NEVIS, Nov. 21, 2015 – In the world of travel, the tiny island of Nevis is a perfect synonym for serenity.
On most days, the biggest event on Nevis is the sunrise with its promise of perpetual solitude in paradise.
Nobody really knows how Nevis got its name, which is derived from the Spanish “Nuestra Senora de las Nieves,” meaning “Our Lady of the Snows.” The reference comes from a rare snowfall on the Esquiline Hill in 4th-century Rome. Many believe the theory is based upon the clouds that usually surround the summit of Nevis Peak, which apparently reminded someone of the miracle snow in Italy centuries ago.
Nevis’ is also known as the “Queen of the Caribees,” thanks to its once thriving sugar industry in the 18th century. Today tourism has replaced sugar as the primary source of revenue, but the island has wisely incorporated its past to sweeten the transition.
Situated a little more than 200 miles east-southeast of Puerto Rico, Nevis and her larger sister, St. Kitts, gained their independence from the United Kingdom in 1983. They are separated by a shallow two-mile channel known as “The Narrows.”
Most visitors arrive in Nevis by water taxis, which take approximately 10 minutes from St. Kitts, but the island does have an airport as well that can accommodate small planes.
For a tiny place, Nevis has a rich history which it ingeniously utilizes to promote tourism. When Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville, the French-Canadian founder of Louisiana, decided to drive the English out of Nevis in 1706, many plantation owners burned their property rather than allowing the French to take control.
Ironically, it was primarily the African plantation slaves who took up arms to defend their families against the French invaders.
Two important consequences resulted from the attack: the sugar industry ultimately collapsed, and small plots of land on the plantations were offered to the previously enslaved families. Today Nevis has a population of roughly 12,000 inhabitants, largely of African decent.
When slavery was abolished in 1834, the first Monday in August was set aside as Emancipation Day as part of the island’s annual Nevis Culturama Festival.
But given its laid-back personality, there are other fascinating historical aspects to Nevis. British naval hero Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson was married to the 22-year-old daughter of a plantation owner on Nevis in 1787. The Duchess of Bronte, Frances (Fanny) Nisbet, lived at Nisbet Plantation, which is today one of four sugar plantations that have been renovated into upscale resorts.
The first United States secretary of the treasury, Alexander Hamilton, was born on Nevis and spent the first years of his life there.
Also from Nevis was Rupert Crosse, the first African-American to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Another well known Nevisian actress, Cicely Tyson, won multiple Emmys and was nominated for an Oscar in 1972.
Lesser known, but no less important, is the story of Captain John Smith, who visited Nevis while sailing to Virginia in 1607. It was during this voyage that the first permanent English settlement of Jamestown was founded in the New World.
Yet, with such a rich history, time still passes slowly on the island of Nevis and the residents wouldn’t have it any other way.
Electricity wasn’t introduced until 1954, but it was not available throughout the island until 1971. Despite that, Nevis was home to the first hotel in the Caribbean, the luxurious Bath Hotel and Spa built by John Huggins in 1778. Huggins created his property to take advantage of the small but soothing medicinal waters of the nearby hot spring that is fed by the thermal activity of Nevis Peak.
Though the hotel is now used as an office building, the hot springs remain active for visitors to enjoy “taking the waters.”
Four of the former sugar plantations have been converted into resort hotel properties, each with its own charm and character. The deluxe Four Seasons Hotel is the only chain hotel on Nevis and the only Four Seasons hotel in the Caribbean.
As would be expected, life centers around the water. Pinney’s Beach, on the western coast, is the most developed beach on the island.
Though tourism thrives, the island is too small to accommodate large cruise ships, and with 400 hotel rooms, half of which belong to the Four Seasons, Nevis’ goal is not to add more hotels but to fill the rooms it already has.
Nevis is a place where a chorus of tiny invisible tree frogs will serenade you to sleep. A place where soft breezes caress the palm trees to sound like a gentle rain. A place where time somehow gets lost within its own timelessness.
Nevis is an island of eternal summer, “where the livin’ is easy.”
About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award-winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
He is founder of the Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.
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