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St Lucia May 16 - 22, 2005   7 slideshows
Overview: We spent 6 nights on St Lucia (pronounced Saint Loo-sha).
While the Eastern Caribbean Dollar (EC$) is the official currency, many tourist-oriented activities (hotels, car rentals) quote in US dollars, hence the mix of currencies in the mentioned prices. I try to include taxes and tips/service charges when mentioning prices.

Underlying map is from Turquoise Net
Airport Arrival: After a plane change in Antigua (coming from the BVI), we landed at the smaller airport near Castries. My friend Joel had arranged for a taxi driver, Donald from Liquid Sunshine Taxi Service, to meet us and drive us to our hotel in Marigot Bay, about 30 minutes south of Castries. It's always nice to arrive at an airport and have somebody holding a sign with your name on it. :-) There was no ATM at this airport, so we stopped on the way in Castries at an RBC bank ATM (ironic, as RBC is Royal Bank of Canada, and the bank was next to CIBC, another Canadian bank; additionally, there was a big sign at the RBC ATM warning us not to use a CIBC card).
The taxi ride cost $25, a discount compared to the hotel's US$35 taxi booking suggestion.

Topographical map is from Skyviews

Click here for St Lucia road maps from Skyviews
(note the links in the lower left corner of that page for more detailed maps).
Marigot Bay: We stayed at The Inn On The Bay a lovely, modern 5-guest-room B&B on the southern headland's hill above scenic Marigot Bay, with a fabulous view from the terrace/deck with a refreshing pool. The "back side" of the house, where the road is, even has a scenic view out to the open sea. The owners Normand and Louise, from Québec, have been in St Lucia for 10 years and custom built this house as a B&B. The village of Marigot Bay is a 10-15 minute walk down the hill (longer coming back up!) but Normand would drive guests back and forth upon request.
Our first dinner, at Chateau My'Go on the waterfront was quite good; the banana daiquiri was excellent, and the all-day 2-for-1 drinks happy hour was an added bonus.
The B&B has free wi-fi, or you can use their computer for EC$1.50 per 15 minutes.
The very tasty cold breakfast buffet included daily homemade bread or muffins, very tasty watermelon and pineapple, and great coffee. We ate breakfast on the little table on the deck in front of our room which, being at the end of the house, was mercifully in the shade -- the morning sun became hot rather quickly! Birds would visit us and scavenge given any window of opportunity; we couldn't both go back to the buffet table for seconds at the same time. The first time we tried that, the birds decimated my banana.
The next day we crossed the bay on the little passenger "ferry" (EC$5 roundtrip pp) to have lunch at Doolittle's resto at the hotel across the bay (yes, the original movie was filmed there). While the palm tree fringed beach looks cute from a distance, it was disappointing and the water was murky. Leaving Susan on the beach, I wasted most of this and the next day with work, spending a lot of time on the laptop and mobile helping the office prepare for a big presentation. Despite working until almost two in the morning (and, I'm ashamed to admit, waking up one other guest couple and the owner with my "loud" echoing mobile conversations), I was up at 5:30 and witnessed a lovely sunrise before hiking down the 300 steps footpath for an unexciting snorkel.
We did have a nice dinner at The Shack, on the waterfront, with my university friend Joel, who was surprisingly pasty white (i.e. non-tanned) after 15 years in the Caribbean as a resort manager and now resort consultant. I had met up with Joel on St Lucia on a visit almost 10 years prior. In a discussion about how us white guys can't dance, his fitness-instructor girlfriend Jardin (pronounced Jar-deen) told us to "listen to the drums, not the music" when dancing.
We also ate one dinner at JJ's, skipping the big BBQ, but more memorable was our 2-phase ride back to the B&B courtesy of JJ himself (whose bling-bling was a big "JJ" medallion on his necklace) and, even more memorable, the abundance of tiny frogs on our deck.
Southwest Coast by Boat: Despite good intentions and breakfast before 9:00, we didn't make it down to our water taxi until 11:00. We did a day trip south to the Pitons, the famous twin peaks that are the best known St Lucia landmark, with three snorkel stops en route. We skipped the extra US$60 taxi trip from a Soufrière stop to see the volcano and botanical gardens as we were planning on driving there ourselves another day (and to have more snorkeling time).
Stop 1:Jalousie Beach with Marine Reserve:
very nice snorkeling, inc. eels, an octopus, brittlestars in purple spongy coral,
and "centipedes" whose white hairs bristle when disturbed.
Lunch:Jalousie Hotel (formerly the Hilton) beachfront restaurant:
slow, pricey but very tasty and high quality food
Stop 2:Anse Chastanet Beach with Marine Reserve
good snorkeling, inc. an eel, one cool coral banded shrimp, flounder, 2 squid
Stop 3:Anse Cochon
so-so snorkeling, inc. a flounder and lots of brittle stars in purple sponge
We returned tired to Marigot Bay around 17:00, stopping at Chateau My'Go for happy hour drinks, and Susan's banana daiquiri was so strong it was undrinkable (we had to ask for more mix).
The Rental Car: We rented a soft top Suzuki Jimny (a small 4x4 jeep) for 3 1/2 days from Cool Breeze Jeep / Car Rental, recommended by our B&B and who conveniently deliver the vehicle to hotels. In our case, we took over the jeep from other guests at our B&B who were "returning" it the same day that we wanted it. It was supposed to be an easy swap, but the company representative didn't bring the right forms for us to sign, so we had to drive up to the Castries airport office that evening (after the boat trip) before their official 19:00 closing time. They also sold us the required temporary driver's licence (EC$54 for a 3-month permit).
There is essentially one main road ringing the island, plus a dead-end offshoot in the northwest corner to Rodney Bay.
Castries: We met Ed & Lucy at our B&B -- two Brits who met while studying law at Harvard. They had no car, so we invited them to join us for dinner in the charmless capital town of Castries at the Coal Pot resto. The harbourside restaurant was quiet that night but the food was excellent and Ed & Lucy were delightful dinner companions. Susan and I shared 2 appetizers and one main course, which was just the right quantity.
Southwest Coast by Land: We drove south down the coast just past Soufrière (32km; 1 hour) to eat an excellent lunch at Dasheene, the best-on-the-island restaurant of the posh Ladera Resort with a stunning view of the Pitons and Jalousie below. We asked to see one of the $400+/night suites, each with an open wall towards the sea view (and good mosquito nets on the beds).
Then into the "Drive-in Volcano" where one drives fairly close to the bubbling puddles with accompanying sulphur smell. No lava though. We skipped the hot pools that one can bathe in. The nearby Botanical Gardens were nice, but a little redundant after Dominica, so we returned to the B&B to rest up before an outing to the local Fish Fry and Jump Up.
Anse La Raye Jump Up: Both for company and to save them taxi hassles (not to mention a later return time), we invited Ed & Lucy to the Fish Fry and Jump Up in Anse La Raye, which is smaller, newer and closer than the big Jump Up in Gros Islet (pronounced "Grows Is-lay"), to which I had been almost 10 years earlier. There was thumping loud music and cheap food: EC$10 for BBQ fish, EC$5 for 4 large escargots, EC$1 for bread, EC$3 for a local Piton beer. Two dogs mooched off of Susan, who can't resist interacting with the local "wildlife." We donated to a little local girl raising funds for her school. And a drunken middle aged woman asked Ed (twice!) if his Thai shirt was Hebrew or Arabic script. Unlike my experience 10 years ago, we didn't dance much and the overall mood was more sedate -- a change that Joel had commented on as well.
I didn't know it at the time, but that very night a nice couple on a catamaran were enjoying the fish fry; a couple I would meet the next week on Bequia in St Vincent & The Grenadines!
Rodney Bay: After a lazy morning by the pool, we left at noon with Ed & Lucy (who had done the rum distillery tour that morning, and bought us a 1/2L bottle) for Rodney Bay in the northwest of the island (1 hour). We had an ok cheap-and-cheerful lunch at the Lime Bar in town, but then Lucy developed a sun rash so we drove to a nearby pharmacy and dropped them off at the main beach, called Reduit Beach. I also picked up a bottle of Scotch for Normand as a gift for the noise I caused a few nights prior.
Susan and I continued to Pigeon Island National Park at the northern end of Rodney Bay, where the snorkeling was disappointing except for funky little crabs on the sandy bottom. We tried to walk up to the viewpoint, but wet flip flops weren't cooperative.
So we returned to Reduit Beach where we swam and then finally found Ed & Lucy -- actually they found us, saying they had just gotten off a jet ski ride at a good price. We shared a jet ski, a new experience for Susan who drove cautiously (like a 90-year old on highway 401 - Susan's words, not mine!). I gunned it more. It was fun, but we didn't need any more time on it.
We had drinks at Spinnakers on the beach (happy hour didn't apply to beer -- can you believe it!?), then changed in the parking lot before driving around the corner for dinner.
The Indian resto Razmataz was booked up and we were told it would be a 1 hour wait, so we walked up and down the street to peek at other restos' menus and decided to go back and wait. As luck would have it, a cancellation had just come in and they seated us right away. The meal was excellent with very tasty sauces. By the time we returned to the B&B, everyone was dead tired after a fun day!
Departure: We drove to Hewanorra airport (~1hr 15min) in the southeast corner of the island for Susan's flight to Toronto, passing a funny sign reading "Banana Emergency Recovery Unit" on the way (photo evidence in the slideshow :-).
After a sad good-bye, I drove back across the island up to the airport near Castries for my flight to Kingstown, St Vincent (via Barbados). Along the way on the east coast, I gave a short ride to nice middle aged local men who were going to a cockfight and invited me to watch and have a drink, but I didn't have the time. I did stop for a quick bite to eat (Piton beer, bread, chicken wing, all for EC$6) at a roadside stand with a scenic view of Dennery Island/Bay. I returned the rental car and checked in; with time to kill, I went for a quick swim and walk along the mostly-locals palm-fringed beach right next to the airport (there is also a big graveyard next to the runway). While swimming my sunglasses broke!
The flight departure was delayed almost an hour, which was ok as I had a 90-minute layover in Barbados despite having only one flight number all the way to St Vincent (in two 30-minute legs). I hadn't been in Barbados since I was a child, so I was surprised to see how built up it was near the airport -- with a Miami-like shoreline full of high rise buildings.
Next stop: SVG.

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