The Spokesman-Review


The Jewel Of St. Lucia Get Off The Airplane Shuttle Too Soon And You’ll Miss The Spectacular Southwest Coast

Everyone agrees that St. Lucia is one of the most stunning of all the Caribbean islands.

But whatever they may have heard, for newcomers the drive from Hewanorra Airport is a revelation. Sharp crags tufted with banana and palm trees rise on every side. Along the coast, the road twists over rocky bluffs that plunge to the sea. Cutting inland, cliffs rise above deep gorges as if thrown aside by a gigantic plow.

Mangos, papayas, breadfruit, oranges hang ready for plucking and miniature rain forests, teeming with ferns, create glistening tunnels.

In mid-afternoon, the road is crowded with kids, trooping in uniformed clusters on their way home from school. And villages of neat tin-roofed houses with vest-pocket porches curve around coves or cling to the hillsides.

Most vacationers leave this lushness behind and head north to the premier beaches and five-star hotels where their vacations will be much like those at similar resorts on other islands. They’ve seen the Pitons - those two volcanic peaks that are the symbol of St. Lucia - if only in brochures. Few will take the long drive to the southwest coast to visit the steaming sulfur beds or the rain forest or the historic town of Soufriere, or for a firsthand view of the Pitons vaulting from the sea. And that is too bad, because this area is the jewel of St. Lucia, which is itself a gem.

Soufriere and Piton are French words, two of many linguistic remnants of the seesaw battles of possession between France and England, ending in the latter’s favor. Another remnant is the local patois, incomprehensible to outsiders, which enables the nominally English St. Lucians to communicate with the nominally French islanders of nearby Martinique.

Soufriere is a large fishing village where small fishermen’s houses line the curving waterfront. In the afternoon, brightly colored skiffs pull to shore and women come to buy the small silver fish that fill their holds. Not far from the dock is a small square with two magnificent trees and an old stone church. It was here, during the French Revolution, that a guillotine was erected.

From Soufriere it’s a short drive to the sulfur springs, where gusts of steam spurt from an eerie scene of devastation. Nearby too are the highly touted hot baths and waterfall, neither of which lives up to its billing. Much more interesting, for those not intimidated by the term, is hiking in the rain forest.

A local company drives hikers there and guides them on a well defined trail with views of deep green mountains truncated by the clouds.

The Pitons themselves, Petit and Gros, are the undisputed royalty of the scene. Hard by Soufriere, they jut from the sea, two pointed isolates a half mile high. They are the exclamation points of one of the most dramatic spots in the Caribbean.

The reason most people miss them is that the road from the north is abominable and will remain so until a new highway is completed. A better road from the airport takes no longer than to get to the northern resorts, but until recently there was only one quality hotel in the region.

Now that has all changed. Perched high on a hillside between the Pitons is the Ladera Resort, a string of 16 one- and three-bedroom villas and suites from whose porches are breathtaking views of the peaks and the sea. Directly below is the newly opened and extremely upscale Jalousie Plantation, a luxurious resort with sweeping lawns and its own crescent beach.

These and Anse Chastenet, located by St. Lucia’s best diving reef, make it possible to have fine accommodations and dining in glorious surroundings. No longer will the Pitons be only a fantastic, but fleeting, glimpse from jets landing and taking off. Now they can be the setting for a vacation in one of the most beautiful islands.

ILLUSTRATION: Four Photos. Three Color

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story:

ST. LUCIA

Where to stay Ladera Resort, perched 1,000 feet above sea level between the Pitons, is small and sophisticated. All 7 villas and 9 suites are open to breathtaking views. Suites are one bedroom; each villa has 3 bedrooms, two full baths, and either a private pool or garden. Call (800) 841-4145 for information and reservations. Anse Chastenet is set on a dramatic hillside overlooking a marine park and some of the best snorkeling in St. Lucia. (800) 223-1108 for reservations. Jalousie Plantation consists of 115 elegant cottages and junior suites terraced into the slopes at the base of the Pitons. One price includes all meals, drinks, sports activities, spa program, airport transfers, etc. Call (800) 392-2007 or (809) 459-7666.

Where to eat The Dasheene Restaurant at Ladera serves an eclectic combination of local produce and fish under the direction of Chef Peter Birkweiser, former owner of one of Toronto’s best restaurants. Telephone (809) 459-7850. The Hummingbird, on the water, is a yachtsmen’s favorite. Excellent island cuisine in a comfortable setting. Telephone (809) 459-7232. The Anse Chastenet Beach Bar is a congenial lunch spot. Dinner is creole and seafood. Telephone (809) 459-7000, extension 134. For local color, the Still claims to be St. Lucia’s foremost restaurant and bar. Family-style cuisine in large dining rooms. Telephone (809) 459-7224.

Getting around While taxi rates are set, it’s always best to verify the cost in advance. Rental cars are available. A local driving permit (available at the airport for about $11 U.S. with a U.S. license) is required, and driving is on the left.

Documents Passports are not required by U.S. citizens who possess valid return tickets and who are on a visit not exceeding six months.

Currency The official currency of Grenada is the Eastern Caribbean dollar. U.S. dollars are often accepted. Money can be exchanged at most hotels, though a better rate is usually available at banks.

Clothes Casual is the word on St. Lucia. Jackets and ties are usually not required of men. For women, a simple skirt or dress will suffice for dinner at better hotels.

Hiking the rain forest St. Lucia Representative Services, tel. (809) 452-9676, offers 1 hour walks including lunch and pickup and return to hotels. The cost is $35 U.S. Do-it-yourselfers can try the rigorous hike from one side of St. Lucia to the other. Guides are required and can be supplied by the Forestry Division. Telephone (809) 450-2231.

For further information Contact the St. Lucia Tourist Board at 820 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10017. Telephone (212) 867-2950; fax (212) 370-7867. In St. Lucia, P.O. Box 221, Castries. Telephone (809) 452-4094 or 5968. Fax (809) 453-1121.

This sidebar appeared with the story:

ST. LUCIA

Where to stay Ladera Resort, perched 1,000 feet above sea level between the Pitons, is small and sophisticated. All 7 villas and 9 suites are open to breathtaking views. Suites are one bedroom; each villa has 3 bedrooms, two full baths, and either a private pool or garden. Call (800) 841-4145 for information and reservations. Anse Chastenet is set on a dramatic hillside overlooking a marine park and some of the best snorkeling in St. Lucia. (800) 223-1108 for reservations. Jalousie Plantation consists of 115 elegant cottages and junior suites terraced into the slopes at the base of the Pitons. One price includes all meals, drinks, sports activities, spa program, airport transfers, etc. Call (800) 392-2007 or (809) 459-7666.

Where to eat The Dasheene Restaurant at Ladera serves an eclectic combination of local produce and fish under the direction of Chef Peter Birkweiser, former owner of one of Toronto’s best restaurants. Telephone (809) 459-7850. The Hummingbird, on the water, is a yachtsmen’s favorite. Excellent island cuisine in a comfortable setting. Telephone (809) 459-7232. The Anse Chastenet Beach Bar is a congenial lunch spot. Dinner is creole and seafood. Telephone (809) 459-7000, extension 134. For local color, the Still claims to be St. Lucia’s foremost restaurant and bar. Family-style cuisine in large dining rooms. Telephone (809) 459-7224.

Getting around While taxi rates are set, it’s always best to verify the cost in advance. Rental cars are available. A local driving permit (available at the airport for about $11 U.S. with a U.S. license) is required, and driving is on the left.

Documents Passports are not required by U.S. citizens who possess valid return tickets and who are on a visit not exceeding six months.

Currency The official currency of Grenada is the Eastern Caribbean dollar. U.S. dollars are often accepted. Money can be exchanged at most hotels, though a better rate is usually available at banks.

Clothes Casual is the word on St. Lucia. Jackets and ties are usually not required of men. For women, a simple skirt or dress will suffice for dinner at better hotels.

Hiking the rain forest St. Lucia Representative Services, tel. (809) 452-9676, offers 1 hour walks including lunch and pickup and return to hotels. The cost is $35 U.S. Do-it-yourselfers can try the rigorous hike from one side of St. Lucia to the other. Guides are required and can be supplied by the Forestry Division. Telephone (809) 450-2231.

For further information Contact the St. Lucia Tourist Board at 820 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10017. Telephone (212) 867-2950; fax (212) 370-7867. In St. Lucia, P.O. Box 221, Castries. Telephone (809) 452-4094 or 5968. Fax (809) 453-1121.


 
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