The Carribean: Land of rum and sugar

We drink in the colonial influences and rich Jewish history in Nevis.

By Judith Baker, April 26, 2013
Kayaking by Nevis peak

Kayaking by Nevis peak

The ferry docks in the tiny port of Charlestown on the Caribbean island of Nevis and a noisy flurry of meeting and greeting, unloading and unpacking takes place. We have completed the short journey from sister island St Kitts to explore the historical richness of Nevis, named by Columbus when he first sailed past its shores in 1493.

He thought the clouds surrounding its peak looked like snow and the island's original name was Nuestra Senora de las Nieves (Our Lady of the Snows).

As one of the earliest colonies and the closest (in nautical terms) St Kitts & Nevis was prized by the British, creating a model for the lucrative plantation system based on sugar and slavery.

As well as a strong colonial background and links with Admiral Nelson the islands that make up the Caribbean nation of St. Kitts and Nevis, while extremely small, also have a rich Jewish history.

After being expelled from Brazil in the 17th century, Jews began to settle on this string of islands. At its height, the Jewish community here constituted around 25 per cent of the population.

These mostly Sephardic Jews brought their expertise in sugar production including how to crystallize sugar and make rum from molasses

The Jewish community erected a synagogue in the capital Charlestown around 1684 and a Jewish cemetery located on Government Road, which can still be seen. It contains graves

Getting there

British Airways flies to St Kitts twice weekly from London Gatwick. Return flights from £475

Getting from St Kitts to Nevis
Four ferry companies run daily services between St. Kitts and Nevis. The 45-minute crossing provides beautiful views of both islands. There is also a Car Ferry Service operating from Cade Bay Nevis and the South East Peninsula St. Kitts. For more information contact the Nevis Tourism Authority. Phone: 869-469-7550
For further information on St Kitts:

Stay Nevis
Montpelier Plantation Inn. Rooms from $400 per night.
Nisbet Plantation. Rooms from $399 per night.

Stay St Kitts
Ottley's plantation Inn
Kuoni offers 7 nights at Ottley Plantation Inn including flights for approximately £1220

It contains graves dating from 1679 to 1768. There are 19 surviving markers in the cemetery which bear inscriptions in Hebrew, English, and Portuguese.

A quick stroll around the charming town with its mix of French and British colonial buildings brings me to Jews' Walk, which is where people believe the synagogue once stood. At the end of the 18th century, most of the Jewish population left Nevis, leaving the cemetery abandoned.

Today, a major archaeological effort is under way to preserve and uncover more of it. It is believed that researchers may find a still undiscovered Jewish school and even another synagogue.

Admiral Nelson met and married local beauty Fanny Nisbet here. She was a young widow with a five-year old son and they were married under a silk cotton tree in Nevis in 1787.

A copy of the marriage certificate is on display at the Saint John Figtree Parish Anglican Church and the cotton tree still stands on Montpelier Plantation. From there it is a short trip to Saddle Hill Fortress, Nelson's lookout point for spying on enemy ships

As well as the fascinating Nevis Heritage Trail, which gives an insight into these cultures and historical influence, the tiny island has all the sights and experiences that one expects from a Caribbean destination, but without the crowds.

Beautiful beaches, hiking trails, water sports and golf are all here. You will spot the cheeky Green Vervet monkey as you travel around the island, as well as colourful hummingbirds, lizards and mongeese.

In addition to some fine dining restaurants at establishments such as the Four Seasons there is also a lively vibe and great food at beach bars such as Sunshine's, Chevy's and Double Deuce at the pretty Pinneys Beach.

Try local dishes such as freshly caught fish such as snapper and mahi mahi, washed down with cold beer and the sounds of live calypso.

Last updated: 12:37pm, May 1 2013