“Glass of Champagne?” asked the British Airways lady as I settled into my seat in World Traveller Plus. It was only breakfast time but it seemed rude to say no. The extra comfort and service was well worth the upgrade on my eight hour flight to St Lucia’s Hewanorra airport.
George was there to collect me and I was soon on the way to my hotel at the other end of the island. “There are no straight roads in St Lucia”, said George. With mountains rising to over three thousand feet, the island’s roads are more like those in the Alps.
Home for my stay was Windjammer Landing, comprising hotel rooms and villas built up a steep hill that led down to a sheltered sandy beach. The hotel offers a choice of self catering with breakfast, or all-inclusive, which I chose. Home was a two-bed villa with patio and pool offering stunning sea views.
Several restaurants close to the beach offered a wide selection of food from light bites to multi-course feasts and there was an authentic Italian restaurant, Papa Don’s, just up the hill from the main beachfront area.
Cocoa trees abound and the most popular visitor attraction is chocolate making, so on a visit to the 120-year-old Howelton Estate I gave it a try. Grinding the coffee beans in a mortar and pestle was energetic but satisfying and soon the chocolate mix was liquid and shiny. I added a little mint before it was poured into a mould and popped into the fridge. After enjoying a cold Piton beer, my now solid home-made chocolate bar was expertly wrapped for me to take home.
The island has a huge variety of vegetation and wild life. I enjoyed the Lushan Country Life trail where an expert guide pointed out herbs and plants and explained their medicinal and culinary uses. He also showed me early cooking devices known as coal pots, and scooped up huge, friendly black and yellow caterpillar with orange feet and a tiny black tail who happened to pass by.
The twin Pitons, for which the island is famous, were formed by lava erupting from the sea bed and cooling to form the characteristically steep sided domes. Just outside Soufriere I visited the Caribbean’s only drive-in volcano, bubbling and steaming sulphur springs and hot grey pools. Visitors can also visit the mud baths where, having been covered in volcanic mud, they can soak in naturally heated pools – a process designed to leave the skin fresh and smooth.
Another interesting trip was on an aerial tram through the pleasantly cool mountain rain forest. A guide explained the vegetation as well as spotting a few humming birds along the way. In fact the island is a bird-spotters paradise with over 180 species to be found. They include black finches, orioles and six species that can be found only on the island.
My visit was over far too soon as George drove me back to the airport. I was left with memories of a unique Caribbean island, mountains, lush greenery, winding roads and, above all, genuinely friendly people who were always ready to help and chat. Just don’t get them started on cricket! By Mike Pickup