Just a week after returning from Amsterdam, I’m back in an airport. Just yesterday, spring was beginning to appear, the grass beginning to grow and the blossom beginning to bring colour to the garden. Sadly, yesterday’s weather was not spring-like and a cold wind tempered the promises of what nature was expecting.
Today’s a different story. I don’t know if it’s because I’m already 200 miles farther south or whether I’m in a different frame of mind. Maybe it’s just that I’m going to be combining three passions in one trip and my outlook has changed. Maybe it’s simply that the weather is better today than yesterday. Whatever the reason, at 07h00, the airport was quiet, check-in fast, security efficient, the waiting area comfy and the departure boards showing exotic places … Dubai …Port of Spain …Hanoi …Glasgow … St. Kitts … and my destination, St. Lucia.
I mentioned three passions for this trip.
The first is simply the joy of travel, of seeing new places, of having new experiences, of meeting new people in the places they live, and of learning.
My second passion is walking and this trip offers a number of exciting options from
Get me out of here!
This is actually the entrance to Gate 58 - my departure point
beaches to mountains, from hot volcanic mud to cool waterfalls, and from thick tropical forest to sugar and coffee plantations.
So what is the third passion that this little island has to offer? With only 27 miles north to south to explore, what more is there? Well, the answer is in four letters, one from the beginning of the alphabet, one from the middle and two from the end … JAZZ. The St. Lucia Jazz Festival is one of the best in world and boasts probably the best setting ever. To say that I’m looking forwards to spending by birthday in the Windward Islands, listening to live jazz with a backdrop of blue sea, white sand and tropical forest is a bit of an understatement. And I have over two weeks of enjoyment to come.
But first, there’s the little matter of getting there. So now, I’m sitting in the airport, wondering whether to dip into my life savings in order to buy a bottle of water from the small number of outlets in the Departure lounge. I think the highwaymen have won … off to get some water!
Having spent far less than intended by going
Two bottles of wine?
Although not what I wanted, only Fish Pie was left :-(
to Boots for water rather than WH Smith, I stashed my gains and headed down to the recently called gate.
Immediately, I got chatting to the elderly gentleman next to me who, at 87, fancied a holiday
and had booked himself an all inclusive trip. He knew he’d been allocated a middle seat on the plane and was hoping he was not sat between two plumtious ladies!
Waiting in the lounge whilst the Good and the Great boarded, the Great Unwashed were eventually called and, bidding farewell, we headed into the tube that would be home for the next eight hours. The elderly gentleman indeed, was not sitting between two plumtious ladies, as I was in the window seat and a chap, heading out to skipper a yacht sat to his left.
The flight itself was pleasant, smooth with clear views of the sea below; 4000 miles of sea to be precise – all rather tedious. Lunch was served shortly after take-off with a choice of chicken, fish pie or veggie pasta being offered. Due to our seating position, we were amongst the last to be served, with the chicken running out very quickly, followed closely by
the pasta. However, I’m delighted that the fish pie was very hot though only eaten as a last resort!
Eventually, cloud began to build and it was clear that we were nearing land fall. Afternoon tea (or now, with the clocks having gone back five hours – lunch) was served and I did get my chicken though why everything has to be served in granary bread is beyond me. Still, it was pleasant enough.
Soon, beneath the clouds, the first sight of St. Lucia. We flew down the east coast and came into land at the southern tip, just a few minutes behind schedule. We disembarked quite quickly and then joined the long queue for passport control. Over half and hour was taken snaking towards a little booth where I felt very guilty as the look on the officer’s face seem to indicate something was not right. Finally, after several minutes, she applied the appropriate stamps to something and returned my passport.
Relieved, I went to retrieve my suitcase, which was now, enjoying its own trip around the baggage hall. Pushing my way through the milling throng, I then joined another long queue attempting to get through
the Green Channel. I did wonder whether I should go through the Red Channel as no one was waiting but figured they wouldn’t be pleased if I’d got nothing to declare and would take their vengeance by conducting a full search on my cases! I queued.
Over an hour after having landed, I finally made it through and out into the humid air. Wandering up and down the Meeters and Greeters, it became clear that my transport had not been booked, and so, after confirming and checking a fee, I took a taxi to the hotel.
Whilst St. Lucia is only 27 miles long, I was aware that it would take almost two hours to travel the length of the island. My driver, Isidore, turned out to be delightful company. We chatted the entire way as we travelled through the lush, green countryside. Every time it rained, the windows came up, only to come down again once the rain had stopped. Being as retired police and coastguard officer, he seemed to know each of the 165,000 inhabitants. I enquired as to the food and drink I should be eating, the local places I should be visiting as well
as gleaning the story of the island.
Date and coconut palms accompanied us as we travelled up the Atlantic coast towards Dennery ( VIEW ROUTE
😊). Bananas too grew each side, the fruit maturing inside blue bags in an effort to keep the birds away. The traffic was light though, I suspect, there was a regular flow of airport traffic along the road. School children made their way home after a day in class, their crisp, white shirts a striking contrast against their dark skins. Elderly men sat outside their houses, smoking and waving at their friends passing by. My first taste of island life.
At Dennery, we turned inland, and began to climb the central ridge of hills towards Castries. Somehow, the vegetation became more lush, but few people live in the hills, the majority living by the sea. Very little cultivation was visible, Isidore informing me that there was virtually none and this was essentially virgin jungle.
Finally, we began to see houses and soon came to a traffic jam. Rush hour in St. Lucia had struck and we turned north, heading up the Caribbean coast. Clearly, this was more built up and, in some ways, less pretty
than the other side. Isidore noted that the best beaches were in the north and this was the main tourism centre of the island.
Slowly, we edged northwards eventually arriving at the hotel, taking over two hours to cover the length of the island.
The building stood two storeys and was painted lime green. A portico protected us from the rain, which was now falling quite hard. The humidity remained constant. Smiles from the reception desk greeted me and I was soon checked in and whisked through a lilac seating area, up a lemon yellow staircase and veranda towards my room. Fortunately, this was painted in magnolia and had a pleasant enough view from the large balcony onto the central courtyard and pool.
Passing a bathroom to my left, my room boasted its own kitchen area, with a microwave, a fridge and a coffee maker. A table and chair lay against one wall and a large, flat screen TV completed the accessories. The bright orange curtains matched the valances on the two double beds.
I had learned that tomorrow would be a bank holiday and everything would be shut. So, I picked up my umbrella and
headed out into the torrential rain to pick up some supplies. The water was streaming down the road and locals sheltered under the verandas trying to evade the worst of the rain. I arrived not too wet and bought a sim card, some bananas and some washing items.
Back at the hotel, I showered and, went for tea. A few guests were sat around, and I ordered the chicken and mushroom soup (with Caribbean spice) and a meat compot. The local beer (Piton) didn’t last too long though. With the 5 hour time difference, this was my fourth meal of the day. I didn’t take too long in eating it and was soon back in my room, getting ready for bed. It was only 21h30 and early but I fell asleep very quickly, despite the heat … and the frogs.
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