Friday, November 19, 2010

Touch The Sky on Brimstone Hill

If you ever visit St. Kitts, it's an official requirement to visit Brimstone Hill Fortress. Not only is it the island's most recognizable landmark, it's also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the best place to grab heavenly views.

Constructed between 1690 and 1790, the fortress rises almost 800 feet in the air. Which means you must climb the stone path up to monument, way up on Brimstone Hill. Sturdy shoes are suggested.

The climb is well worth it because beyond the cannons, bastions and citadel, a striking panorama of  an impossibly green landscape unfolds. It really looks like you could reach up on your tippy toes and touch a cloud or two.

Most of the fortress is  built with volcanic rock. I felt like I heard echoes of the centuries of history stored in those rocks. After decades of being passed between British and French colonialists, the flag of independent St. Kitts finally flies from Brimstone Hill Fortress.

The fortress is the one of the best preserved historical fortifications in all of the Americas. I spent hours exploring the officers quarters, magazine bastions and barracks. High up in the hills, it's easy to be transported into another time and place.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Bush Tea Adventure

Most Americans down mugs and mugs of coffee everyday but I love tea. Technically, I don't drink the black tea leaves that are commonly considered tea but herbal infusions that are really a collection of herbs, flowers and spices. In the Caribbean, this is called bush tea and I always order a cup on whatever island I visit. There's just nothing like fresh bush tea. In St. Kitts, I ordered a pot at the Spice Mill restaurant and this earned me some surprised looks. Not because it was a hot, 90 degree Kitttitian afternoon but because few Americans know about the joys of bush tea and they didn't expect anyone to order it.  After much bustling and questioning, my waitress stepped outside the restaurant and plucked some lemongrass and thyme from the garden. You can see the tips of the plants in the photo above.

I savored the spicy smell when she brought the pot out and sipped on cups and cups for over an hour. Bush tea is typically drunk for medicinal purposes and lemongrass, also called fever grass, is usually prescribed for fevers and colds so that might be another reason I caught the puzzled looks. I wasn't sick but a good pot of bush tea definitely makes me happy. My happiness must have been palpable because when we prepared to leave, I was presented with a bunch of the fresh herbs to take home, pictured above. I was touched by the gesture but I explained that live produce is usually a no no when traveling from country to country. They insisted and I wasn't about to argue so I  took the herbs back to my hotel and packed them in a plastic bag, at the bottom of my suitcase.

When I was in the airport, sure enough, my suitcase was chosen to be inspected. I held my breath as the security attendant rummaged through my clothes. He pulled out my box of Off  insecticide towelettes. No liquids in that, I explained. He placed it back in my suitcase and closed it. And I flew out of St. Kitts with enough lemongrass to enjoy for months. I'm actually drinking a cup right now.