It was a Saturday morning and I was getting frustrated with my family. I like to have everything planned out, my husband likes to be spontaneous and my children lack motivation and need a lot of organisation (that is slightly unfair, they are very young still!). Weekend’s are not meant to be wasted. I don’t mind spending Sunday at home doing very little except family time and chores to get ready for the week ahead. However on Saturday, we should definitely be exploring.
Harmony Hall has been top of my ‘Things To Do in Antigua’ list for some time – mostly because the words ‘art gallery’, ‘boat trip’, ‘restaurant’ and ‘island’ appear in the same sentence in the guidebooks.
I phoned the hotel and in good Antiguan style, the receptionist was helpful if only I were to make a reservation for lunch at the hotel. The boat trip required extra planning, so the phone conversation was long. My husband told me it was pointless as it was too windy to go anywhere with small children on a little boat. With dogged determination I persevered through the reservation, “Yes, lunch for 4 in the restaurant and the boat to Green Island at 2pm please”.
Apparently, the boat trip to Green Island is a great deal cheaper if booked in conjunction with lunch at the restaurant. I was feeling gung-ho, so I booked everything and packed the reluctant family into the car. With enough enthusiasm for 4, I prattled on about what a beautiful day it was as we headed east.
Without too much marital fracas regarding directions, we found the place (there are signs everywhere!) and we arrived into the car park.
Harmony Hall is on the site of an old sugar plantation called ‘Brown’s Bay Mill’. As you approach from the car park there is the ruin of the sugar mill itself and there is a reception desk inside and a spiralling ladder around the outside. We ran (after the kids) up the ladder and were welcomed with a breath-taking view from the top. The owners have put cushions on the stone seats around the edge so you can sit and really soak up the Caribbean vista. If you come only for this, it is worth it.
I have to admit that I was completely taken aback with the spectacular surroundings, not just the view from the top of the mill, but the view from the restaurant also.
The restaurant boasts Italian cuisine and the prices are not for the feint-hearted. However, as I have discovered in many Antiguan restaurants, you are paying not only for the expat chef, but also for the exquisite surroundings, and once again – the view.
There is a wonderful pool at Harmony Hall too, and the children dove in, while we amused ourselves with more grown up pleasures, such as rum punches and the like.
I’ll leave you to choose which you would rather do. Spoilt for choice, I know!
We took our time choosing carefully from the menu. Everything was deliciously described and the freshly baked breads while we waited, were exquisite.
I plumped for the pumpkin risotto.
My husband chose the Tortelli stuffed with Bolognaise and a Parmesan Crumble.
And the children had simple tortellini in a tomato sauce.
Beautifully presented, elegantly seasoned, quality Italian food: but the portions were small. Luckily there was the bread.
As we sat in the carefully arranged paradise, we looked out over the bay, and by this point the wind was howling. I had to reluctantly concede to my husband that the boat trip to Green Island was off the cards, and we called over the waitress so that she could notify the boat captain that the clients were wimps.
Instead, we took some time to stroll through the art gallery. At this point, I should tell you that my husband and I are quite eclectic in our taste for art, but the one common thread is that we love colour and we love collecting art from our travels. In Italy, France and Croatia with have gathered pieces from the artist pedlars that sit along the waterfront or near the bridges. In Antigua, the art appeals to us both: it is filled with the colours of the Caribbean and the rays of sunlight that penetrate the ocean to the magical creatures below.
It is most pleasant to stroll through the rooms of the gallery here. Most of the prominent artists on the island have pieces for sale on display.
I have spoken to people who have lived in Antigua for many years and they told me that Harmony Hall has long been a special place. It is isolated, but that has not stopped yacht crews filling minivans to come out here and revel in the solitude and luxury of the surroundings.
The owners have clearly capitalized on a lovely location, with the historical sugar mill and the unobstructed ocean view and they have added art, boat trips, swimming pools and delightful food. It is a special treat to be recommended and can easily be a full day out if you book the boat to Green Island and pack your snorkelling gear. Leave some room in your suitcase for a piece (or two) of souvenir art to remind you of that afternoon you succumbed to the romance (and rum) of the Caribbean.