Lisbon, the dazzling city that stretches along the banks of the Tagus, is an enchanting capital. There is the fortress around which the city originally sprang up, and which is now circled by neighborhoods drenched with medieval charm. Everywhere are fine monuments that bring to mind the great Age of Discoveries, and picturesque houses whose facades are decked with ornate ceramic tiles. As the dusk turns to night, the yellow electric tramcars continue to wind their way up and down the hills of the old capital, while the sound of traditional Fado folk songs enlivens many a candle-lit dinner table in restaurant or home. But the capital also provides ample opportunity for seeing popular celebrations, for shopping, and for enjoying the nightlife along the riverbanks. With the port and marinas situated nearby, water sports are a natural attraction too.
One of Europe’s smallest capital cities, Lisbon is for many, one of it most beguiling – an easily accessible mix of new and old worlds. Elegant outdoor cafés line Lisbon’s mosaic cobblestone sidewalks along grand 18th-century boulevards. Turn-of-the-century funiculars dot its steep hills. Two-thirds of the city was leveled in a 1755 earthquake, but in its churches, peeling buildings, tiny alleyways, hidden squares, you can still feel the glorious past.
St. John's, Antigua
St John's, the capital city of the island nation of Antigua and Barbuda, in the Lesser Antilles, has been the administrative center since the islands were first colonised in 1632. The nation achieved its independence from Great Britain in 1981.
Arawak and Carib Amerindian tribes lived on the islands when Christopher Columbus first arrived in 1493. Early settlements were made by Spain and France. Subsequently the English formed a colony in 1667, bringing African slaves to work sugar plantations. Slavery was abolished in 1834.
Most of the present day population is descended from those slaves. Europeans, principally British and Portuguese, make up the remainder. The official language is English, but the locals speak a patois, a mixture of English, local languages and some other European languages.
The smallest island in the world shared by two countries. St. Martin/St. Maarten is big on shopping. You can also try your luck in one of St. Maarten's many casinos. Whether you go Dutch in Philipsburg or prefer Marigot's French touch, you're always welcome.
Barbuda is one of those very few islands in the Caribbean that remains so undeveloped as to seem positively deserted at times. With the exception of the guests of the island's small number of accommodations, the population seems to consist largely of the graceful Fregata magnificens, or frigate bird. As the birds possess a marked preference for the northwest lagoon, Barbuda's seemingly endless white and pink sand beaches are left to the peaceful wanderings of those lucky enough to sojourn here.
Activities on Barbuda are appropriately relaxed, including beachcombing (on the northeastern Atlantic coast), fishing, golf, tennis, snorkeling, diving, or simply soaking up the sun. Points of interest include the Frigate Bird Sanctuary, the truly noteworthy pink and white sand beaches, and an abundance of shipwrecks and beautiful reefs.
Barbuda's history has been intimately tied to that of Antigua for centuries. The first early attempts to settle Barbuda (by both the British and French) were failures, and it wasn't until 1666 that the British established a colony strong enough to survive the ravages of both nature and the Caribs. In 1680, four years before he began cultivating sugar on Antigua, Christopher Codrington was granted (with his brother John) a land lease in Barbuda. With subsequent leases that granted them additional rights to the substantial wreckage along Barbuda's reefs, they became the island's preeminent family. For much of the eighteenth century the Codrington land on Barbuda was used to produce food and to supply additional slave labor for the Codrington sugar plantations on Antigua, and so the Barbuda's fortunes rose and fell with those of its larger neighbor. Testament to the influence of the Codringtons remains today, both in the island's place names and in its architectural remains. On Barbuda's highest point (124 feet) are the ruins of the Codrington estate, Highland House, and on the island's south coast still sits the 56-foot high Martello castle and tower, a fortress that was used both for defense and as a vantage from which to spot valuable shipwrecks on the outlying reefs.
Dominica is an island republic in the West Indies, specifically in the Windward Islands. The island has 148 miles of coastline, and covers 751 square miles of land area. The population of Dominica is under 75,000. Roseau is the island's capital. Dominica is lush and beautiful, and is home to some of the friendliest people in the West Indies. The island is known as the spot for ecotourists, with many parks and places to mountain climb, nature walk or explore. The diving is great here, too, but the beaches are less attractive than on other islands.
Pigeon Island, St. Lucia
Pigeon Island National Landmark is one of the Caribbean's most historic spots, an important monument of St. Lucia's history. It offers a vivid representation of the cultural and historical monuments of international, civil, military and marine cross currents, characteristic of West Indian history. Pigeon Island offers lots of photo opportunities. You can visit the interpretation center, eat at Jambe de Bois restaurant, walk up to Fort Rodney and view historical ruins. A living museum within a natural setting, Pigeon Island is being nurtured through careful protection and intelligent development to serve the intellectual, cultural, and recreational needs of all who visit this historic site. The picturesque, 44 acre island reserve, grasslands, dry tropical forests, beaches and twin peaks, off the north west end of St. Lucia, was originally surrounded by water but was joined to the mainland by a man made causeway in 1972. The Landmark is perfect for an outing tailored to your specific needs - With or without a guide, the island is an easy and accessible location for relaxing or exploring. Whatever your preference, don't forget your camera for breathtaking photo opportunities.
Les Saintes, French West Indies
Just south of Guadeloupe, these idyllic tropical islands float like jewels in the Caribbean sea. Les Saintes are perfect for the kind of sailor who relishes unspoiled tropical beauty and the serenity that comes from doing next to nothing on a vacation. Only two of the eight little islands are inhabited, and Terre-de-Haut is the one travelers visit first. With superb beaches, lovely bays, great snorkeling and fascinating historical sites, this small island has a charming village with excellent restaurants, interesting shops and unique art galleries. The other populated island, peaceful Terre-de-Bas, is only a few minutes by boat from Terre-de-Haut. There are only 3,000 inhabitants in the islands. About half of them live on Terre-de-Haut with just a few dozen four-wheel drive vehicles on its roads.
Basseterre, St. Kitts
Unlike other islands where traditional lifestyles have been stamped out by mass tourism, St. Kitts boasts a thriving West Indian culture. Her lush and forested slopes rise gracefully to mist-shrouded peaks.
A worthwhile site for history buffs, the imposing 17th century fortress (Brimstone Hill) looms over green fields of sugar cane and banana trees. St. Kitts’ was the first successful colony in the British West Indies. Indeed, when viewed from the top of Brimstone Hill, the “Gibraltar of the Caribbean” appears to dominate everything in the Southern Sea.
Originally discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493, the island was named for his patron saint, St. Christopher. The British later shortened the name to St. Kitts. The island was colonized beginning in 1623, first by the French, and then by English settlers. Britain and France held the island jointly from 1628 into the 1700's, with periods of fighting. By 1783, the treaty of Paris ceded St. Kitts and Nevis to Great Britain.
Basseterre has been the capital of St. Kitts since 1727, and remains the capital of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis today. It offers elegant Georgian architecture and colorful shopping.
There was never any hope of lucrative sugar plantations in St.Barts. It was too dry, too steep, too rocky, and, finally, too small. Unsuitable for agriculture, the island was never coveted as a prize during the colonial wars of the 18th century.
The island did, however, have a serviceable harbor, and this allowed the town that grew around it, Gustavia, to play a key role in that intermittent conflict, a role that was to presage much of its future.
As a free port under Swedish rule, Gustavia provided a trade and supply center for the various warring factions. When a sea captain captured a prize or raided a settlement, he could sell the booty in St. Barths, and at the same time resupply his ship. Overflowing warehouses surrounded a harbor packed with ships from many nations, and a mercantile and architectural tradition was established that has lingered to the present day.
Today, the town has adjusted itself to satisfy the increasing number of visiting tourists. Restaurants, boutiques, and gift shops now line streets once busy with merchants, merchant seamen, and adventurers.
St. Martin was discovered by Columbus in 1493. In the early 1600’s, the French and Dutch settled the island and drove the Spanish off. The island has been divided between two countries for over 300 years, and is shared harmoniously by the French and the Dutch. The border between the French & Dutch sides of the island is virtually invisible, and in most ways, St. Martin/St. Maarten is simply a beautiful island with two distinct cultures.
The French side (St. Martin), is more relaxed yet more sophisticated. The up-scale resorts and white sand beaches are fairly secluded. Marigot is like a Mediterranean resort, with yachts in the harbor. The waterfront is lined with open-air markets and shops. Further north, Grand Case is known for some of the island's best restaurants.
The Dutch side (Sint Maarten) is more active, with white sand beaches, historical sites, casinos, duty-free shopping areas, and plenty of nightlife. Philipsburg is the main entry point, fairly vibrating with Caribbean colors, sounds and visitors.