Hamilton — a musical about the life of Alexander Hamilton, one of the U.S. Founding Fathers and the first Secretary of the Treasury under President George Washington — is the hottest show on Broadway, currently showing at the Richard Rodgers Theatre. The cast recording was also one of the top albums of 2015.
It’s fitting to mention it today because Hamilton was born on January 11, 1755 (some sources say 1757).
One of the leading figures in the American Revolution, Hamilton was known as a brilliant orator and influential advocate of a strong federal government, putting him at odds with Thomas Jefferson and provoking jealousy from his one-time friend Aaron Burr, who eventually killed Hamilton in a duel. (Burr, a fascinating figure in his own right, is now primarily remembered for shooting his rival.)
The Travel Connection
Hamilton was born on the island of Nevis in the Caribbean, where he spent much of his childhood before emigrating to colonial America in the early 1770s.
Nevis is now part of the island nation of Saint Kitts and Nevis, formerly a British colony (English is the official language). It’s the smallest country in the Americas, both in size and population, but packs in plenty to see and do.
A few years ago, I enjoyed a ride on the St. Kitts Scenic Railway, a double-deck, open-air train that takes passengers on a three-hour tour circling the island, 18 miles of it by narrow gauge railway. Dating from the early 20th century and known as the “Last Railway in the West Indies,” it once transported sugar cane from the island’s sugar plantations to the sugar factory in Basseterre, the capital city.
As you ride along, you pass lush vegetation, little villages where you can practically reach out and touch the houses, and the now-abandoned sugar cane fields; sugar production halted more than a decade ago, and the train became a tourist attraction.
But Nevis is my favorite of the two sister islands. Smaller than St. Kitts, Nevis is known both for its sandy beaches — which are free and public — and Nevis Peak, a volcano that dominates the center of the island.
While several of the beaches are superb, there are plenty of other things to do on Nevis.
You can follow Nevis’ historic Heritage Trail on foot, by bike, or by automobile, exploring old plantations, estates, museums (one devoted to British Admiral Horatio Nelson, who used Nevis as a base); and the Alexander Hamilton House, now a museum.
Active travelers can go fishing, scuba diving, or sailing; hike through rainforests or soak in hot springs; or even swim to St. Kitts, a two-mile adventure across the “Narrows” that divide the islands. (Less-than-powerful swimmers can use fins and snorkels to make it across — or take the ferry.)
Nevis has attracted celebrities such as Princess Diana, Oprah, Michael Douglas, Jay-Z, and Beyonce, while Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda — who wrote the book, lyrics and music for the show — spent time on the island to gain inspiration.
Where to Stay?
There are a number of good lodgings on the island, but if you’re looking for the height of luxury and privacy, I came across this recommendation: the Paradise Beach Resort Nevis, a newly opened (as of June 2015) spot that offers just seven beachfront villas — making it perhaps Nevis’ most exclusive lodging.
It’s appropriate not just for couples but for groups of friends traveling together, or — of added interest to many baby boomers — multi-generational travelers.
The villas provide plenty of space, to say the least — up to 3,400 square feet with four bedrooms — with full kitchens that can be stocked prior to your arrival, if you wish. Private chef service is optional.
You’ll also find private pools, personal butlers, Hermès amenities, Asian-Caribbean design elements, a beach bar, and plenty of ocean views.
And no, I haven’t stayed there, but if I do, I’ll give you a full report. I feel that Alexander Hamilton, an all-around good guy, would want me to experience his native island in the lap of luxury — complete with private chef.
Of course, I’ll need to gather up a hefty stack of those Hamilton $10 bills first.
Travel Tip of the Day: St. Kitts and Nevis — centrally located in the Caribbean, near Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, the British Virgin Islands, Saba, St. Barts, and other attractive islands — can be used as a base for exploring the region.