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St. John’s is the most easterly point in North America and closest point of land to Europe. Due to it strategic location, St. John’s has been vitally important for centuries to explorers, adventurers, merchants, soldiers, pirates, and all manner of seafarers, who provided the foundation for this thriving modern day city. Explore this, one of the oldest cities in North America, and a city unlike any other. This “City of Legends” is cradled in a harbor carved from granite, and surrounded by hills running down to the ocean. Quaint side streets of a thousand colors are home to friendly faces that wait to greet you.
Puerto Rico has been voluntarily associated with the United States since it was ceded by Spain in 1898. In 1952, this island country became a self-governing commonwealth territory of the United States. The capital, San Juan, is a teeming city of over 1.5 million. Remnants of colonial architecture stand side by side with the most modern high rises in this city of contrasts. The 7-square-block area, which contains the historic zone of Old San Juan, was once completely encircled by city walls and is still guarded by the impressive forts of El Morro and San Cristobal, which loom over the harbor as reminders of the centuries of Spanish rule. El Yunque rainforest, on the northeastern side of the island, is just one of many distinctive geographical features found here. Mountain lakes, waterfalls, teak forests, and three magnificent phosphorescent bays offer the visitor a variety of diversions.
There are approximately 40 British Virgin Islands (the exact number varies from authority to authority), many of which are uninhabited. Some have only a handful of residents. Jost Van Dyke has a small population of its own families: the Turners, Grants, Ringes and Callwoods to name the majority. The desire to continue in the old ways is strong here, and “Jost” looks much as it must have looked 100 or 200 years ago. This archipelago is pristine and traffic light free. Weather permitting, your captain will anchor in this idyllic location and deploy the Marina for a day of play in the sea and sun.
A classic golden arc of sugary sand at South Friar’s Bay, Carambola is home to the island’s most luxurious beach clubs and restaurants. Umbrellas, loungers and optional water sports abound for those so inclined. Otherwise St. Kitts has other attractions, including a number of lovingly preserved plantation great houses, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Brimstone Hill Fortress and a scenic narrow gauge sugarcane railway.
Fort-de-France, Martinique’s capital, with its narrow streets and iron grill-worked balconies, brings to mind New Orleans or Nice. This distinctly French island is a full-fledged department of France, with members in parliament and the senate. Naturally, everyone speaks French, as well as a rapid-fire Creole. The island features a varied landscape, from quiet beaches to lush rain forest to imposing Mont Pelee. Not surprisingly, the shopping in Fort-de-France has a decidedly Gallic flair. Bienvenue to this bit of France in the Caribbean.
Barbados has retained many of the trappings of its British colonial heritage. Judges and barristers wear proper robes and wigs, police don helmets styled after London bobbies and cricket remains a national passion. Barbados also has all the sporting appeal of the rest of the Caribbean, with pristine beaches, powerful surf and crystal clear waters. Brightly colored homes and hibiscus flowers mingle with mahogany trees and English churches dating back to the 17th century.
Trinidad’s “little sister” Tobago welcomes you with a lovely fishing village set on a curve of beach on Man-o-war Bay. The town was founded in 1633, to serve the area’s slavery-enabled sugar production. Today fishing is the main business. Even by Caribbean standards, it is a sleepy place, where most visitors arrive to bask in the laid-back atmosphere, and swim, snorkel or dive in the surrounding waters. Nearby Pirate’s Bay is considered one of the Caribbean’s prettiest beaches, accessible by a long-sloping stairway or by boat. Speyside down the coast give access to the bird sanctuary of Little Tobago island just offshore. With luck, you may be treated to a musical performance by the local Tamboo band, who make music by banging lengths of bamboo on the ground, a relic of the slavery era. Otherwise, join the locals for “liming” (chatting) and enjoying fresh seafood, and stuffed rotis including the “Buss Up Shut” so named because the torn roti resembles a “busted up shirt.”
Before they were a notorious penal colony, the Iles de Salut (Islands of Salvation) provided French colonists with a welcome escape from the fever-ridden jungles of the Guiana mainland. Lying ten miles off the coastline, and swept by treacherous ocean currents, the trio of small islands provided a perfect isolated location for incarcerating criminals without danger or expense, since the shark-infested sea and the trackless jungles ashore precluded any possibility of escape. All three islands, popularly known as Devil’s Island, were used as a prison from 1852 to 1953. Your day is free to explore the prison ruins or search for signs of the surprisingly abundant wildlife.
On the north channel of the Amazon, at the river’s broad mouth, Macapá sits smack on the Equator, cut off from the rest of Brazil. The Marco Zero monument is a place where you can hop from the Northern Hemisphere to the Southern. San Jose de Macapá Fortress, which supposedly guarded against riverine invasions, is an historic site, in a rather subdued way. Apa do Curiaú is a village of descendants of escaped slaves, with some unique local customs and commemorations. The Casa de Artesão sells handcrafts from the area’s indigenous tribes, as well as balatas, unusual ceramics covered in rubber.
If you are a “pollywog,” who has never crossed the line at sea, you will be expected to undergo a mock trial by King Neptune and his court for the entertainment of the “shellbacks” who have already done so. Mild but hilarious indignities will be conjured, and in the end a good time will be had by most, if not all.
An optional opportunity to join the naturalists among your onboard Ventures by Seabourn expedition team on a zodiac adventure exploring the banks of the Guajara River — a tributary of the Amazon. At riverside buffalo farms, take advantage of the chance to interact with the ‘caboclos’ – the people who have adapted to living and working in close association with the river, and to learn about their lifestyle. As you pass through an area of gallery forest, keep an eye out for some of the many colorful tropical bird species that inhabit the region, as well as reptiles and mammals that may be glimpsed either in the trees or on the banks. The elusive pink river dolphins called ‘botos’ frequent this area as well. Caboclo legend maintains that the dolphins possess the capability to transform themselves into handsome young men at night, and seduce unwary maidens living in the riverside communities.
Santarem is a busy port for the trade flowing up and down the Amazon between the Atlantic and the inland forests. The most famous site for visitors is the “Wedding of the Waters” where the clear, dark Tapajos River meets the muddy ochre Amazon. Due to their different densities, they flow alongside each other for quite some distance, between the same banks. Local boats specialize in taking visitors to the site. Local markets are fun to explore, and other excursions include visiting the smaller tributaries and forests, and fishing for the infamous piranha fish.
At this river town on the Amazon, there is a center that illustrates the history of mankind, both indigenous and immigrant, in the Amazonia region.
The largest city on the Amazon and the main port for export and import on the river. It is actually located on the Rio Negro a few miles from where it meets the Rio Solimoes to form the Amazon at the famous Meeting of the Waters. The Teatro Amazonas is an Italian Renaissance Opera House constructed of imported materials, which hosted world-famous artists at the height of the rubber boom.
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