Les Chaudieres (TTT Property #T016)January, 2008 - Anse Galet, Saint Lucia
Just back from one of the best trips ever, with one of my best friends, ever. Ive known Hilton Purvis since 8th grade and it was high time we had a girl getaway. Hiltons only parameters were that she wanted to bake on a beach and didnt want to be on a plane for more than 5 hours. Other than that, she was good to go.
I consulted my long-time friend and esteemed travel writer Brenda Fine. She immediately said You should go to St. Lucia the western side. American Airlines has a nonstop flight from JFK that puts you there in four and a half hours. Done.
Luckily for all of us, one of our Trade To Travel host familiesThe Durhamsknew about St. Lucia in the 60s and got there in time to claim one of its most beautiful spots on which to build their dream vacation home. Now we can all benefit from their foresight.
As billed, American Airlines got us out of 10-below New York City to balmy Hewanorra Airport in Vieux Fort, St. Lucia in three hours and 57 minutes on the dot. (The way home was a bit longer5 hours and 10 minutes, due to strong headwinds.)
A representative from Drive-A-Matic met us with a sign bearing our name and shortly thereafter we were cruising along the main road (theres only one) in our 4-wheel drive, smiling with the windows down and Caribbean souk music blasting from the radio. It only took one whoops! of a near-miss coming out of the airport area to scare us into remembering to always drive on the left-hand side of the road!
An hour and a half later, just as the sun was setting, we saw the flagpole and driveway into Les Chaudieres. The first one to greet us was Bingo the dog, a great sausage-shaped, gregarious being who made us feel instantly at home with his wagging tail and appetite for companionship.
There were also some humans to meet usPaul and Christy, long-time chaperones of this homestead. They showed us to our rooms and answered our many questions about St. Lucia and the villa. Walking the grounds for the first time was simply dreamy. Lovers of green grass will appreciate the large lawn areas surrounding the houseperfect for morning yoga sessions or picnicking-- and contrasting so nicely with the bright blue skies over the Lesser Antilles. (In this case, less is more.)
Whats so refreshing about Les Chaudieres is that it truly feels like a French house in the countryside, with its gray stone structure and soaring cedar beams. Yet, unlike in France, where the winds and rains can come from all directions, here in St. Lucia, the rains always move from the mountains toward the sea, so only one wall of glass doors is needed in the great room.
With the walls missing, you feel like youre outside all the time; yet even when its pouring, youre perfectly protected. What could possibly be nicer than having a gentle breeze on your face as you read or play cards in the living room? Its mystical to watch the veils of mist move in huge silver sheets out to sea.
You wont be lonely upon falling asleep. Youll experience the fax connection beetle, the wood block bird, the King Kong cricket and many other species whose names we didnt know so had to invent. By the second night youll be used to them all, and your first night home after staying here for a while, youll miss them all. Even Les Toadiereswhich are absolutely gigantic.
We awoke to the smell of bacon in all its glory. Martina, the grand matron of the villa, who arrives in the morning and generally leaves by midday, was cooking up a storm. She asked what wed like for breakfast and we decided to go for the whole shebang: scrambled eggs, toast, bacon, fresh fruit, fresh-squeezed orange juice and tea. A cattlemans dream, except for the tea. After which, we promptly put on our bikinis and hit the pool. (Who cares? Its completely and utterly private here, so theres no need to count calories or wear your dreaded one-piece.)
With the water beneath you, gorgeous plantings surrounding the perimeter of the pool, swaths of green grass and the deep teal of the ocean in the distance, and Mel singing This Time The Dreams On Me by Harold Arlen, its pretty hard to think of a complaint in the world. I notice Hilton smiling continuously as she sat by the pool, sketching, and Im sure my face bears the same blissful expression.
That night after dinner we decide to make the 5-minute drive to Ti Kaye Village Resort for an after-dinner drink. Were in luckNick Pinnock, the man who built the resort with three guys and his own two handsis on the premises. He grew up on St. Lucia, did his schooling in Australia, and then came back to the island to build this place.
We grab three bar stools and have a nice chat about what it took to build a refuge like this from the ground up: lots of machete work and sweat equity, but the results speak for themselves. The cottages built into the hills are eco-friendly, economical and romantic; and if you dont mind climbing a few stairs, the beach is one of the best on the island.
Nick gives us some suggestions for our first time on the island and invites us back to have a beach day here at Ti Kaye when our schedule allows. Hes a shining example of the best of the new St. Lucia, and we are so happy we caught him there.
We did eventually pry ourselves away to venture down to the beach at Anse Galet, just below the villa. Since we had snorkeling gear and towels and other things to carry, we took the car instead of the steps. Theres a small road that runs through the working fruit plantation below the house that leads directly to the beachId suggest a 4-wheel drive vehicle, unless youre very adventurous. The beach is almost always deserted, so you can lie back and listen to the amazing sound of the waves crashing to shore and then the rattling of the tumbling smooth stones as the water takes them back out to sea (you must hear this sometimeits utterly hypnotic.)
The water at this beach is of a temperature so pleasant that you can stay in as long as you like without getting chilled. You might want to wear aqua socks or swimming shoes if youre tender-footed, as its a tad rocky walking in and out of the ocean. Hilton had no problem without them, but shes blessed with thicker skin.
Its also a great treat to rinse off after an afternoon at the beach in the outdoor shower at the villa, which is as large as a room, and filled with plants and art and two whimsical hairpin turn signs. Solar, too, so you can feel good and green about soaping up in that hot water under the rain spout fixture.
Every meal that was served at Les Chaudieres was well worth showering for. Everything from Martinas pancake breakfasts and banana French toast to Christys special lobster feast to Betilias Key lime pie were devoured all quite gratefully, and we looked eagerly forward to what would appear next from the kitchen. (Recipes can be found at www.leschaudieres.com.)
Derek Walcott, Nobel Laureate from St. Lucia, has captured perfectly what it feels like to come to a spectacular place like this and to give ones self up to reflection and happiness:
Love After Love
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the others welcome.
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
The Durhams invite you to come to Les Chaudieres and greet your true self again. Sit. And feast on your life.
We thank them and the wonderful staff for an enormously satisfying retreat.
Deborah Rath Howell
To find our more about Les Chaudieres, please visit www.leschaudieres.com
Side Trips: Read on if youd like to know a little about other things to see and do in St. Lucia.
Thoroughly relaxed after a couple of days at Les Chaudieres, we decide to strike out and meet some of the people who call St. Lucia home. Today we met the fresh breeze that is Molly McDaniel; a pretty, effervescent, humor-filled New Zealander who met us for lunch at a place called Discovery at Marigot Bay. Over Lime Squashesrefreshing sparkling drinks with bitters and island limeshe recounted to us not only the many pleasures of life on St. Lucia, but also spun stories of her escapades around the globeincluding an unfortunate foray into the untamed jungles of Borneo via kayak that resulted in a helicopter rescue mission after days of being lost.
Forced to abandon their kayaks, she and her crew went sloshing through chest-deep mud, were snacked on by leeches, and to top it all off, Molly was then bitten by a snake. She could feel the deadly poison hotly creeping up her leg and so she quietly (so as not to alarm the others) told the British nurse who was with them that shed just been bitten. Being very stiff upper lip and without medicine, the nurse replied: Well, well just put a dab of lavendar oil on your leg then, shall we? Yes, a dab of lavendar oil ought to do the trick. Spiffing!
No wonder shes so happy at Discovery at Marigot Bay. Not a leech or snake in sight! But there is a very large snail that creeps around on the floor of the Pink Snail Bar and then climbs stealthily up the wall. Happily, its just a pink laser light rendering of the famous snail from the movie Dr. Doolittle which was shot here in the 60s. Rex Harrison and crew had a few cocktails here while on-set over 40 years ago, and there are photos on the wall of a dapper Rex alongside the gigantic mollusk that was erected for the movie, back before studios knew how to use small models.
This enormous gastropod was still beached here in all its pink bigness until about 20 years ago when one night it went mysteriously missing. Many theories abound as to what happened to itperhaps it sailed to Thailand, or maybe certain locals believed it was possessed with demon spirits and took it into the rainforest to demolish it. In any case, its long gone now, and only its pink rendering on the wall remains.
Now were back outside and headed to the Marina Village adjacent to Discovery. Its just the right size to browse around and pick up a gift, a piece of local art at the galleries, stock up on groceries, get a croissant at the French Bakery or replenish your ECs at the bank. (EC = Eastern Caribbean currency.) We even find something at the grocery store called banana ketchup which sounds so intriguing Hilton actually buys a bottle.
As we take in the scene, Molly relates a story about the day the great Morgan Freeman arrived in Marigot Bay with a few days growth of beard, a dirty t-shirt and his dog. As the actor was trying to dock his small yacht, one of the security guards walked down the dock and yelled Hey! No Boat Boys here! You cant tie up. Just then, another security guard recognized Mr. Freeman and whispered to the guard You may want to let him tie uphes a rather well-respected American chap.
There was also the day that Nicholas Cage sailed into Marigot and expressed interest in one of the private homes tucked into the hills. As Molly was having a meeting with him, a local spied them and came right up to Nicolas and exclaimed, I know you! Nicolas was kind enough to say Thanks for saying hello. Then the guy followed up with Youre the manager of that new furniture store up the road, mon! I want a job from you! Mr. Cage laughed hard, then turned to Molly and said Thats why I want to live here!
Taking the solar ferry back to the mainland, we take a tour of the meticulously landscaped Discovery grounds (designed and overseen by two talented British women in their 70s) and view an ultra-modern spacious suite with a full kitchen, large veranda, and generous living room overlooking the freeform pool with the harbor and the mountains as backdrop. It looks like a scene a marketing company might put on a large-screen TV in order to sell the set .but the scene is real, and right outside your window.
Molly notes that the honeymooners tend to stay tucked in their suites further up the hill, content with room service, nautical views, private plunge pools, every conceivable amenity, and just each other. Perhaps at some point theyll wander down and have a drink under the snail sconces at the glowing Pink Snail Bar, which is one of the Caribbeans hottest spots for yachters and sailors alike to gather and swap stories. (Luxury superyachts have been pouring back into Marigot since the recent redevelopment of this bay that James A. Michener famously called the most beautiful in the Caribbean.)
We say our fond adieus to Ms. McDaniel who has been utterly gracious with her time and her insights, but not before she gives us plenty of ideas of fun things to do and great places to eat while in St. Lucia. And after she convinces us that we can certainly climb the Gros Piton, and really should try to do so while in St. Lucia. Its just like a big stair climbpiece of cake! she smiles and waves as we drive away.
Therefore, the next day we challenge ourselves a bit. We are now highly motivated to climb Gros Piton (the larger but less steep of the two Piton mountains) and so we call Jared, who is a local guide Molly has recommended. Jared agrees to meet us at 11:30 just past the bridge in the town of Soufriere. Lo and behold, hes right where he says hell be, and hops into the back seat to show us the way to the trailhead. 15 minutes later were at the state park along with a park guide (Mervyn) looking at a paper maiche model of the Gros Piton.
Here is the quarter-of-the-way-up-spot. Well stop here for a rest. Then, at the halfway point, here, theres a nice bench with a view of the bay. Here, at the ¾ marker, is a gigantic mango tree and a commanding view of the Petite Piton (the smaller of the two mountains.) We call this The Point Of No Return since if you make it this far you might as well finish since its only 25 minutes to the top from here, so you just must do it! And off we go.
The first part is quite easy (moderate according to those who rate such things) and then we hit the uneven gray rocks and boulders that will test our balance and cardio capacity for the next 4 and a half hours and haunt our dreams that night.
A few months ago I popped the acl in my right knee playing squash, so this is definitely going to test the new (aka, cadaver) ligament my surgeon installed. I discover quickly that Hilton is at least half mountain goat and doesnt need to watch each footstep with care like I do, so Jared and I wave her on ahead with Mervyn and they scamper up to the ¼-point. We catch up minutes later and take in the superb view of the bay, as promised. On On! as we used to say in running club.
We clamber up to the halfway point, very grateful for the occasional railing or hand up from Jared on the particularly humungous step-ups. Im learning to grasp onto roots, small trees and boulders to pull myself up, and up, and up. This is no groomed, wussy Girl Scout trailthis is a real climb.
Jared is cheerfully discussing the indigenous plants like lambs ears which help to stop hemorrhaging (were not at that point yet) neem (a spice used in West Indian cooking) and another leaf which, when crumbled, acts as a natural deodorant, which I could sincerely use right about now, as Im sweating buckets ..
But theres no need for this crumbled leaf after all, since it suddenly begins to rain. A shift of the wind, and just like thatthe roots and stones turn dark and slippery; the dirt turns to mud under our feet. Hmmmmm . says my cadaver knee.
While the rain feels refreshing, Im beginning to question the sanity of continuing, since one slip could land me right back into the O.R. for knee surgery #3. We quickly catch up with Hilton and Mervyn at the ¾ mark. Theyre under the ancient, gigantic mango tree locked in an intense conversation about local plants and their medicinal uses.
We conference. Jareds cell phone jangles. He has another tour group that needs his attention. I have to decide whether to go back down the mountain with Jared like a sane person, or continue on in the rain to the top. I turn to go down the mountain with him; then stop. This is lunacy, but it might be my only chance in life to climb the Gros Piton. This is the moment, rain or shine. Gotta go for it. On on!
Mervyn now offers guidanceclimb here, then here. I grab every young tree in sight with a death grip. Like Jeeves, Mervyn uses thought-transfer and just the slightest gesture to show me the way forward, and ever upward. It does get steeper after the ¾ mark, and I ask him if people who get off the cushy cruise liners really make this climb. Oh, yes. Even people who you might not think could do it. Theres a group of men and women from the UK called The Wanderers who are in their 70s and 80s and they come to St. Lucia just to make this climb.
Hilton is lying comfortably on a rock looking for all the world as though shed just taken a spa day at Canyon Ranch. We group cheer, we drown ourselves in water, we take photos. The sun comes out. These are moments Ill relish forever. Sometimes it just is worth pressing on. However, time is pressing on as well, so wed better gear up for the hike back down before the legs go, as Mervyn ominously puts it. The way up took nearly two hours, so Im thinking the way down will take much less time. (Insert small, dry chuckle here.)
Mervyn, blessed, Mervyn, kindly offers his shoulders on the huge downward lunges. At this rate, from rock to rock to rock, I figure well arrive at the bottom in roughly a week. Time to get creative. I sit down (in white shorts, of course) on the really big muddy boulders and scurry down other rocks backwards, holding onto virtually anything I can grasp. This is a full-body aerobic workout, using abs, neck, pinky fingers, chi, etc. to get the job of climbing downward accomplished.
Mervyn is as patient as Job, and we encourage Hilton to gallop on ahead as she finds it easier to climb quickly. There are actually a couple of points where I seriously doubt that my leg will hold out. At those points, just a small pause and a mental pep-talk (okay, prayer) got me right back into the game. If The Wanderers can do this, so can I! A little over two arduous hours later, we make our final descent, to find a radiant Hilton sunbathing happily on the top of a shack at the bottom of the mountain. A Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, to be sure.
Even Miss Mountain Goats first words were I have two perfectly good knees, and the way down was brutal! which made me feel a tad better, even if she was just being nice. We popped open an orange soda from the gift shop and toasted to victory. One Piton, conquered in the pouring rain! I make a mental note to send a postcard to my surgeon and tell him how gifted he is.
We buy three chocolate (cacao) sticks at the little shop at the base of the mountain for later use on frigid nights back in New York. The lovely woman who runs the shop is only too happy to part with the recipe for how to make authentic St. Lucian-style hot chocolate with herbs.
Time is once again on the march and Mervyn has offered to take us to a local place to buy some St. Lucian honey, so we hop in the car and head to a little bar down the way. We offer Mervyn a Piton (he defers, opting instead for a Heinekenmaybe too much Piton climbing causes aversion to the local brew) and Hilton buys a huge bottle of local honey to take back to New York and compare to the honey she gathers on her own property.
We fall in love with the matriarch of this bar and her goddaughter, and discover that she has 21 godchildren in all. We could stay all night talking to this woman who has the gravitas of Maya Angelou and the wit of Whoopie Goldberg. Alas, we have to take our leave, so we thank Mervyn profusely and head off to go pay Jared. We have just enough time to wedge in a stop at the sulphur springs before catching the sunset at Dasheene.
The sulphur springs are right at the bottom of a volcanonot active except for the egg-smelling steam vents that choke out rancid fumes into the air (at about 270 degrees Fso dont get too close or youre toast.) The sulphurous waters are more like 100 degrees F, and although theyre gray, they actually make you feel much cleaner than you were before. Well, we were pretty sweaty, so I guess its all relative.
We quickly change into our suits (the dreaded one-pieces) and hop into what looks like a very large Jacuzzi filled with very dirty water. From a pipe stuck into the mountain flows the gray mud-water, and admittedly the minerals feel delightful on the muscles. We have a lovely peaceful little soak with a Rastafarian (thats soaknot smoke) and suddenly from around the corner comes a tour group. A sizeable one.
They are rowdy and boisterous and ready for a group dip. The onslaught of humanity is almost overwhelming and were frozen with amazement watching them strip down and clamber into the water. The Rasta comes to life. Everyone gotta have mud! Its alllll mud! One love. Then he proceeds to take mud from the pipe and slathers it on everyones faces. And just like that, were in the middle of a big, honking mud fest.
Its transforming, this gray stuff. It makes the white people grayish-brown and the native St. Lucians whitish-gray. Now you change color, white boy, laughs the Rasta. And you turn white, rejoins a portly light-skinned freckled American. About 15 minutes of this and weve had about all the mud jokes we can swallow, so we gently slog our way out of the water.
Now, hair a total mess, and bodies smelling of sulphur, we have 8 minutes to make our 5:30 sunset call at Dasheene. We make it just on time; so, if not looking and smelling our very finest, at least we have promptness going for us.
Once the sun has set, the pinks and golds reclaim the horizon and everybody at the bar takes off his or her sunglasses and enjoys the chromatic sky feast. Live music begins. Its a wonderful singer/guitarist named David, who sets a nice vibe for the dynamic Chef Orlando Satchell to roll out of the kitchen in his chef whites and tall white toque. He takes the mic and welcomes the guests and then emcees a fashion show in which various female Ladera employees including the boutique manager have kindly agreed to model.
With the music, rum drinks, island fashions and glowing horizon in front of them, every patron in the house has something to smile and clap about. Not to mention the bar snacks: amazingly tasty stuffed olives, christophene balls (made from a local root), and homemade potato chips. Yes, yes, a fine time is had by all.
The fresh organic salad features organic baby greens from a farmer who delivers them to the high-end restaurants in his veggie-oil bio diesel truck. He drops off the lettuces and then takes the used oil from Dasheenes kitchen and uses it to fuel his truck for his next delivery. Its a win-win for the environment and for the diner because these greens (also delivered to Discovery at Marigot Bay and Ti Kaye Resort) are so flavorful and delicious and would be otherwise quite hard to come by.
Next, the entrees. Hilton dives into her seafood pepper pot with potatoesa well-deserved hearty choice for the Queen of the Piton! My kingfish dish is served on a bed of dirty rice and is slightly spicy and all delicious. Decidedly, the Big O is as focused on the culinary details as he is captivated by the staff models on the runway.
After dessert we have a nice chat with our server who admits that shes been recruited to be in next weeks fashion show. We pass along our condolences and wish her Godspeed in that tankini.
Back to Les Chaudieres-- which we now call home with utter conviction-- to wash off the remaining bits of gray sulphur mud from our tired beings, and sleep like dead toads.
We were going to do the Tranopy half-day adventure the next day but were just longing for a recovery, flop-around day after the Piton climb, so we postpone our reservations and just chill out at this most wonderfully-positioned sweet spot on the globe. Dr. Durham did well to locate this site where he did. Awarded membership in The Explorers Club in 1963, this doctor served in the 63rd Medical Battalion in 1945 in France and Germany, and has surely seen his share of the worlds good and bad.
Its a typical day here at Les Chaudieres. Easy sunshine and tropical breezes; then a shift in the wind and a tropical shower bathes us in raindrops. Its so gentle, we just stay in the pool until it subsides. More sun. Then another shower .this one is more powerful, so we return to the open-air great room in our white Les Chaudieres bathrobes to watch the sheets of mist travel from the mountains to the valleys to the ocean in a steady silver parade. Several minutes or three Neil Young songs later, a vertical rainbow appears over the sea. The sun breaks through, the robes come off and were poolside once more. (Almost like those breaks your parents used to make you take when you were a kid and you just wanted to swim all day long.)
More sunshine, a flip to the other side, more tunes, a delicious salad platter and grilled cheese lunch prepared by our beloved Christy and we find the day has slid by comfortably and its time to shower for dinner.
Tonight were hitting a restaurant called the Rainforest Hideaway in Marigot Bay. Its a gorgeous night and about 18 minutes after we leave the villa (Bingo guards it for us in his wooden chair at the front of house), weve parked and are on the two-minute ferry to the restaurant. The young man who operates it is nearly done with his 8am to 8pm shift, yet is still very cordial and cheerful. We thank him and alight onto the dock to the restaurant, which is located directly over the water. Were met by 3 hosts who firmly shake our hands and welcome us warmly.
Our waiter, whose name we cant quite catch, is naturally charmingespecially when we ask him a question that goes slightly off-script. Two treats promptly arrive from the chef...a brochette with tomato, onion and fresh herbs, and a small portion of duck with minced vegetables and a local herb sauce. Very nice!
Next, a palate cleanser of citrus ice that goes down smoothly. Are we clean now? asks our server. We are clean, we grin in unison. Certainly cleaner than our sulphur-soaked selves were last night at Ladera, anyway.
Entrees arrive at our corner table so close to the edge of the dock were a little concerned that a flying fish might jump up and grab our handbags off the table. Fishor somethingare definitely leaping out of the water on a quite frequent basis. The beef I order is delicious, with wasabi potatoes that are as good as Ive found anywhere. Hiltons shrimp and scallops and risotto rock our world. Chef Jim is in fine form tonight.
Portions are generous at the Rainforest, and even though our moms told us its polite to leave one bite untouched on the plate, we dont. Members of the clean plate club always get dessert, eh eh? So we choose the coconut ice cream (3 scoops!), which is truly wonderful, and the Baileys chocolate mint crème Brule which is fine, but we cant really detect the mint.
We thank the staff and take our leave, stopping only briefly to greet Molly McDaniel who is here at the restaurant entertaining a party that includes at least one Ambassador. Shes as friendly as ever and has the table in fractures with one of her delightful yarns.
We meet Betilia, the fourth caretaker of Les Chaudieres. She whips up a big bacon and egg and fresh fruit breakfast and we just relax poolside. A big swim, some pool aerobics, lots of music and just gabbing. Perfect weather. After a quick shower we head to town. Castries is the capital of St. Lucia and its only real city. We hit mad lunchtime traffic and are worried well miss our 1 oclock Tranopy tour at Rainforest Skyrides. We finally arrive about 1:30, thinking for sure weve driven there for nothing, since were very tardy.
Strangely enough, theyve waited for us, and tell us that we can go on the tour if the rest of the 1 oclock people ever show up. They dont, but they give us the training session anyway and then decide to take us. Were elated! Our guides are Roger and Aldric and they not only know the names of all of the trees and animals here in the canopy layer, they know their scientific Latin names as well. We glide over rainforest trees like Gommiers, Magnolias, Ficus, Chatanniersbut of course our favorite is the Cacao.
The guys do this birdcall whenever theyre in the air (Arr ARRR , Arr ARRR!) and its total fun to hang out with them and hear about their lives and their wives. Best friends, they were born on the same day a couple of years apart. Its fun to spend this time with them, and as Hilton puts it Its good to get a guy fix.
After the last zip flight, we take a short hike back up to the gondola. A few steps into the hike Roger shouts something, bends down and scoops up a 10-pound possum by the tail. He is overjoyed with his find, and Aldric immediately names the captive Archie for reasons unknown. Now we are a party of five; unfortunately for Archie, he is now traveling snout-side down by his tail.
We cruise to the city and hear more ore about their lives and stand them a beer at a local pub. They both drink Piton and scoff at the traitors who favor Heineken. From the second floor balcony of the pub, we spot lots of other Tranopy employees in their signature rainforest shirts and they all greet each other with the birdcall and a wave. Its all very companionable, but they need to get back to their families and we need to not be late for the special meal Christy has planned for us tonight.
Shes scored a local lobster, and we arrive in time for a veritable feast. We ask if shell join us for dinner and the three of us drown ourselves in garlic butter and fine conversation. Its all so satisfying we decide to skip the local fish fry/party at Anse La Raye everyone has been telling us to go to all week. Next time!
We do need to take our leave the next day since there are other visitors coming to Les Chaudieres, but we have time for one last swim in that fabulous fish-shaped pool. Gifts and thanks are given to Martina, Betilia, Paul and Christy, and we take a few last photos of this lovely spot.
Ti Kaye Village Resort is just 5 minutes down the road and tucked into another nice Anse (bay). After we check in and don our welcome leis, were escorted to the bar for a complimentary drink. Two large coconuts have been sliced open and adorned with fresh fruit; a refreshing and unique treat.
We drive up a hill to our room, which is like a small casita or cottage (Ti Kaye means small hut) with a hammock on the porch and a view of the sea. Inside, our beds are strewn with colorful flowers and plates of fresh-baked cookies and local candy. As a matter of fact, there are flowers strewn just about everywherein the soap dish, spread lovingly along the windowsills, and tucked into our white robes . Its one of the sweetest welcomes weve ever had.
Since we only have one day here, its off to the Ti Kaye beach (Anse Cochon) for a bite and a swim. We grab a quick salad and homemade chips at the beach grill and then set up shop on two chaises. Just as we arrange our towels, we hear live music. Glancing up, we see a stunning woman dressed in a white gown holding a bouquet of flowers. She walks right in front of us and down the beach a few yards to an area with white chairs and a wedding arch. And within 15 minutes, she and her new husband are beaming and kissing each other and their guests to a big round of applause from all on the beach who have been watching surreptitiously, as of course we have.
Inspired, Hilton and I abandon our chaises and pull two of the complimentary yellow kayaks into the water. The view of St. Lucia from the ocean is divine. We paddle around a few little coves and it reminds us of Maine. Odd, but true. The water is crystal clear, and the green mountains jut into the sky and we can even see a peek of Petite Piton in the distance. Hiltons dismount from her kayak is less than 5-star, and she winds up guffawing with a mouthful of sand.
Of course, all that paddling works up an appetite, so after a nice swim in the pool and an outdoor shower back at the hut, we make our way down to the restaurant for a cocktail and some dinner.
Its Saturday night, so theres live local music, which goes down nicely with Cleus the bartenders amazing margaritas and coconut coladas. He not only remembers our names from a week ago when we stopped by, he remembers our drink orders. Most impressive. Were also greeted by Katie, the new G.M. Shes a vibrant blonde with a French accent who took over the management of Ti Kaye 7 weeks ago and who has big plans for the place, including a new Balinese spa that will be tucked into the hills if she gets her way. She shows us some of the new cocktail tables and chairs that have come in and we all agree theyll be a nice addition. A former aerobics teacher, shes quick on her feet and doesnt miss a trick; tending to small concerns here and there throughout our conversation, and keeping the energy in the room high.
Were sorry to leave her excellent company when we head to our table. Again, its that famous St. Lucian hospitality as our server welcomes us warmly with a firm handshake and big smile. I try the beef pepper pot for an appetizer and its earthy and spicy and fabulous. Hilton has a green salad and then we share two delicious entrees .shrimp curry and catch of the day with vegetables. Lovely, all.
It wouldnt be dinner without dessert (our mantra for the week) so its bananas flambé, flaming high when presented at the table. Our server warns us nicely but firmly: Do not blow. Okay, then. Well just eat. We wonder what happened to people who blew.
Its been a long week of sunshine and desserts and were getting a bit punchy. We head back to the little house, fall on the beds, pull the mosquito nets around us and have simultaneous laughing fits like were back in eighth grade. Hilton re-enacts The Blob one more time for good measure, plus offers a command performance of her kayak dismount. Its clearly time to be headed home.
We stop at Ladera (home of Dasheene) on our way to the airport for a drink and one last look at the Pitons. To our surprise and delight, Chef Orlando is just about to begin a cooking class and he invites us to participate. Wed love to, but fear wed miss our flight. Instead, he joins us for a quick conversation and sends outwhat elsea farewell dessert: three Popsicles-- refreshing guava, mango and star fruit ices each stuck through with a piece of sugar cane in place of a wooden stick. They totally hit the spot, as Orlando tells us about the new cookbook hes writing and about the plans for the secluded full-service spot in the works to be called Dasheene on the Beach at Anse Jambette. The fully-staffed facility will feature a casual beach café serving grilled lunch items from a Caribbean menu created by Chef O, plus a full bar, massage, changing facilities, shower, floats and snorkeling equipment. Sounds like a welcome addition to an already fine property.
All the guests at Ladera shake his hand as they pass by, or thank him for a wonderful stay. He makes sure we get to see one of the suites and the Ti Kai Pose spa before we have to go, and then heads off to host the cooking class: a first-class ambassador for a top-shelf resort. (Voted in 2005 as Best of the Best hotel in the world by readers of Conde Nast Traveler.)
A word about the suites ..theyre like staying in a fabulous tree house made of Caribbean timbers, local stone and terracotta tiles. Rooms are furnished with canopied beds made of rich, polished green heart wood from the rainforest and one king-size bed is set on the deck overlooking the sea so you can sleep under the stars facing the Pitons. Pure heaven. (Yes,theres a mosquito net for protection.) All villas and suites are missing a fourth wall, with no windowpanes or sliding doors to obscure the views or dull the natural sounds of the nearby rainforest. Guests can slip into their landscaped private plunge pool and fall asleep to the rhythmic trill of the tree frogs.
And now it really is time to be on our way, having taken in much of what St. Lucia has to offer, yet leaving much to be discovered on our next journey here. The island will remain long-imprinted in our minds for its unparalleled landscape, breathtaking natural beauty and its warm and caring people.
Music lovers might note that the 17th annual St. Lucia Jazz Festival will take place May 2-11, 2008. Known as the premiere jazz festival of the Caribbean region, St. Lucia Jazz encompasses multiple shows of acoustical/straight ahead jazz, new age jazz, fusion, rhythm and blues with acts coming from the U.S., Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America and Europe. For the lineup and more information, you can visit www.stluciajazz.org.
St. Lucia was recognized on the coveted 53 Places To Go in 2008 list by The New York Times, the It List of the 10 Must-Visit Destinations by Conde Nasts Concierge.com and ranked as one of the Top Destinations for 2008 by Frommers.com. For information about the island of St. Lucia, call (888) 4-STLUCIA, or visit www.stlucia.org, the official site of the St. Lucia Tourist Board.
St. Lucian Sayings:
First of all, everything here seems to be called an anse, which rhymes with sconce. An anse is a bay. Now you wont have to ask.
Molly McDaniel, the lovely P.R. maven for Discovery at Marigot Bay, clued us into some localisms. If someone doesnt believe you, they are likely to challenge you by saying You lie like a big, hairy dog. If youre REALLY telling a whopper, they might add, You lie like a big, hairy dog on a cheap rug.
If a man is romantically interested in you, and wants you to believe that there is no one else in his world but you, he will gently take your arm and look deeply into your arms and say, I am telling you ..I am telling you and thats supposed to convince you of his undying love for you. (Molly says that if a man says this, you absolutely know its untrue.)
If a local thinks youve disrespected her by walking by without saying hello, she might take you aside later and gently chide you with You passed me like an exam this morning, whats wrong with you, eh eh?
Which brings us to the most-used expression on the island. Eh eh can be used in a profusion of ways. It can be used as in the Canadian eh? at the end of a sentenceas if to say, right? (The French would prefer non?)
I wont tell you all the other uses eh eh has on this island. Ill leave that for you to discover on your next trip there. Cant make it too easy for you, eh eh?
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