Looking for winter sun in an environment where anything grows? Head to St Lucia, says Adam Jacot de Boinod.
St Lucia stands out for her fertility. “Drop a pip and it will sprout into a tree in no time,” they proudly say. There’s poverty but no starvation on this island. It’s self-sufficient with every kind of vegetation, flora, fauna and crops profiting. There’s organic produce along roadside stalls and the building of new homes begins with plantation first, construction second. Gardens of paradise have birds of paradise, hummingbirds and the national symbol, a parrot called Jacquot, which with their name similar to my surname, particularly appealed to me.
Starting from the international airport in the south, I reached the Viceroy Sugar Beach (viceroyhotelsandresorts.com/en/sugarbeach). This American hotel has surely secured the choice location of the island, between the famous twin peaks of Gros and Petit Piton. These precipitous mountains reach over 2,000ft in height and are the consequence of a historic earthquake. They gave me a sense of being grounded with their majestic presence. I needed to see them from the sea as well as the land. At different angles, they alternate between one being a pyramid and the other a multi-faceted shape.
Off to the Tet Paul nature trail for a delightful wander among all the wonder of such a fertile island. Providence has given her pineapples, mangos, papaya, bananas, guava and plums, to name a few. Sometimes they’re even growing all side by side. It’s so amazing to see all these fruits as real vegetation rather than wrapped produce. For me almonds, coffee and chocolate are the most exciting of all.
At the top of this garden of Eden is the so-called “Stairway to Heaven”. It leads to a hilltop panorama high enough to look the Pitons in their face. I picked out, down below and far out to sea, a speckling boat and even, as I wanted to believe, her skipper.
Onwards and upwards I went past two quaint looking fishing villages. At one, called Canaries, I watched chickens crossing the street and laundry being transported on ladies’ heads and then washed in the stream in which the children splashed, sprayed and swam.
The next village along is Anse La Raye. Across the island there are specific weekly fixtures. On Friday there is a “Fish Friday” evening where cooked versions of the fresh catch are offered up from the stalls specially set up along the main street beside the seafront. You can then follow it up with a “Jump Up” street party in Gros Islet and then, the next day, there is “Fish Saturday” in Dennery.
On to Capella Marigot Bay (capellahotels.com/saintlucia). This hotel’s location couldn’t be more idyllic as it overlooks its marina. 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 hotel really lives up to expectations 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 throughout the day.
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 (morganbayresort.com). The rooms have double balconies and it is beautifully set within earshot of lapping waves and has views of the sea offering stunning sunsets.
Next and on past the capital Castries to Cap Maison (capmaison.com). 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.
I took a trip to Pigeon Island, which 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 snorkelling and is great for hiking as I found when I climbed up the proudly kept nature reserve to its natural look-out point.
Pigeon Island thankfully wasn’t turned into an hotel but has been preserved for the common good. While Lord Glenconner, of Mustique fame, sold the land between the Pitons to a hotel, no money would allow another scenic part of the island to pass hands. This is a northern cove, nicknamed “Five Dollar Beach”, which is what the 90- year-old owner charges each visitor to enjoy his unspoilt coastline with its biggest of fish and whitest of sand. No number of multiple dollar offers has managed to take it off his hands.
I returned back down the coast to the accompaniment of the brightest rainbow I had ever witnessed. A magnificent send-off to such a colourful island.