Sunday, January 29, 2017

St. Nicholas Abbey

I really wanted to visit St. Nicholas Abbey. It was a sugar plantation back in the day and the home that was built on the estate is only one of three remaining examples of Jacobean architecture in the new world. 
It actually never was an Abbey, one of the mistresses of the estate named it after the parish where she lived, St. Nicholas and the place where she was married, Bath Abbey.  There were conducted tours of the house and the out buildings. The present owners have converted the sugar mill into, you guessed it a rum distillery. The tour include fascinating facts about the house and the furnishings, as well as the history of ownership . Included was a free rum punch as they gave you a sales pitch about the types of rum available from their distillery. I inquired in the shop and a bottle of the rum that had been aged for 18 years would cost $170.00 USD!! We also got to see a movie of the plantations  and scenes from Bridgetown that was taken in 1935 by one of the owners. All the women wore hats in the movie, it was considered unseemly to have a bare head when you were outside in public. 
This is an original lazy boy! It was great, it had a slide up table that came out of the arm for having your tea on, there was a reading light as well as a stand to hold your newspaper, the bottom came out to rest your feet on and the back declined so that you could sleep in it.  The tour guide maintained that the only reason to get out of the chair during no the day was to use the washroom. In the 1700's women were not allowed to own property, so when the plantation became the property of a daughter, her husband's began mysteriously dying.  She went through three husbands and eventually the estate was passed on to her son. I guess she REALLY wanted it to stay in her family! 
Most tourists when they arrive here either come by taxi, tour bus or hired car. We, being the thrifty sailors we are decided to take the local bus.  Getting around the island by bus is not difficult, figuring out how to do it is a big problem. The internet site has a list of destinations and schedules, but no map. Often the destination of the bus is not a large town and they have quaint names like Pie Corner and Stag Hill, which I had a difficult time finding on a map. ANYWAY, after waiting for an hour and a quarter we got on a bus that was not to our destination, but we had been assured by a passenger that we could take a mini van from Speightstown, where we had been before to St. Nicholas Abbey.  So, we did, on the mini van we informed the driver that e wanted to get out at the Abbey. We saw several signs indicating the road to the Abbey so we reminded the driver, he just grunted. Then we stopped by a field with a track running through it and he said just walk down there and you will get there. Sure enough after a lovely stroll through the field we came in the back way and this was our first impression of the estate. 
The current owner is an architect and has an office on the property but does not live in the house.  He purchased to preserve it and turn it into a top notch tourist attraction. You are allowed to sit on the antique furniture which I found quite astounding, but the upper floor is off limits because the stairs are not capable of sustaining the use they would get from everyday wear and tear of thousands of people a year tromping up and down them. 
There was a lovely herb garden just outside the house and mature mahogany trees grew on the property. We saw one woman sitting on a bench enjoying the peace and quiet reading a book. There were guinea fowl running about the estate and we saw a land tortoise waddling by one of the barns.