If You Go
Where: Calabash Cove Resort & Spa
More information: St. Lucia Tourism, www.calabashcove.com, www.stlucianow.com
By Barbara Barton Sloane
Special to The Vindicator
“Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.”
So said John Ruskin back in the early 19th century. I beg to differ, Mr. Ruskin. We’re plenty familiar with bad weather. Fingers crossed, this winter will be easy on us. If not, well, there’s always St. Lucia!
Ahhh ... St. Lucia. I’m thinking of that time not so long ago (actually last winter) when I found myself languishing in sunshine as airports around the country were canceling flights, thwarting everyone’s plans to escape the deep freeze. I had an early morning flight to St. Lucia, and right after we took off, all remaining flights were canceled – zero, zilch, nada for the indefinite future. Hearing that as I lazed in my striped hammock overlooking the beach, I’m sorry, but I just had to stifle a giggle. Sipping my pink punch while leisurely applying some SPF 45, I realized I was one lucky girl.
The ride from the airport to my lodgings allowed me to drink in my surroundings. The landscape here was distinctly different from many of the other Caribbean islands. I was surrounded by thick vegetation and deep, verdant rainforests that draped the soaring mountains beyond. We traveled through small villages of open-air markets and well-cared-for homes painted in palest pastel or bright reds, yellows and turquoise, frequently encircled by a delicate white picket fence. Outside my taxi window, I saw the Atlantic Ocean to my east while the Caribbean caressed the west coast.
After a lengthy ride, the driver made an abrupt left turn onto a private road that wound up a steep incline. As we lurched forward over rocks and ruts, misgivings set in. Where was this driver taking me? Several more yards and he stopped. This rude, rough road was the perfect foil for what unfolded before me: Calabash Cove Resort, my final stop.
I ran down the steps to a huge balcony that opened onto a staggering vista of sea, sky, manicured grounds and in the distance, Castries, the country’s capital. St. Lucia is between Martinique and St. Vincent. Rising from its fertile forests are two singularly special peaks known as the Pitons. They are actually volcanic peaks, a World Heritage site. Gros Piton, south of the town of Soufriere, rises to a height of 2,619 feet and can be climbed without ropes or mountaineering experience; you can hike to the summit and come back down to sea-level within a few hours.
Raindrops Fallin’ On My Head
Something tells me that when one visits the rain forest, there will be rain. As Longfellow once said, “The best thing one can do when it’s raining is to let it rain.” Well, I’m not so sure about that. I was sitting in a Rainforest Adventures open-air tram on my way up to the rain forest when the skies opened. Rain pelted down with such fury that my skimpy plastic poncho was useless.
Just then, I remembered hearing some chatter before boarding the tram about this adventure taking more than two hours. So, to quote the lyrics from a Burt Bacharach song, “I did me some talking to the sun ...” Talking? I was begging the sun to make an appearance. And, as happens in St. Lucia every day – the rain stopped, and it was sunny– at least for a little while.
Was the slog up to the rain forest interior worth it? You bet. This was nature in all its majesty. We saw the remarkable phenomenon of the Strangler Ficus alighted upon by hundreds of hummingbirds; there were gargantuan ferns and magnificent Heliconia, too – and our guide was able to identify the calls and plumage of many of the birds that call the Caribbean forest home. As our visit came to an end and the tram began its descent, the on/off rain started up again.
Finally returning to the resort and my water’s-edge cottage with its private plunge pool and wide expanse of porch, lounge chairs and day bed, I found a cozy, dry refuge to snuggle in with my Kindle and a rum punch.
Over the next few days, I visited Sulfur Springs, unique because one can literally drive up to the edge of the boiling cauldrons. Until the mid-1990s, tourists were able to walk right up to the edge of the tar-colored pits. After an accident when a local tour guide fell into a pit and suffered third-degree burns, this activity was restricted.
On a catamaran, we cruised to Jalousie Beach in Soufriere. The large boat was chock-a-block with tourists and we all just kicked back, allowed the navy-blue sea to do its calming magic, and made countless visits below deck for lovely munchies and good, strong rum libations. I can unequivocally say that a good time was had by all.
Rocky Road, Soft Landing
During my stay at Calabash Cove, I looked forward each morning to my shower. It was a charming outdoor shower, so I greeted the day gazing up through overhanging boughs to a cerulean sky above – and stepping between pale yellow and pink frangipani blossoms that had fallen on the floor overnight.
Breakfast was a serene affair taken on the terrace with sweeping vistas of the sea, while at night the resort fairly pulsed with live music, cocktails, conversation, dining al fresco and then walking on the secluded beach under a velvet black sky alive with stars.
WE BE Jammin’
As my holiday was ending, I asked where the real St. Lucians go for fun and found out there’s a happening that not many tourists are aware of: the Gros Islet Street Party. Every Friday night there’s a street party, aka the jump-up.
A taxi brought me to an old fishing village with streets cordoned off by stalls of street vendors. Lots of steamed fish, curry, rice and jerk. I sampled barbecue chicken but passed on the Piton beer in favor of a rum punch. Blasting through it all were the sounds of calypso, reggae and R&B. Dancing was de rigueur, so it was just grab a partner (whoever was closest), twirl around and go on to the next. It was Friday night – time to party. For everyone, music brings out the best, and in St. Lucia, they know how to bring out the very best in their guests.
Barbara Barton Sloane, a Youngstown native, is a New York-based travel writer, editor and columnist who writes for several national and international publications.