St. Lucia

 Little Piton

Little Piton

Of all the Caribbean islands, St. Lucia was my one must-see destinations.  I had always heard about its stunning beauty… and pictures I’d previously seen had only confirmed that image.  And then I recently heard about their vibrant food scene - my decision to travel there was clinched.  It also helped that good friends Andree and Bruce were wintering there and had an extra bedroom for Sue and I.

We decided to see as much of the island as possible in our short stay of only 6 days.  Our friends had already arranged for a driver, Francis, who was a delightful fellow and very informative.  He often stopped during our drives to point out local ‘edible’ trees (mangoes, papaya, wax apple, cashew, etc.) which was a real treat for ‘foodies’ like Sue and I.  Below is a day-by-day description of our whirlwind visit to the island.

Day One – The Beach

After a much-delayed flight, and late night, we decided to check out the famous Reduit Beach on our first day.  It was close to our accommodation on Pointe de Cap so we were spared a long drive.  We rented chairs and umbrellas for the day (about $10 US).   After some relaxing we decided to take a long walk to the south end of the beach.  Luckily there was a fish-fry hut at the end which also sold cold beer!  Upon returning to our chairs we had worked up an appetite.  We decided to have a late lunch at the Spinnakers Restaurant located right on the beach.  I had a bone-in tuna with a Creole sauce and veg-rice.  It was delicious.

After lunch we wandered into the shops in Rodney Bay.  It’s a great place to stock up on provisions.  We bought some wine at the local booze shop and picked up some dinner supplies.  The rather leisurely day helped us get ready for Day Two – which was a Friday, the day (night actually) that we’d attend the ‘Jump Up’ at Gros Islet.

Day Two – Jump Up

After a day  by our pool we caught a ride with Francis into Gros Islet around 5pm.  It’s an interesting village that was originally occupied by the Carib Indians before the French conquered the island (which explains the many French names).  St. Lucia’s history was checkered with English and French occupations.  In fact, each country controlled the island seven times each!  Kind of a ping-pong existence.  Eventually the English prevailed and were the last colonial power prior to independence declared in 1979.

The village of Gros Islet has lots of little shops and is well worth a visit.  We found a nice bar right on the beach where we all had rum punches made with a special spiced rum.  Then we got in line for the BBQ at Dukes Place.  They were featuring mahi mahi (a.k.a. Dorado) or lobster. The inside story about Dukes was that they marinate their lobster for 2-3 days before cooking.  All we can say is the results were amazing.  We were also introduced to Fig Salad which actually doesn’t have any figs in the recipe – it’s made with green bananas, scallions, salt fish, bell peppers, parsley and mayonnaise – and it’s considered one of the National dishes.

After dinner we headed into the centre of the village which was filled with locals and tourists.  The streets were lined with bars and food stalls, and the music was loud.  Soon everyone was dancing and laughing and quaffing beers or rum punch. It was a great party!

Day Three – Market Day

One must on all my trips is a visit to the main market.  So we got up at 5.30 a.m. and headed into the harbour in Castries.  By 7 a.m. things were really hopping as the locals started arriving.  The array of fruits and vegetables, some I couldn’t identify, was astounding.  We were a little disappointed with the fish selection but the rest of the market was really chock full of foods (including live chickens!)  While we were there two large ocean liners came into the harbour…they were the size of small apartment buildings!  To be honest, these ships look a little strange to me and hardly seem to fit the category of a ‘boat’.  Plus, the tourists flood the roads and the beaches which makes St. Lucia lose some of its appeal.

Day Four – Pigeon Island

As mentioned earlier, St. Lucia was battled over fourteen times between the French and the English.  There are still remnants of those combative days on Pigeon Island so Sue and I decided to walk to the site and explore.  We found out that the island was first inhabited by Amerindians dating back to 1,000 A.D.   It was also the home to pirates until Admiral Rodney established a naval base nearby and built fortifications on Pigeon Island ; which is now a National Landmark.  We climbed up to the hill top look-out that still had canons from the 18th century.  There were also ruins of soldier barracks and a kitchen.  We wandered over the grounds and had lunch at the Captain’s Cellar Bar and Restaurant – it’s a charming old building that captures the historic period of the conflicts.  One big surprise was the marvellous beaches on the island – although you pay admission to get into the Park, it is well worth it as a strategy to void the thousands of tourists from visiting ocean liners.

That evening we dined at the Buzz Seafood Restaurant.  I can highly recommend this place!  The Seafood Bisque was the best I’ve ever had, and their Hot Pot was a mix of tender beef and pork which featured an exotic blend of local spices.  We also tried the King Fish with garlic butter sauce…another hit!

Day Five – Overland to the Pitons

Driving in St. Lucia is not for the faint-hearted.  The island is very hilly and mountainous and the roads have lots of switch-backs and crazy turns.  However, the beauty of the rain forest makes up for the windy roads… February is a very lush time of year when everything looks full of life … flowers abound.

 Our first stop was a hilltop view of Marigot Bay.  It is one of the prettiest harbours I’ve ever seen.  We continued onto the sleepy little village of Soufriere, a place we’d consider staying next tune around.  The town feels ‘real’ and was mostly devoid of tourists.  Our guide Francis took us to a local restaurant called Fedo’s New Venture.  We’d never find the place ourselves but thanks to our guide we had an authentic Caribbean lunch that included chicken or fresh tuna.  Next stop was the nearby Volcano and Sulphur Springs (the name of the town Soufriere comes from the French work for sulphur ‘soufre’).  We all jumped into the thermal bath and then covered ourselves in mineral laden mud.  It is supposed to be very therapeutic and leaves you with baby-soft skin.  Good fun! 

Our final stop was a rum distillery near Morne d’Or.  We tasted a variety of rums (I recommend the Admiral Rodney Extra Old) and I managed a quick tour of the production area so I could see the pot stills thanks to staff member Sirblin who snuck me past the guard.  Turns out the distillery imports molasses for the rum as St. Lucia no longer grows sugar cane in sufficient quantities.

Day Six – The Boat Trip from Hell

Our final day started down at Rodney Bay marina where we met up with our captain Jerome.  We were transported in an open boat to the beautiful Pitons which looked like it would be no problem as it a was warm and sunny day.  The trip there was a bit wavy and rough but we soon arrived at Soufriere again.  We had lunch at the Waterfront Creole Restaurant and Bar.  I once more tried the Fig Salad but this time all the ingredients were served separately – green bananas, salt fish, tomatoes, onions and lettuce.  The main course was creole style chicken which was terrific.

Next stop was a beach between the Pitons.  We all jumped in the water and snorkelled for a half hour.  For me, this was the highlight of the whole trip!  The fish were amazingly colourful and the rock and coral formations were fascinating.  Around 3pm we started home… this is when the fun began.

After about twenty minutes we encountered a little rain which soon let up.  Then it came back with a vengeance!  I never thought I’d feel freezing on a Caribbean island as the rain soon turned into what seemed like hail and was coming in on a horizontal plane.  We were all soaked and shivering.  Our captain turned into Marigot Bay where we towelled off and dropped into a beach bar for coffee and brandy.  Off again, into more rain, which continued all the way to Rodney Bay marina…then home to our apartment, South Sea House (a nice and friendly facility with fine views), and an early night.  Next day we flew home to Canada, a little exhausted from our busy but fun-filled vacation.

 

Contacts:

Francis Emmanuel / 1.758.285.6871

Pigeon Island / www.slunatrust.org

Buzz Seafood and Grill /  www.buzzseafoodgrill.com

Fedo’s New Venture / Restaurant  459.5520

St. Lucia Distillers / www.saintluciarums.com

South Sea House, Cap Estate / www.southseahouse.comouse, CapHouHH