Rogues Guide – Tortola History Culture & Attractions
In a remote place, where the Atlantic meets the turquoise waters of the Caribbean, there is an archipelago of about 50 islands, cays, rock formations, and islets, called the British Virgin Islands. THis Rogues Guide is an overview of Tortola History, Culture & Attractions.
After Hurricane Irma in 2017 devastated these islands named by Christopher Columbus after St. Ursula and her 11,000 maidens, their future looked bleak. But the islanders are fiercely resilient, proud, and determined and have quickly returned to business.
Tortola is a part of the British Virgin Islands governed by a British appointed leader. The island’s first inhabitants were the Ciboney and later the Arawaks and Caribs. In 1493 Columbus discovered the islands and named them after the ll,000 virgins of St.Ursula. Famous pirates like Bluebeard and Capt. Kidd were involved in the plunder of Spanish galleons. Tortola has a romantic history of its own. Sugar production dominated the island until the 1800’s.
The relationship of this destination with the English crown remains close, so much so that, although it governs itself by a legislative assembly, the governor represents the queen. Hence, when Elizabeth II celebrated her 90th birthday, she was presented with a gift of sea salt. With this rare tribute, the islands remembered when the Salt Island salt mines were active. That’s because recently, the annual Salt Breaking celebration was revived. Although commercial production is no longer in effect, the idea of taking it up again is gaining ground: a possible way to bring the essence of the islands to tables in other corners of the world.
Land of the Turtle Dove
Tortola, known as the “Land of Turtles Doves”, is a mountainous island that runs at 19 kilometers of length and 5 kilometers wide, for a total area of 55.7 square kilometers. Its formation is attributed to volcanic activity through the years. The island’s highest point is Mount Sage, with an altitude of 530 meters. Earthquakes are quite frequent since the island is located near a geographic fault. There are many different stories, regarding the origin of the island’s name, the more established tells the story of how Cristobal Colon named the island.
RoadTown – the capital has a scenic harbor usually filled with yachts. It is also the capital of all of the British Overseas Territory. It is located on the central part of the south coast in a harbor that has a curious horseshoe shape that received the name Road Harbor.
One of the most unusual facts about Road Town is that the sea reclaimed over 27 hectares of land that was then converted into a tourist center called Wickhams Cay. Another landmark of the city is the oldest building: the Old HM Prison on Main Street, which goes as back as 1840.
Tortola Island plays an important role as it is the main ship chartering hub in the Caribbean. It is home of the Tortola Marine Administration. Two major ship companies also operate in the city, giving an important status in this matter
Tortola is a quiet, unspoiled paradise with much natural beauty. Beautiful sandy beaches abound and are the original rainforest at Mount Sage National Park. Road Town (the capital) is a haven for many yachts. Tortola is also a jumping-off point for visiting some of the other BVI, for instance, Virgin Gourda.
Tripping between the islands is a popular adventure. People who love excursions and outdoor activities will have an amazing time as there are countless things to do on the islands.
The island offers activities for every type of guest. You can enjoy the beach and all of its related activities. You can go on different tours, to visit heritage buildings, museums, and cultural attractions and admire the views of this paradisiac island.
Rogues Guide to Tortola’s Cultural Activities
Most visitors enjoy the laid-back atmosphere of Tortola and enjoy relaxing on the beaches and “doing nothing! But there are other activities such as water sports, a visit to the Mount Sage National Park and the beautiful Botanic Gardens. Museums, old forts and sugar mills provide an insight into Tortola’s past.
For those who enjoy shopping many great bargains in Wedgewood china and perfumes are available all over Road Town. Shopping in Road Town can be an exciting experience with offerings from Tortolan craftsmen and exceptional duty-free shopping. You can also head off to St. Thomas for a game of golf if you desire.
A building called Museo del Pueblo is one of the most important buildings within the city and displays a vast array of pre-Columbian artifacts. There are certain items that can be only seen here. Also, there are a lot of items and expositions with a marine theme. The old house of Government is also another astonishing place. It served as the living place of all governors of the island. Today, after an in-depth restoration, it has become another interesting museum.
For those interested in the rum-making heritage, there is the Callwood’s Rum Distillery. Visitors will have a tour around the factory and will taste the best samples of rum, made entirely on the island. They can also visit the store in the factory to get their own bottles.
For those who appreciate elegance and finesse, the botanical garden JR O’Neal is an amazing place to visit. It is not as huge as other gardens around the world, but the place is so amazing that this is just a minor thing to consider. You can visit the royal palm alley, or the Orchid Belvedere, a pond with turtles and lilies that will delight every visitor.
For food lovers, the gourmet experience is out of this world with seafood being the center of the gastronomy of the island.
The salt pans were territories that used to be very valuable, since with the ingredient obtained, fish meat was salted or brine was made for pork. These food preservation techniques were part of an early struggle for survival: salted fish, in particular, has been prepared in the same way over several centuries.
Caribbean cooks added lemon juice, tomatoes, peppers and coconut or palm oil to the European methods. Often, fish was used to prepare small fried pies, and cooks in the British Virgin Islands enhanced the flavor of white fish with peppers, onions and garlic.
Trade has also left its mark on today’s cuisine: the use of caramelized sugar adds character to food and adds a smoky flavor to marinades. Here it is omnipresent: every cook adds a pinch to the pot. Cynthia George sprinkles it on the pastry dough she serves at her little Sugar Apple café on Virgin Gorda; Gloria Gumbs of Midtown Restaurant adds a pinch to her famous beef tail soup; even the little yellow birds that flit around the islands are called sugarbirds.
However, sugar production was never extensive: Although the volcanic soil is fertile, the mountain slopes are steep and challenging to cultivate. When cane production moved elsewhere or was replaced by beet sugar, the plantation owners abandoned their land. One of the few surviving relics is the Callwood Rum Distillery, a corner of living history where the same family has produced the drink for over 200 years.
In the local cuisine, herbs, citrus and spices play a fundamental role, especially lemon, sour orange, pepper, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and garlic.
Coriander, oregano, thyme and small, sweet peppers are widely used as flavorings, and achiote adds flavor and color to stews cooked in an iron pot over charcoal. Plantains, green or ripe, are fried, roasted, boiled or baked, and the leaves are used to wrap food, although the mortar has been replaced by the blender.
One of the most traditional dishes is red bean soup with pork tails, coconut milk, spices, pumpkin and cassava. Other local specialties include a type of polenta mixed with okra, mayonnaise sauce (a gift from the British) and snails and lobsters (actually giant crabs without claws) caught on Anegada, a dream island surrounded by the electric blue waters of the Caribbean.
Crustaceans, as well as mollusks, are not exclusive to the islands, but this place is a major culinary hotspot. The secret is tenderizing, which is done through grilling and smoke from the grill. Dale Wheatley keeps his famous barbecue sauce recipe strictly guarded. It has a hint of ginger and a nice balance of sweet and spicy; that’s all he’s willing to reveal. Seafood is delightful in Tortola. Fresh lobster is served in many restaurants; also popular is conch and turtle. Great views add to the ambiance of the meal. Visit an authentic English Pub that serves its famous “Painkiller” and “Pussers Rum” ( an old navy drink)
Tourists who visit the island can enjoy many types of ecological tours. They can visit several national reserves and enjoy the amazing flora and fauna of the island. Trips by ferry to some of the neighbouring British Virgin islands is popular. Chartered tours around the island can be arranged by one of the sailing companies. The best way to get around Tortola is to hire a taxi and have a great tour guide in your taxi driver who will show you all the beautiful sights. Since Tortola is a small island, there are no large tour buses. Car rentals and exploring the island yourself is another option.
Many visitors choose to get married in Tortola. Weddings can be arranged, and the romantic hideaways make it perfect for honeymooners. Tortola is very laid back, very relaxing, very romantic, and the perfect place for all couples to seal their love.
Tortola is the perfect place for lovers and honeymooners, so most of the touristic sector is aimed at this kind of visitor. Hotels can arrange any wedding ceremony and honeymoon options and activities are amazing as well. If you want to have a relaxing time you can spend time in the spa or enjoy a yoga class.
Join the crown at Bomba’s Surfside Shack for something very different when the moon is full. The crown gravitates to Bombas on the full moon, when bands play all night long. If you wake in the mooring you will be amused at just how much of a shack it is. But then that is part of its appeal.
Local pubs, beach bars, restaurants, and hotels provide after-dinner entertainment.
Check out these party spots: Aromas Cigar & Martini Bar, Bamboushay, Chillout Charters, Columbus Sunset Bar, Pusser’s, The Beach Bar of Nanny Cay, Stanley’s Welcome Bar, Tropix Cocktail Bar.
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