“What do you call a St. Lucian who has made his peace with a deity?”
Hello junkies! I know its been a long time since I posted but life sometimes derails one in such a way. I decided to take this week off from cooking and let the fine people of the island of St. Lucia do it for me. WARNING: Below does not contain any recipes. Now with little caution to what it might do to my readership, allow me to subject you to my travel prose! Though I went to sample the foods of these island people, my culinary skills were called upon almost immediately. Win some lose quite a few.
My first day in St. Lucia was a blur of site and sounds that are difficult to reconcile into a day. I headed from the airport in my rented car for the opposite end of the island. After narrowly avoiding hitting a delivery truck I was reminded that as a ex-British Provence St. Lucians drove on the opposite side of the road. Fortuitously I had flown in on the last day of carnival as the proprietor of my hostel reminded me when I checked in. Undaunted, I took my trusty rental car, which I affectionately called the, “Hair dryer” into Castries to see the end of Carnival. I took a few pictures and then I met the two ladies to the right below. They cautioned me that carnival was ending early this year because someone had been shot. Now I don’t always listen but when locals tell you to pack it in because it’s too dangerous, it’s time to head home, so I did.
The second day I had my first Lucian fare. It was a soup called Callaloo. Not only is it fun to say but it is tasty and filling. After exploring a strategic Napoleonic fort on Pegion Island in Gros Islet, this soup full of onions, spices and the wilted greens of the Callaloo plant provided an adequate sufficiency for this sweat-covered weary traveler. As I waited I enjoyed a local brew, Piton!
While I was eating said soup I heard a voice from behind me say, “Hey man what kind of camera is that?” I turned and much to the delight of a man traveling alone, the voice was addressing me. Over a beer or two Rebecca and Nima and I became friends. They were staying at the house of Nima’s sister, Maryam and invited me over to drinks. I was pleased to find out that Maryam’s husband Fred was St. Lucian. I also met his friend Ray who is as close to an ambassador of place as anyone I’ve ever been. His knowledge of St. Lucia and its natural beauty enriched my trip greatly. Later that night the topic came to food and I indicated that I make a mean batch-o-pancakes. The next day I came back over and we made pancakes with fresh mangoes from Maryam’s yard!
After breakfast I headed down the coast to a town called Soufrière. It was a harrowing journey highlighted by a wet, narrow mountain road in disrepair beset with switch backs, goats, tied up horses and the occasional St. Lucian, yet I prevailed. I took the rest of the day to drink fresh tamarind juice by the pool of the Hummingbird Hotel and read Games of Thrones.
The next morning I awoke early to the sun shining. I had an perfect breakfast of fresh star fruit, two types of mangoes (St. Lucia has 24 different species of Mango!) a few bananas and some exquisite local coffee.
I headed out to see what this part of the island had to offer. My first stop was a water fall hot springs. It was warm, like someone slowly pouring the contents of a hot tub all over you. I shared a few moments of warmth and rejuvenation with some locals.
After that I headed to the famed Jalousie beach. Surrounding this beach is grip of 100 or so villas for the super rich. Apparently Oprah has a place there. Anyway, commoners are still allowed to descend to the beach so of course that is exactly what I did. It was one of the finest beaches I’ve ever seen. White sand gave way to idyllic grass covered huts shading white cloth covered chaise lounges. I swam the bay but was soon compelled to move on. I heard a lot of people using phrases like, “All inclusive,” and “limo driver” and “Talk about reasonable, dinner was only 500 dollars.” Rubbing sandals with the super rich is not really my cup of tea, but I would still recommend the experience.
After that I headed to the volcanic sulfur baths.There I bathed in almost scaldingly hot water and smeared myself with exfoliating volcanic mud! There I met a Mexican couple and we talked of the restorative properties of the baths to our skin. Soft as a baby’s bum! The guy behind them in the photo looks like a volcanic troll.
On my way back I stopped at one of Ray’s suggested places, New Jerusalem Falls and hot springs. I was the only soul there or so I thought, however, when I reached the baths I found two naked and consequently, startled, St. Lucians. I talked to them for a while but quickly took my leave as the lady in the couple was embarrassed. There are no pictures for obvious reasons but here is the river I had to ford to get to them. (Johnny died of dysentery on the way).
Later that night I once again braved the mountain roads to go to the fish fry-day in Anse la Raye between Soufrière and Castries. This was another of Ray’s suggestions. There was all manner of baked and fried seafood, music playing and a lot of honeymooning couples. St. Lucia was rife with women wearing tank tops that said things like, “Cutest little Bride,” on them. I ate “bakes” (biscuits) and red snapper grilled in butter and spices.
I also sampled the locally made spiced rum, which was tear-your-face-off spicy! Then it was the long ride back to the hotel where my mosquito-netted bed was a welcome site.
The following day I went to a small beach called Anse Chastene which was located up an impossibly steep hill that near proved impossible for Hair Dryer to conquer. Though with some patience I made it up. I swam the whole lagoon of white sand but soon grew tired of the hotel staff eying me. Game of Thrones under arm I slunk valiantly back to the hotel, grinding through at least 200 pages of the book my brother and I affectionately refer to as “Tits and Swords.”
Later that night I sat at the bar chatting with the delightful bar tender Lea, who turned our to be a karate master. As I ate my amazing veggie curried crepe a, local woman came up to me and said, “How can you eat something that doesn’t have meat?” “Like this,” I said giving her a grin and taking a big bite.
After that a kind yet drunk American approached the bar. He said he was Marty and it came around that he worked for Virgin Galactic! He said that he was designing the new space port (Many Bothans died to bring us this information). We chatted for a while and then he and his host packed it in for the night.
The next day I said goodbye to Lea and the Hummingbird Hotel and headed up the valley to a place called La Haut Plantation. It is probably one of the most amazing views I’ve ever had. The pool at this Bed and Breakfast had a full view of the valley below and the two Piton mountains of St. Lucia. When I got to my room I was greeted with fresh fruit, a green orange and three types of mangoes!
Quite possibly the most idyllic setting for a swim ever. I took the plantation tour where we saw that the kitchens were stocked with fruit and cacao from the plantation, they showed us the sugar cane crusher and a slew of decorative donkeys and birds that were therein housed. I spent my last day sitting by the pool, reading and drinking in a truly unforgettable view.
Thank you wonderful people of St. Lucia for an amazing experience!