Our readers share tales of their ramblings around the world.
Who: Kathe Conrad (author) and her husband, Roger Conrad, of Springfield, Va.
Where, when, why: My husband and I fell in love with St. Lucia when we first vacationed there in 2008. Its clear blue-green waters, soft-sand beaches and lush rain forest had been beckoning us back ever since. So, when my husband was hired to return for a three-week consultancy, I jumped on the plane with him. In 2008, we had arrived during high season in the Caribbean and had stayed at a new four-star beach resort. This time, we would be staying in a budget hotel most of the visit and would get there at the beginning of the hurricane season. We got drenched in a downpour our first night there, but after that we learned to keep an eye on the sky before setting out. When it did rain, it usually only lasted for half an hour. Although we missed some of the perks of a higher-end, beachfront resort, such as free lounge chairs and beach umbrellas, they were more than made up for by the friendly staff, who helped us plan outings and who kept the espresso machine in our room well stocked.
Highlights and high points: We escaped from the scantily clad women and steel bands parading through Castries during Carnival by spending a few days at Marigot Bay. Friends took us down by boat and dropped us off at the Marigot Beach Club and Dive Resort. After climbing up the hill to our room, we were rewarded with gorgeous views of sailboats anchored in the bay. We celebrated our escape at the resort’s restaurant, Doolittle’s, with the best tuna steaks we have ever eaten. We enjoyed visiting Fond Doux Plantation, where a swarm of purple-throated hummingbirds greeted us outside the reception area. The plantation’s walking trails took us through a wonderland of flowers and fruit trees, which also grew all around our hillside cottage. On a hot afternoon, when I asked for some lime juice at the bar, the barkeeper went out, picked the limes and made a whole pitcher of icy, refreshing limeade right in front of us.
Cultural connection or disconnect: There were a lot of “Lucians” as well as people from nearby islands, including Martinique, vacationing everywhere we went. This was a welcome change from our previous Caribbean vacations. We got to know and talk to local people about their lives, family and politics.
Biggest laugh or cry: I talked my reluctant husband into taking a mud bath in the hot springs next to Soufrière’s “drive-in” volcano, Sulphur Springs. Our taxi driver, Happiness, told us, “It will make you look 10 years younger.” I doubt it took off 10 years, but the sight of people slathered from head to foot in gray volcanic mud and locals painting black mud designs on the tourists made us laugh.
How unexpected: There are cool, interesting Caribbean-island vacations to be had on a budget during the offseason. A short, two-minute walk from our Rodney Bay budget hotel, we enjoyed the same beautiful beach and crystal-clear water at a fraction of the cost of the more expensive resort we had stayed at previously. Vacationing in St. Lucia during the rainy season is mellower. It is also the best time to take photographs because the “flamboyant trees” are blooming and creating swatches of vibrant color against the deep blue skies and billowing white clouds.
Fondest memento or memory: The view of Rodney Bay after hiking up to Fort Rodney at Pigeon Island National Park was spectacular. We feasted on half a dozen kinds of sweet, tangy mangoes, so fibrous that we were picking mango strings out of our teeth the next day. On the plantation, we picked up the sweetest large mangoes from the ground and learned to eat them in our outdoor shower so we could rinse the dripping juice off our faces and arms. We couldn’t decide which kind of mangoes we liked the best, so I guess we’ll have to go back again and sample more.
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