Our latest tale from the boot room is an exotic one. It comes from HF Holidays’ very own Reservations consultant, Jackson Giffiths.
“In October 2014 I went on a week long trip to St Lucia as a guest of the St. Lucia Tourist Board. This was the first time I had been to the Caribbean and my visit was a Nature and Adventure themed trip so many of the activities I did are also part of HF Holidays’ St Lucia itinerary.
First off, I now “get it”, I understand why people love the Caribbean so much. Everyone is so friendly, the weather is hot and sunny and the islands themselves are mini paradises with an abundance of planet life. St Lucia in particular, retains a lot of its nature.
HF Holidays’ itinerary includes two rest days, so if you’re inclined, you can have beach time in this lush paradise.
A memorable visit that I did was the experience of Looshan Country Life – I’d recommend this for one of your days off.
Here, I learnt about how people lived on St Lucia in the past, in wooden huts with walls woven from saplings.
A guide led us around a track through some garden woodland explaining what people ate and how they prepared it.
I tried a Julie Mango, which is so powerful it could stop a domestic argument. Our guide explained, his father came home and his mother was ready to blow off at him. He presented a Julie Mango to his wife and it was argument over.
I also ate oranges with green peel, smelt a turmeric root, opened a coconut and saw aloe vera growing in the garden.
A spare morning saw the group go to the market in capital city of Castries. I passed market stalls containing vegetables and roots I did not recognise.
Buskers were singing praises to their local church. At a coconut stand a man with a huge machete precision-hacked a green coconut for me to drink the refreshing coconut water. After that he hacked open the coconut and gave me the jelly-like flesh to eat. It was surprisingly light, not at all like the dried, white coconut I am used to.
Our guide on the holiday recommended buying coconut oil, which while cheap in St. Lucia fetched higher prices in the UK. According, to her it could be used in food and as a beauty product.
Another day saw me on a boat leaving Castries harbour for a trip down the western side of the island – included in the HF Holidays’ itinerary.
I am in my element in water. It was a very pleasant time seeing the island from a different perspective – the sea. There was the possibility of seeing whales or dolphins but all we saw were flying fish leaping out of the water.
I did try and stick my head underwater and make the highest-pitched noises I could to attract the whales and dolphins – to no avail surprisingly !
A visit to the Gros Islay “Jump Up” was a fantastic experience – also included in the HF Holidays’ itinerary. In the town of Gros Islay every Friday the locals pay a DJ to play tunes at a crossroads in town.
The roads are blocked off, there are stalls selling food and drink and everyone has a big party. The atmosphere, while noisy, is very safe. There were people of all ages in the early evening, both tourists and locals (including an elderly woman being pushed in a wheelchair by her husband).
The party goes on into the early hours. I would like to think I did HF Holidays proud by being the first to get on the dance area thanks to Madonna and her song “Holiday”.
A highlight of my trip was climbing Gros Piton – a highlight of the HF Holidays’ itinerary. Along with it’s smaller twin, Petit Piton, Gros Piton is a symbol of St. Lucia.
These two mountains stand side by side and are Unesco World Heritage sites.
Gros Piton is the second highest peak on the island. Our guides warned us that the path is rated as moderate up to the halfway point and then strenuous from there on up to the top.
The path is rocky, and one is stepping up to the next rock step, often at knee height. This requires a good level of fitness and careful attention to where one is placing one’s feet. I only made it to the halfway point before deciding to opt out. I simply did not have the lungpower required. Despite this, I enjoyed the magnificent view of Petit Piton across the water and uncovered more information about the history of this mountain.
This mountain was a bastion for slaves on the island. Escaped slaves would live in shallow caves and hollows in the mountain rock. They became freedom fighters and whenever the slave masters would send guards to try and re-capture them the mountain-side would be become a war zone.
The prevalence of breadfruit trees on the island is some evidence of the history of slavery on St Lucia – breadfruit was imported and grown as cheap food for the slaves.
While waiting at the bottom for the rest of the group to descend I got into conversation with our driver and a local from the village beneath the mountain.
It was enlightening hearing them talk about everyday life on the island. This is an island of 170 000 people so everyone knows everyone else’s business. If you get up to trouble while out then it is likely that your family are going to hear about it by the time you get home.
An easier walk was the Millett Trail – included in the HF Holidays’ itinerary. The drive up to this place was incredible with the real St. Lucia on display, far from the tourist resorts. Houses perched on the hillsides with an abundance of fruits and vegetables being grown in the surrounding landscape.
The Millett Trail is a bird sanctuary and over 30 species of birds can be found there, including five endemic species: The St. Lucia Black Finch, St. Lucia Parrot, St. Lucia Warbler, St. Lucia Oriole and St. Lucia Pewee.
This was a pleasant walk through the rainforest, shaded by the trees. It was tricky spotting birds but my eyes soon tuned into the surrounding forest.
This is a government-run sanctuary and I was particularly struck by the seedlings of cinnamon, papaya and mango that were grown on site and given to local farmers.
We also visited the Bay Gardens Beach Resort & Spa, the accommodation used by HF Holidays on their Island Paradise holiday. I had a really good feeling visiting this place. This resort is owned by St. Lucians and the staff are so friendly, genuine and professional. It is a perfect hotel for a trip of this kind. The rooms are comfortable, air-conditioned and have plenty of space for a 12-night stay.
There are pools for relaxation and a spa and wellness centre if you would like some extra pampering – plus the resort is right on the beach!”
Thank you Jackson for sharing your tale of life on St Lucia, there’s clearly an abundance of nature and culture to be discovered.