Posted by: Mickey Goodman | September 15, 2009

Lucious St. Lucia

“Take a look on the left,” boomed the Delta pilot as we approached St. Lucia. Obediently, I craned my neck for a peek. One look at the verdant peaks of Gros and Petit Piton rising directly from the azure sea and I gasped. Suddenly, I was Lois Lane and Superman was transporting me – sans airplane — to pluck a flower from beside a lush waterfall near Petit Piton.

“You’ve got me. Who’s got you?” I mumbled, surprising my seatmates, honeymooners Amber and Andy Utt from Hillsville, Va., who were doing some gasping of their own. View of Pitons

The mesmerizing island was a world away from the Windy City of Chicago where my husband and I honeymooned four decades ago. Poorer than church mice, we had commandeered my grandmother’s apartment while she visited my parents in New Orleans.

We thought it was glorious. We fixed our first breakfasts together as man and wife, fed the squirrels in Lincoln Park and spent entire days at the Art Institute and the Museum of Science & Industry. Our one splurge was a romantic dinner at The Pump Room, one of the city’s premier restaurants.

Starting at the Top

Today’s honeymooners start off on better financial footing and fly to exotic locales that boggle my frugal mindset. But who am I to say it’s not worth the splurge for two people to begin their new lives in an island paradise where dreams are made? After my brief visit, I understand why it has become known as honeymoon nirvana.

Located just 13 degrees north of the equator, St. Lucia is one of the Windward Islands of the Lesser Antilles located midway between Martinique and St. Vincent. But it’s not your ordinary “lay on the beach and get a great tan” kind of place. The ecological aspects of the lush 27 by 14-mile  island attract couples who want to do more.

St. Lucia truly has it all – the white sand beaches famous throughout the West Indies, mountains to scale, hotels that make the word “posh” seem plebian, fabulous four and five-star restaurants and a lively native night scene. But Mother Nature is the star. She’s kissed the water with blues that artists envy, decorated a lush rain forest with exotic flowers and rare birds, left a volcano hissing but not spewing lava, and created waterfalls and peaks that dazzle. Add in world class scuba and snorkeling, horseback riding on the beach, hiking in the rain forest, climbing the Pitons — and there’s plenty of adventure for  fit travelers.

Another World

Our St. Lucian adventure began the moment we stepped into our van at Hewannora International Airport at the southern tip. The island’s highway system consists of one two-lane road with turns tighter than a corkscrew’s. Though it hugs the circumference, few railings divide the road from the crevice below and our dare-devil driver displayed none of the laid-back qualities of islanders. He neither slowed down nor yielded to oncoming traffic.

Nearly an hour later, the white-knuckle drive ended at our destination — Jalousie Plantation, a luxury resort nestled on 325 acres of tropical forest between the volcanic spires of the Pitons. Well-appointed villas tucked into the hillside make for spectacular views at dawn and sunset and afford privacy without compromising the convenience of the beach, dock, pool, spa and restaurants below.

Our first day began with a guided hike through the Barre de L’isle Trail within the St. Lucia Rain Forest Preserve that occupies 19,000 acres (13 percent) of the island and has 30 miles of trails for hiking and birding. Our guide pointed out exotic trees and plants, warned of snakes and creepy-crawlies and identified a myriad of birds. Spotting a bird in flight, he excitedly told us we were seeing the elusive and endangered St. Lucian parrot (Amazona Versicolor) that is found no where else in the world.

The rain forest was surreal, a picture post card of dense greenery punctuated with exotic wild orchids and neon orange and blue birds of paradise. Tired but happy after hike, I was pleased we hadn’t tackled the 566-step climb to the peak of Piton Flore. (TravelgramTip: The footing is tricky on damp rocks and moss (it’s a rain forest, after all), so tread carefully and carry a walking stick for balance.)

Recuperation came quickly over a round of mango daiquiris (TravelgramTip – not to be missed!) at Anse Chastanet and a fresh fish feast. After lunch we plunged into the ocean for snorkeling just off shore where a magical undersea world appeared instantly. Oddly, I was consumed with guilt as I tried to identify a few of the 175 species familiar to St. Lucians. Had I just eaten one of their brothers for lunch?

One of my favorite experiences was a trip to Fond Latisab Creole Park in Babonneau where the ancient Amerindians did one better than Mother Nature. Cocoa was not only consumed but made into shampoo. Nutmeg cane flavored tea and porridge. Rags were soaked in a brew of alcohol and coconut oil and tied around the head as headache remedies. Creole music played by a chak chak band on a barrel drum and bamboo sticks served not only to entertain but to ease the arduous task of slicing logs with an unwieldy two-man saw. (TravelgramTip – great for kids  of all ages.)

On the Posh Side

St. Lucia is rife with luxury resorts that are tucked into hills and rise from the beaches. At Anse Chastanet, an open-wall suite dubbed The Royal Palm was named the “Best Room in the World” by Conde Naste Traveler. Other honors include Jade Mountain, a new resort-within-the-resort takes “luxury” to a new pinnacle. (http://www.ansechastanet.com/news.html)

Ladera, dubbed Conde Nast Traveler’s “Best Hotel in the Caribbean,” and “Best Hotel in the World” features infinity pools with wide swings that seem to float out over the edge of the cliff in the open-wall suites. (http://www.ladera.com/).  Le Sport at The Body Holiday provides multiple sporting options and an opulent hilltop spa. At Marigot Bay, guest often arrive by water and tie up at he sail-in dock.

By moonlight, St. Lucia glows. Weekly events like the wild and crazy Friday night street festival, the Jump Up. Friday evening fish fries at Anse La Raye draw residents and tourists alike for a gastronomical extravaganza. Rhythmic Caribbean music is an integral part of both. On Saturdays, the capital city of Castries comes alive with the weekly market where island craftsmen and artists sell their wares along with local spices and a panorama of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Looking Back

I can’t help but wonder “what might have been” if Phil and I had honeymooned in St. Lucia’s paradise instead of Chicago’s snow and ice. Would our memories be any more special? Probably not. But each night since my return, my mind’s eye replays the images of the verdant Pitons, water bluer than an aquamarine stone and visions of Superman scooping me up for a return trip. In my dreams, he resembles Phil.

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Responses

  1. WISHING YOU WERE ALL HERE!……….

  2. The first time I traveled to St Lucia, I knew that I had landed in paradise. With lush mountains, fresh fruit everywhere and secluded coves, St Lucia is picture perfect Caribbean. Ladera Resort is then the Caribbean resort.

    • Me too, George. Curious how you found my site. Thanks for the comment.


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