Months after our visit to the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, fleeting memories remain firmly planted in our minds: tiny, sweet bananas and fresh bay leaves from the Castries market; an afternoon of timeless sailing on a minuscule Carriacou sloop; a delicious kingfish meal with a perfect wine pairing; and hummingbirds that sprinted in and out of our hotel room.
And to what do we attribute the staying power of these memories? Aye, that would be the absolute relaxation we felt across the island.
In spite of having been the first through immigration and breezing through St. Lucian customs, by the time we’d gotten through the hundreds of razor sharp hairpin turns on the road to our destination, Ladera, we arrived too late to take the shuttle down to Sugar Beach. We felt hard done by. Unbeknownst to us, Matt Damon had just been there, or was still there, but a little more on that later.
We could only mournfully look down at the area 1,000 feet below us and feel somehow left out. This meant allowing ourselves to be totally enchanted by our room and its view, smack dab in between Gros and Petit Piton, St. Lucia’s landmark mountains.
Sugarloaf Mountain, (Rio), Iguaçu Falls, (Argentina) Bromo Volcano, (Java), all of you are warned —Saint Lucia’s twin mountains are offering stiff competition in the category of “most spectacular natural beauty site.” Even some gal named Oprah recommends it effusively.
And, as importantly, at the totally unplugged Ladera, you have ample opportunity to let it all absorb into your mind, to sit back and take it all in, as you practice visual meditation and relax. The scene before you slowly and permanently etches itself into your memory banks. And that’s long before the most outstanding natural show—the stars that come spilling out at you late at night.
See, there is no balcony to look out over. Instead the entire bottom floor of this two-tiered room is like a huge balcony. Let me repeat—there is no fourth wall!
The entire living space, including huge, heated plunge pool, swing, couch, two huge armchairs and mini kitchen all look over the magnificent natural double Piton mountain view, and the stunning Anse des Pitons Bay, without the inconvenience of a wall or window.
The first visitors were the hummingbirds, snatching drops of nectar from the succulent honeysuckle that cascaded into the wall by the plunge pool; then, a soft lovely sprinkle of rain, gentle like someone spraying your face with a fine nozzle of all-so-cool steam.
As the sun set, the frogs started their unfinished symphony. A cacophony of shrieks and incomplete choruses eventually mixed with birdsongs and a crashing sound that sounded like huge waves breaking onto the distant rocks. The fierce sound turned out to be the wind, which was then joined by heavy rainfall, which in turn, soon disappeared. The resulting runoff and drip of water normally would have irritated me and kept me awake. Here it was soothing and painless.
Soon after retiring at midnight, the hummingbirds were replaced by fireflies, new frogs, and a good 10,000 stars. Not for nothing, the room was supplied with binoculars, star maps, and earplugs, which we chose not to use.
Now, although you may be tempted to spend the entire holiday at your hotel, the island of St. Lucia has a lot to offer in a subtle, unhurried way. From Ladera we took a short taxi ride to the Caribbean’s only drive-in volcano—possibly the world’s only one. Predictably, there weren’t a lot of people there, only a few tourists and a few locals. After bathing in the gray-brown-volcanic mud, it was impossible to distinguish the two.
If you had to, you could see most of St. Lucia in a day. The Castries Market was considered third best market in the world by National Geographic Traveler readers in 2012. There, we bought bay leaves and local chocolate in big cigar-shaped rolls to take home—the infectious live music staying in our minds for months.
At the restaurant in the Cap Maison Resort in the north of the island (you can see the French island of Martinique even further north); we sampled some of the excellent rums from the area. Le Filibustre (Martinique) and 15-year-old El Dorado (Guyana) immediately joined our list of favorites, as did the ubiquitous Chairman’s Reserve, from the local St. Lucia Distilleries in Castries. Yes, visiting the distillery is well worth it.
Add to that the Diamond Botanical Gardens, where Empress Josephine (yes, Napoleon’s Josephine) was reputed to bathe in the 18th century. The gardens were stunningly beautiful with red torch ginger and peace lilies that prove impossible to forget.
But the overwhelming impression we had, long after leaving St. Lucia, was one of peace. So totally cut off from things were we that news of Matt Damon’s visit and his clearing the beach and emptying the hotel at the beach for his guests didn’t reach us until after we’d left St. Lucia!
No matter, we’d experienced his little paradise too.
Bruce Sach is a freelance writer now living in Ottawa.
Ladera Hotel, www.ladera.com
The Cliff at Cap Restaurant, www.capmaison.com
Carriacou Sloop Sailing, www.jussail.com