For years I planned trips never taken. But since I had an American Express card and was registered with my favorite airline’s frequent flyer program, I found myself receiving enticing email travel bargains. Before the days of internet, I would scour the Los Angeles Times for ideas but it was the advent of email along with photos of destinations that really changed my life. One day, while extremely low on funds but desperate to get away, I eyed an email from AMX. ‘Get away for $500’ it stated. That got my attention and I started perusing the deals with the zeal of a Ferrari just hitting the freeway.
As a New Englander it was easy to jump in the car, change scenery and recharge. Literally you can be in a different state in less than an hour! But when I moved to Los Angeles and became a Location Scout in the Film Industry, getting away wasn’t so simple. I had scouted far beyond what is called the 30 mile Studio Zone and was eager to forge new trails. The mantra ‘Been there, Done that’ rang in my head every time I tried to make a quick weekend escape, and you simply can’t be a Location Scout without a great need to explore new territory. Never one to love the desert (unless I was getting paid to stay in a sub par motel, get sweaty as hell and take photos of piles upon piles of dirt), I knew what I needed was to get on a plane and arrive someplace visually stimulating. And by that I mean green, tropical, with history and someplace I had never been. And then I saw it! Antigua!
Through trepidation, tough financial times and a modicum of neurosis I booked the deal, however I do admit to spending more than the $500 AMX had sucked me in with. For those of you who don’t know, the ‘u’ in Antigua is silent. So don’t start out sounding like a tourist the moment you step off the plane! At the airport, perhaps because there are those that actually fly there with no place to stay, photos of hotel properties line the walls. Unlike today you were picking your hotel somewhat blind. Once seeing my hotel, I knew it was too big and impersonal for me. Being a fan of small, rather intimate properties, I made a few calls regarding availability, did some negotiating, grabbed a cab and had him drive me around until I found an acceptable place for my respite. Once I found it, I had the cab wait while I went in to cement my negotiated rate. And at that point, I knew I had arrived, I was in paradise.
I had found a lovely ‘boutique ‘hotel on the beach called Blue Waters. With a centralized bar and the infectious reverberating sounds of reggae wafting through the sound system, it was the quintessential Island experience. I became fast friends with a married couple from England, a writer for the UK’s Daily Mail and his artist wife, along with another fellow who lived on the Island and ran a Caribbean PR company. We dined together, drank together and during the day we went off alone and enjoyed doing absolutely nothing on the beach or partook in snorkeling, water skiing and sailing activities sold by Antiguan vendors walking the beach.
So to get on with the rock icon. Before leaving Los Angeles a friend gave me the name and number of a fellow who lived on the Island. I gave him a call and was immediately invited to dinner to join he and a couple of his friends. Kind enough to come and fetch me, we ended up at a fabulous little casual restaurant with bench seating and laid back vibe. Across from me sat a rather innocuous fellow in his early 50’s. As we were chatting he mentioned that he came to Los Angeles quite often. I asked him why and he told me he was in the music business. Having been in Los Angeles long enough, I knew that most folks who told me they were an actor, writer or musician were nothing more than still aspiring to ‘make it’. So I asked him how it was going and he told me things had gone well for him so far. The subject changed, the night waned on.
It was a clear night and on the ride home the Southern Cross made a spectacular showing. We pulled off the road and took it in with all it’s illumines. My new friend turned to me and asked if I knew whom I had been talking to all night. I replied, “Eric”? And he said “yes”. “What about him” I queried. “That was Eric Clapton”.
The next day I went off to explore the island in my jeep. As I was going up a hill to perch myself at the perfect locale to photograph the sunset, a truck heading down stopped short aside me, it was Eric! “Where are you going?” he asked. He then suggested I come back to his house for tea. Now by this time, having found out that I was talking to God and the charm of my naiveté having worn off, I stutteringly accepted. And there I was hanging out with the most famous guitar player in the world!
Perhaps this is where you expect me to share his very personal exchanges but I will save that for my fantasy biography. I will tell you, as most of the world knows, relationships were not Eric’s forte and I did have to bite my tongue when he lamented as to why his relationship with a 19 year old island girl wasn’t working.
Eventually we made our way up to view the sunset and hung around chatting while waiting for the sun to touch down. I had dinner plans with the writer for the Daily Mail, his wife and the PR fellow so I had to leave. With a bit of reticence I invited Eric to join us, all while pondering how I was going to juggle a gossip columnist and a rock icon at the same table. I supposed it was for the best Eric declined and that was the end of our private time together. For the remainder of my trip our time was spent in groups hanging at the beach and having cookouts.
So the next time you’re pondering taking that adventure solo, just do it! You never know whom you may meet! And in the worst case, you spend a week on an island paradise, make new friends and stow away another lifetime memory! Who have you met while taking a trip solo?
Dream, Travel, Explore