form an independent country. As we rolled into the trainyard, the vans were awaiting, which took us back to the port.
My research indicated that there was a Roman Catholic co-cathedral on Independence Square. With my handy phone giving me directions, I soon walked to the square, with the cathedral sitting across the park and its central fountain.
A twin-towered stone building, it shares its bishop with Antigua and Barbuda. With a center and two side aisles, and arched columns for support, the vault is a deep navy blue, while the walls are white. The sanctuary sits under a half dome at the east end where tabernacle rests on the high altar and the post Vatican II new altar rests a step up in front of the main aisle. The cathedra is a red velvet padded armchair with a carved high back. Marking its dedication to the Immaculate Conception, a side altar sits below the representative statue.
The few stained-glass windows in the Immaculate Conception Co-cathedral were either colorful with a decidedly island flare or classic geometric curves and flourishes. Returning to the sunshine outside, I walked back and forth, and crossed into the square, looking for the best angle to present this, what I thought would be my final cathedral of the trip.
Crossing the square, I came across some well-kept multi-story buildings in the commercial district, showing off some of the sort of flourish I’d seen on the gingerbread of the San Francisco Victorian homes. My goal was Trafalgar Square, which had been mentioned on our outbound tour ride, and as I headed that way, I espied a tall stone tower, set in a green square surrounded by a high stone wall and a sturdy, locked iron gate. After a few pictures through the gate, I was curious, and decided to walk around the wall to find an entry. At its northeast corner stood an imposing long stone building with white shutters and a five-story white wooden tower: Wesley Methodist Church Hall.
The wall continued to the northwest corner of the block, where I turned south to the next corner, and I found an open gate. Advancing, I took a few photos, as I was quite impressed by this church. Then I was quite surprised to find a sign which indicated it was the St George Basseterre Pro-Cathedral of the Anglican church. Following the French occupation of 1639-1660, a Catholic church had stood there, but was destroyed by the British and replaced with an Anglican church.
A couple were seated to the west of the building, under trees. I asked if the church was open and if they’d visited. Told that they hadn’t gone inside, but that the hasp on the south door was unlatched, I decided that it was another “forgiveness” adventure and moved to enter. The male half of the couple joined me, and we marveled at the classic lines inside. Arched columns supported the vault, which has bow-shaped dark wooden struts. Arches and walls all in white; at the transept I was quite surprised to find it entirely filled with a pipe organ. A presence lamp indicated the repository for the sacrament, a simple space with a stained-glass window depicting the Annunciation.
Based on its location, I suspected that a simple armchair, with a rounded, padded seat and back might have been the cathedra, but it might have been the dean’s seat, as there ws no second chair. With the side windows all shuttered, it was dim inside, so some of my shots “failed”. We exited and carefully restored the hasp to the state we’d found it, and I began my walk around the building. Then it was off to find Trafalgar, a four-sided clock tower set in a square used as a car park which faced on the National Museum.
An archway through a red-roofed yellow building controlled access to the duty free area. The multiple shopping opportunities were brightly painted and staffed by friendly locals. I was able to find a hat pin, so I had all the souvenir I needed. There were two ships on the pier, with the Epic being the larger, which had its aft towards the land.
I went to O’Sheehan’s for lunch, getting loaded nachos to accompany a Hoegaarden draft. Another late lunch, I began my first entry for the day at 3pm. As a treat, I had a piece of carrot cake.
Shedding my camera, phone and backpack, I packed as much as I could. I headed into the lounge to say goodbye to Denny, and then descended to Malting’s to join the singles’ group. We went to Tastings for dinner, where I had a yummy cream of asparagus soup, a baked brie garden salad and a lamb shank. Several of us split a 2017 Terrazas de los Andes malbec, a high altitude reserva. (I think it wound up on my tab.) Then we headed off, herded by Zoran a final time, to the Epic Theater for the Burn the Floor show (again) which was probably better because we all knew where to focus our attention. From there to Headliners and 3 hours with the Howl at the Moon trio. Jon, the ginger from (now) Vancouver joined several of us for a late snack and drink afterwards, while Manny (Israel) and Jaime (Montreal) had dinner at the restaurant. I headed to my cabin at 1am. Luggage was to be in the hallway by midnight, so I was tardy. It still disappeared overnight.