A week in the sun recharges our batteries, a lush Caribbean island an obvious choice. Consider beautiful St. Lucia in the Lesser Antilles between Martinique and St. Vincent, and try to sit on the port (left) side of the plane on the flight. With a prevailing west wind, the approach affords spectacular views of St. Lucia's famous twin peaks, the Pitons. Minutes later, you disembark, caressed by the island's warmth!
My family and I chose St. Lucia because I had visited previously and loved it, it's easy to get to from Toronto via Air Canada (their weekly direct flight puts you on the beach that very afternoon) and Air Canada Vacations offers Canadian-owned Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort on lovely Labrelotte Bay where I had stayed previously. The villas remain delightful, especially those with private plunge pools, the beach golden, the cocktails wonderful as ever, and the food delicious.
Over the years, this resort has garnered a number of awards for its cuisine, which celebrates fresh Caribbean ingredients and offers many innovative dishes. For the non-adventurous eater, there are lots of familiar choices too, especially at the beach-side casual restaurant where big burgers, satisfying pasta dishes and many other favourites are served throughout the day.
Windjammer is not an all-inclusive resort, although they do offer a certain number of inclusive days during your stay, so enjoy what the resort has to offer in the way of food and drinks. Plant your flag beside the beach lounger, and a cocktail will be delivered! Then, enjoy other establishments when you set out to explore this stunning island.
Windjammer Landing prides itself on its innovative children's program. This destination is popular with Brits. One of the "Top 10 Family Resorts Worldwide" declares BBC Holiday, a popular TV travel show; one of the "Top 50 Family Resorts" says Junior Magazine, a respected UK parenting magazine. If there are no children in your party, it need not deter you. The resort covers 55 acres; little ones rarely seen out of school vacation times; and, the program ensures that they are always amused and diverted from adult areas.
Here, there's a unique drive-in volcano, beaches and water sports galore. The Heritage Tourism Program offers tours, (many with lunches) to a variety of historic sites such as Creole estates, sugar plantations, Amerindian archaeological sites and the capital, Castries, not a pretty town, most destroyed by fire in 1948, rebuilt during the fifties, but worth a visit nonetheless.
Much of St. Lucia's interior is rain forest. The island houses 165 bird species with bird-watching high on my list of priorities both at the resort and in the field where one may explore independently or on a guided tour. Bananaquits, or honeycreepers are constant visitors to patios, balconies or even restaurant tables, especially when tempted with a little sugar. Guided trips to the National Rain Forest are of special interest to birders, hikers and nature lovers. This park is the pride of St. Lucia, a protected area covering 19,000 acres of lush mountains and valleys, home to giant ferns, indigenous tree species, exotic flowers and fruits, paths strewn with tiny bromeliads, wild orchids and
mushrooms. Among the bird species are the brightly-hued St. Lucia parrot known locally as the "jacquot," white breasted thrasher, St. Lucia peewee and the St. Lucia oriole.
Other nature tour areas include the Bois D'Orange Swamp and Boriel's Pond. There are four-hour early morning and late afternoon trips with a maximum of ten participants, minimum of three. Birding books are available at numerous book and gift stores.
Marigot Bay is a relaxing day trip, replete with stories of pirate ships and the British Navy as well as the location of movies such as Dr. Doolittle and Fire Power. A steep road down to the marina allows a view of sailboats before one catches a ride with a local (fee: one US dollar) across the bay to the Marigot Beach Club, a pretty, low-key resort, dive centre and popular bar and restaurant. Pause here for a drink or lunch and watch the action on the water. Charming accommodation is available. Another lunch or drink favourite in this noted bay is the Rainforest Hideaway, standing on stilts above the water. A local will ferry you across the narrow bay to this romantic spot.
St. Lucian's are a friendly, proud people who take delight in those familiar with their famous sons. They boast two Nobel Prize winners: Sir Arthur Lewis (Economics, 1979) and poet Derek Walcott (Literature, 1992), and artist and environmentalist, Llewellyn Xavier, O.B.E., who once lived and studied in Canada and whose work is exhibited at the AGO, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Smithsonian, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York as well as all over St. Lucia and other Caribbean locations. Ubiquitous brochures detail how one may make an appointment to his studio home.
When rippling water, warm breezes, ocean sunsets, rum punches and scrumptious Caribbean food beckon, follow the sun to St. Lucia.
Currency is Eastern Caribbean dollar, but US dollars are generally accepted with ATM's throughout the island and Canadian banks in Castries.
Taxis are not metered, but rates are fixed by the government for standard trips. Acquire a quote in advance and clarify which currency was quoted. If you rent a car (Avis, Budget and Hertz are here), you must purchase a temporary license (US $20) when you pick it up. Driving is on the left; roads vary widely from fine to routes with blind hairpin turns and potholes, especially along the west coast, nonetheless a spectacular drive.
Local mini buses are an exciting alternative, and locals love it when visitors board! Bus stops are located along the road, and the driver helps with the fare when you hold out
a hand full of change. It's a mile from Windjammer Landing to the main road where there is a bus stop. Try it in the morning to get to Castries or Rodney Bay. You can take a taxi back!
Departure tax - US $21 for all air passengers over 12 years of age.
Ann Wallace is editor of The Travel Society Magazine
If you go
St. Lucia Tourist Board:
www.stlucia.org (416.362.4242 or 1.800.869.0377)
Anse Chastanet Resort:
Forest and Lands Department:
www.stlucia.org/activity/soft_adventure.asp (011.758.450. 2231 for organized nature tours)
Heritage Tourism Program:
Hikes must be arranged through HTP or the Piton's Tour Guide Association which will provide a trained guide as well as information and advice on the steep-but-safe trails before you all (maximum three people per guide) set out.
Marigot Beach Club:
Windjammer Landing Resort: