Thursday, April 5, 2012

St. Lucia: What we did

by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.
Our older daughter made the arrangements, and we rented a 3-story, 4 bedroom, 3 bathroom house that looked out to Rodney Bay from the side of a “mountain” (large hill), along with many other beautiful, modern, well-landscaped homes, most of them (but not ours) gated.  The house is fully furnished with all pots and pans, dishes, towels, and air conditioners in 3 of the 4 bedrooms (electricity is expensive), but no air conditioning in the main parts of the spacious house.  As I write this essay, we have 3 of the full-length sliding glass doors (only 2 with screens), wide open and the front door (no screen) open for cross ventilation.
(As I write this, too, we have just experienced the hardest, longest rain so far, and this is the 5th day of our stay on St. Lucia.  We have had some light rain, but most days are sunny with temperatures between 80 at night and 85-90 during the day with high humidity.  It is very hot!)
All our flight connections and meeting with our contacts at Hewanorra International Airport in St. Lucia were exactly on time — even though our plane was about 15-minutes late getting in because of a late departure from Miami.  From Miami it is about 3 hours.
We drove from the airport in St. Lucia along the eastern (shortest) route by Dennery and up through Castries (the capital; population 55,000) to Rodney Bay.
Greg Skinner (the Canadian owner of our rental unit), and the one on whom we are dependent for our transportation, took us on an “orientation” tour of the northern part of the island on Monday, the day after our arrival.  We toured Rodney Bay, Gross Islet (ee-lay), and drove out the causeway and up to the gate at Pigeon Island National Landmark.  Then we drove farther north to Cap Point (on a rutted dirt road, along the outside wall of a large, private resort).  Cap Point is at the far north end of St. Lucia.  There we found part of a washed-up shuttle booster rocket, a small shack-like restaurant, tables full of souvenirs, and horse rides.  It was a poor, run-down area staffed by locals who looked like singers in a Caribbean reggae band.
The tour then took us along a narrow, paved road up into the hills where some of the expensive mansions are located — a large white one with high walls and gates was where Justin Beber (a current teenage heartthrob) might have stayed — we were told.
Greg took us back to the Rex (Hotel) at Rodney Bay where we swam for 1 1/2-hours on the Caribbean Sea side (western side) of the island in great waves.
Pigeon Island (our destination for Day #2 of our stay) which, according to our AAA Caribbean Tour Book lies “off the northwestern coast is named after Admiral Rodney’s carrier pigeons, which were once housed at the ruined fort.  Joined to the main island by a causeway, the area is now a national park which contains Arawak remnants, lookouts, gun batteries and barracks set amid tropical plant life” (p. 220).  We spent a full day in the park. (All page numbers refer to this Tour Book.)
We climbed up to the fort from which we could see (about 20-25 miles away), the island of Martinique.  When we climbed the higher hill, we could see Martinique by looking north and St. Vincent (about 100 miles away) by looking south.  The view behind us — all along the coast from Rodney Bay northward was spectacular.  The town of Castries is blocked by a mountain.
Following our hike (climbing up to the 2nd peak was tough), we went to the restaurant within the park.  It was an antiquated building with a thatched roof, and on the porch we found an old picnic table that seated seven.  Grant and I had king-like chairs at the ends made out of driftwood.  We had vegetable soup and soda bread plus a smoked-turkey and Swiss cheese sub-sandwich.  Although service was slow, it was good food, reasonably priced, and very filling.
The rest of our day was spent on the beach in the park, but we had to vacate it at 3:15 for a planned wedding.  A couple from a cruise ship (docked in Castries) was getting married at 4:30.
While enjoying the sand of a nearby beach, we heard music coming from the wedding site, so we watched (as best we could), then at 4:40 or so, we walked over along a sidewalk above where the wedding was taking place.  Besides a photographer, a musician, and a set-up crew of 2, there were no spectators except for those on a sidewalk above (where we were), exiting the park, who would pause briefly to listen.
To our surprise it was Rob “Zi” Taylor playing his sax to his own recorded, electronic music.  Rob “Zi” is well known throughout the island and “around the world” because of his participation in the St. Lucia Jazz Festival — “now one of the world’s top jazz events, [which] draws international acts — and their fans — for two weeks in early May.  Free lunchtime and evening concerts are held at Derek Walcott Square in Castries” (p. 219).
Earlier yesterday we passed Rob Zi’s home, and we were told about him by Greg.  During the wedding, while photographs were being taken some distance away from where we were watching, I went down a dozen stairs to the beach and asked Rob “Zi” for his business card, which he retrieved for me.  (Before getting his card, we weren’t positive it was him.)
When we left the park, and just outside the main gate, we encountered a very friendly, 19-year-old taxi driver, with whom we talked for nearly a half hour while we waited for Greg to pick us up.  All St. Lucians speak fluent English, and U.S. currency is accepted everywhere, but not always credit cards.  The bank exchange rate is $2.67 EC$ to $1.00 U.S.
On our fourth day, we took an full tour of the island with Greg.  Our tour began at 8:55 a.m., and our first visit was a drive through Castries and the dock area where the Caribbean Princess was docked along with another large ship.  Five cruise ships can be docked at the same time. This was not a shopping tour, so we did not go into any of the local markets.  The traffic in and out of Castries is stop and go — more stop than go!
From Castries (the capital), we traveled south along a scenic, narrow, twisting, hilly road to Marigot Bay — a popular tourist destination.  It is a small, idyllic, deep blue bay (full of small boats), surrounded by tall, very green mountains and from a small lookout platform high above where all the ship excursion buses stop for the view, they sell sample “rum shots” for $1.00 U.S.
We drove through several, small, very poor fishing villages — where we would have loved to wander around.  Anse La Raye, one of these, was badly damaged by hurricane Tomas (October 30, 2010).  There is nothing these little villages can do to protect themselves from hurricanes and the accompanying torrential rain in their shack-like, no screens, rickity roofed, little homes — except to move to higher ground.
We drove around the small port village of Soufriere (soo-free-air) — population 7,656 — which we could view from the road above.  It is located in a low-lying volcanic crater, derived its name from the bubbling pits of sulphur, was once the flourishing capital, and is now a sleepy fishing village.
We stopped around Soufriere to get pictures of the towering twin Pitons (pee-tons) — the island’s most noted landmarks.  These are “volcanic peaks that spring forth majestically from the ocean to a height of more than a half-mile.  Gros Piton (2,619 ft.) can be climbed by experienced hikers; Petit Piton (2,438 ft.) is not considered safe to climb” (p. 222).
From the Pitons we drove farther south and east to Hewanorra International Airport and at the southern-most tip of St. Lucia, we had lunch and watched a couple of wind surfers at Sandy Beach where the kids changed into their bathing suits and used the restrooms at The Reef Restaurant and Beach Bar.
We arrived at Adventure Tours in Dennery at 2:45 p.m.  Three of our grandchildren did the 12-platform zipline, and the fourth suited-up just for pictures.  We left there at 4 p.m.  It is one of the most popular tourist attractions on the island, and the kids loved it.
On our way home we traveled the “roller coaster” road down into Castries by the governor’s mansion.  We stopped briefly to have a wonderful view of the entire town and port area.  One of the docked cruise ships was getting ready to leave, and by the time we were in the port area itself, it was nowhere in sight.
We arrived back in Rodney Bay around 6:00 p.m. after a very long day.  I have saved my observations about the island and island culture for my second St. Lucian essay: “St. Lucia: Some observations.”
- - - - - - -
At tripadvisor  there are at least 20 things to do in St. Lucia.  We either did them or we considered each of them as a possibility.  There is a great deal to do, and each item offers a unique and interesting perspective.

At 10Best you can click on beaches, sightseeing, or tours and excursions to get the 10 best of each.
- - - - - - - -
Copyright April, 2012, by And Then Some Publishing L.L.C.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Essays, SMOERs Words-of-Wisdom, Fridays Laugh, book reviews... And Then Some! Thank you for your comment.