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Caribbean break: The joys of relaxing in Antigua with a private chef who has cooked for Eric Clapton


Lying on a lounger by the infinity pool, sipping a pina colada and nibbling canapes, I breathe in the scent of bougainvillea and watch the solar set over the Caribbean.

Delicious aromas come from the kitchen, the place calypso music punctuates the stillness and I really feel like a rock goddess as I await my connoisseur dinner: chilled avocado and courgette soup, adopted by Caribbean fish casserole, a medley of greens and a luxurious chocolate cake.

I’m following in hallowed footsteps as my private chef Aneste has additionally served rock star Eric Clapton, who owns a vacation residence on the island alongside Giorgio Armani, Oprah Winfrey and former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Totally tropical: The coastline along Valley Church Bay in Antigua

Totally tropical: The shoreline alongside Valley Church Bay in Antigua 

The Mail on Sunday's Claudia Joseph stayed at Villa Azura, above, where she had her own private chef

The Mail on Sunday’s Claudia Joseph stayed at Villa Azura, above, the place she had her personal private chef

Clapton rents out his property, Standfast Point, set on the island’s southern tip with views of Montserrat and Guadeloupe, for £3,614 a night time. My very personal slice of paradise, Villa Azura, inside strolling distance of Long Bay, prices a extra manageable £3,756 a week – though that worth doesn’t embrace the luxurious of a private chef.

On my first morning, Aneste exhibits me across the capital, St John’s, a bustling port on the north-west coast, half an hour from the villa.

Looming above the candy-coloured cottages is the white neo-baroque St John’s Cathedral, one of the town’s most distinctive buildings. We browse the market, then fill up for a fruit salad with black pineapples, candy girl finger bananas, pink dragon fruit, passionfruit, star fruit, mangos, papayas and melons.

We pop into the Penny Bay grocery store to purchase Wadadli, the nationwide beer, plus native rum, coconut milk and pineapple juice. Back on the villa, Aneste teaches me the way to make a imply pina colada.

There’s a lot of time for lounging across the villa, dipping in the pool whereas pelicans and hummingbirds soar overhead, strolling in its landscaped grounds amongst palm timber, bougainvillea and hibiscus, and wandering right down to the pink-tinged Long Bay Beach to look at the sundown.

My bed room, with a mosquito-net-canopied mattress, has a private pergola patio overlooking the ocean, whereas the en suite rest room opens on to an out of doors rain bathe, hidden in the tropical walled gardens.

Vibrant: St John’s, Antigua's capital, is a bustling port on the north-west coast with candy-coloured cottages

Vibrant: St John’s, Antigua’s capital, is a bustling port on the north-west coast with candy-coloured cottages

That night I dine on Antiguan pork stew with rice and peas. The meat is from Aneste’s son Terence, a livestock farmer who lives with her on the opposite aspect of the island with his daughter and her three different grandchildren. Unsurprisingly, they too are dab arms in the kitchen. ‘They all know their stuff,’ Aneste says, smiling proudly, ‘even the 11-year-old.’

Not to be outdone, I persuade Aneste to show me the way to make a conventional Antiguan breakfast.

First we fry plantain, a distant cousin to the banana however bigger, harder and extra savoury. ‘Banana is softer when it’s ripe and sweeter,’ she explains. ‘Plantain is meant to be cooked. You can fry it or boil it but we’re frying it right now. You need to make the oil highly regarded.’

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Nelson’s Dockyard National Park is the restored 18th Century Royal Navy Dockyard named after Admiral Horatio Nelson

Then we cook dinner saltfish, sautéing some pollock alongside with onion, garlic, bell peppers, celery and thyme, earlier than including tomato puree and salt after which the piece de resistance, the aptly named ‘chop-up’.

‘We use pumpkin, okra, spinach, squash, whatever, to make the chop-up,’ she says. ‘You boil it, you cook it first, then you chop it all together with a little salt.’

After I’ve cooked – and eaten – my first Caribbean delicacy, I really feel like an honorary Antiguan.

Locals say Cades Reef, part of the National Marine Reserve, is the best reef snorkelling spot in Antigua

Locals say Cades Reef, half of the National Marine Reserve, is the most effective reef snorkelling spot in Antigua

Once thought of ‘Britain’s gateway to the Caribbean’, Antigua was named by Christopher Columbus in 1493 after the Chapel of the Virgin Mary in Seville Cathedral – La Virgen de la Antigua. However, it’s identified to the locals as Wadadli – therefore the title of the beer.

One landmark is Nelson’s Dockyard National Park, the restored 18th Century Royal Navy Dockyard named after Admiral Horatio Nelson that’s now a Unesco World Heritage web site. The Dockyard Museum is in the previous Admiral’s House, and you may amble round restored stone warehouses and right down to the marina full of glitzy yachts. Trails lead as much as Shirley Heights and a former navy lookout that has panoramic views of the island, or hike to Fort Berkeley on the west entrance to the harbour.

My first port of name is Stingray City in Seatons, a village 5 miles from the villa.

Claudia met an expat couple who relocated from Hertfordshire in the UK and now run tours on Reef Riders (pictured above)

Claudia met an expat couple who relocated from Hertfordshire in the UK and now run excursions on Reef Riders (pictured above) 

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TRAVEL FACTS

Villa Azura sleeps six and is one of 5 CV Villas on Antigua, with seven nights’ self-catering from £3,756. A private cook dinner prices £250 a meal (cvvillas.com).

After a five-minute speedboat trip, I’m snorkelling amongst southern stingrays and watching tropical fish reminiscent of blue tang and yellowtail snapper meander across the coral reefs. Tours value from £29 (stingraycityantigua.com).

On the west of the island, at Jolly Harbour, I meet expats Andy Morris, a former accountant, and his spouse Rachel, who swapped life in Herefordshire for Antigua.

‘I’ve gone from a 40-minute commute to a 90-second one,’ Andy laughs. The couple run excursions on Reef Riders – small boats which, he assures me, are ‘much safer and more fun than jet skis’.

Their 18-year-old son Tigger takes me out on one of the 11ft inflatable Reef Riders and we tear alongside the shoreline. I push the throttle ahead and speed up to 25mph, feeling wind in my hair and salty water on my face.

It’s exhilarating as we zip previous Valley Church, Ffryes, Darkwood and Turners seashores to Cades Reef, half of the National Marine Reserve. ‘It is simply the best reef snorkelling spot in Antigua,’ Tigger tells me. Tours value from £65 (antiguareefriders.com).

Afterwards, Andy explains the advantages of Caribbean life.

‘Coming out here was the chance for me to get involved in reef conservation and education, to spend time outdoors,’ he says. ‘It’s a nice method to reconnect to life. The way of life of Antigua is liberating. I simply want I’d completed it earlier.’

The solely draw back? Expect to placed on the kilos.

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