St Lucia, Peak to Peak

In Travel Inspiration by Adam Jacot de Boinod

I was fortunate to arrive two days after Storm Matthew had already wreaked his havoc over St Lucia. Thankfully there were no casualties and consequences were limited to muddy landslides and snapped banana crops. I like the Caribbean in the ‘wet season’. It has variety. While the welcomed temperature persists I got a respite with breeze and sudden but short showers.

I decided to work my way up the island by road and by boat.

More than anywhere St. Lucia is best visited by being on the move. The thing to do is to change hotels every few days. For all its beauty and fecundity, the island can be quite restrictive especially if you want to stretch a leg as the beaches are small and the hillsides are steep. Each cove (which the French called anse) is a hideaway and hotels vie to offer the most romantic setting. St. Lucia wins the award for ‘Honeymoon island of the Caribbean’ year after year.

I descended steeply down from hills still stricken with their trees deracinated from the storm. Starting from the international airport in the south I reached the Viceroy Sugar Beach. At the hotel the Guyanese imported white sand works perfectly and the ‘New English’ style of the villas’ all-white interiors reinforced a sense of light, purity and space. Off to the Tet Nature Trail, a veritable garden of Eden. On my descent from heaven to this tropical paradise I visited the earthly Botanical Gardens. They are a lovely parading display of the island’s most lavish and lush flora and fauna. Heliconia, bamboo, ficus and cocoa all blossoming in the light. The locals have both a deep respect for the island’s vegetation and its diversity and also a proud interest in homeopathy and the healthy effects of plant extracts for wellbeing.

At the Gardens I came across a beaten track to a 50 foot waterfall with the water free falling every second for eternity. I learnt even more about nature from the 250 year old ‘Sulphur Springs’ still bubbling away, emitting noxious fumes that gave it’s name to Soufrière. This island’s second town is further north and is small and jolly with shops behind her seafront and houses receding up into the valley.

Onto Capella Marigot Bay

Here I got a strong sense of the nautical character of St. Lucia as I looked around at premier yachts berthed from all over the world. The bay is known as ‘hurricane hole’ from its position on the west side of the island. It’s surrounded by mountains and experiences minimal tidal changes. Yachties tinker with their equipment and there’s a serenity in this secluded and secure haven. A serenity reflected in the philosophy of the hotel.

Capella has spacious chalet suites which are presented in a half-colonial, half-ranch style with dark wood and strong linear design. The Grill at 14⁰61⁰ has delicious fresh meat and fish seasoned with herbs and spices that are picked from the hotel’s private garden. They are paired with locally sourced ripe fruits and vegetables. The Rum Cave has a youthful vibe and wicker nest seating area overlooking the marina while the swimming pool up the top has barstools set in its water. The hotel really lives up to its expectation and it’s the personal friendly touch of its staff that makes all the difference. The service is telepathic with timely indulgent surprises offered up across the day.

A rub down massage at the hotel’s Auriga Spa involved a choice of hot stones warming, bamboo pressing and volcanic mud wrapping the body. It sent me blissfully into a deep relaxation. I went on a trip to watch dolphins. What a blessing to be in their natural habitat, eating, leaping and playing … alone, in pairs and in groups.

As I moved up the island the vegetation changes and the sand gets whiter. Next came St. James’s Morgan Bay. It’s for those preferring organised entertainment. There’s a spoiling range of six restaurants and always somewhere open to eat. Le Jardin is for the fine diners while the Bamboo has fabulous seafood salads. They lent me a sailing catamaran and off I went after one lesson. How liberating! And with their rescue service how reassuring!

Next and on past Castries the capital and onto Cap Maison. This classy boutique villa resort has a Mediterranean feel. Spanish meets Moroccan. Walking beneath crenellated roofs, past trickling fountains, under vaulted brick corridors and through inner courtyards with birds twittering, I half expected to be responding to peeling church bells. Once a private house it has been cleverly extended. It is located on the northernmost tip in Cap Estate, a highly exclusive area.

There’s dramatic cliff scenery with the tranquil waters of the Caribbean Sea on one side and the brisk Atlantic Ocean to the other. The grounds are tropically landscaped with carpet-mossy grass. The rooms have Manuel Canovas fabric cushions. Chef Nico for the Cliff at Cap restaurant offers a delicious seafood chowder. Champagne is delivered in a basket to diners fifty feet below via a zipwire. Very James Bond! And with zipwire excursions all across the island … very St, Lucia.

I went through a secret door that led me seductively down some stairs to a pretty, secluded “Smugglers Cove”. Here there’s a cute beach, perfect for bathing with a hammock one end and a tribal-faced rock the other. Locals use it too and the ‘Naked Fisherman’ restaurant gave me the freshest and most delightful of mahi mahi dishes.

I took a trip to Pigeon Island. It is like a miniature version of the Pitons with her two humped hills. It was joined up to the mainland in the 1960s by a causeway that is now a picturesque tree-lined avenue. It’s the best spot for snorkeling and is great for hiking as I climbed up the proudly kept nature reserve to its natural look out point.

I returned back down the Atlantic coast to the accompaniment of the brightest rainbow I had ever witnessed. A magnificent send off to such a colourful island. The calm after the storm!

 Adam Jacot de Boinod worked on the first series of QI, the BBC programme compered by Stephen Fry. He is the author of The Meaning of Tingo and Other Extraordinary Words from around the World, published by Penguin Books.

 

FACT BOX

 

Adam travelled courtesy of The Holiday Place. It is offering holidays to St Lucia from from £719 per person, saving up to £500 per person. Including flights and accommodation on a bed & breakfast basis. To book call 020 7644 1770 or visit their website  .

Adam is grateful also to Gatwick Express (www.gatwickexpress.com) and St Lucia Tourist Board (www.saintluciauk.org)