Take a walk around town!
Castries has lots of sights and a unique, bustling charm.
Cruise ship days bring lots of visitors to the streets of Castries, as they stretch their sea legs on the short walk along the harbour front from Pointe Seraphine, through the fishery complex with its brightly coloured and amusingly monikered pirogues to the busy heart of Saint Lucia's capital, where they seek out the city's hidden treasures.
Along the route is the red-roofed Castries Market on the left, with the farmers' produce market at ground level, which continues to the rear of the two storey craft market, and adjacent is the original historic building that now houses vendors' stalls full of local baskets, gifts and souvenirs: across the street on the harbour side is the Vendors' Arcade, selling arts and crafts and t-shirts galore. Make sure to bargain if buying in bulk - cheerful negotiations often pay off.
As you wander through the markets area, look out for any number of tiny restaurants and bars or 'rum shops' - the smell of fried chicken and slap of dominoes against a wooden table will give away their location, and the size of the crowd will let you know how popular they are. Many bars have tables on the street, just right for swigging a cold Piton beer or a Chairman's rum and watching Saint Lucia's capital go by. Pay US$2 for a beer and it's a bargain - pay $3 and it's getting towards hotel prices - but you'll be welcome to join in with the locals.
Across the traffic lights and you're on Peynier Street, which leads to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, the island's largest Catholic church and home to the vibrant, impressive murals of local artist Dunstan St. Omer. The cathedral is open for visitors all day, although late afternoons may find a funeral taking place, which in Saint Lucia often means a large crowd of family and friends decked out in black, white and purple which is a local symbol of mourning.
Right beside the cathedral is Derek Walcott Square, the city's garden heart and tribute to Saint Lucia's Nobel Laureate for Literature. Busy stores line the square on three sides, some old and authentic, others renovated in a modern Caribbean style. The park is an oasis of calm in the bustling capital, and a gargantuan samaan tree throws welcome shade on benches that are perfect for taking a breather.
Bourbon Street is at the western end of the Square, and home to the Central Library, a gracious old building with columns and balustrades and other Caribbean architectural delights, which has been serving the readers of Castries for many years. It's a real throwback to nostalgic days when books and reading were top on most kids' agenda, and well worth a brief stop as you head towards Bridge Street, another of the city's main thoroughfares.
Architecturally, Castries is a mixed bag, in part because of a devastating fire in 1948 which wiped out three quarters of the commercial centre: Bridge Street is an interesting mixture of contemporary Caribbean buildings and modern Saint Lucian design, home to banks, retailers and the Post Office. Dominating the street is the slick glass Blue Coral Mall, which is an air-conditioned shopping haven with a range of boutiques and stores. Turn right on the corner and you've reached WIlliam Peter Boulevard, which is another busy thoroughfare, lined with cars and storefronts and often rocking to the bass of an inpromptu sound system, especially on the weekends.
At the end of the Boulevard is Constitution Park, which may be called something completely different by the time you read this! The small park houses government buildings, the law courts and registry, is a popular short cut across town and afternoon workplace of many an amateur political commentator. Keeping the park on your right, the street leads back to the sea front and emerges on Jeremie Street opposite La Place Carenage, which is the capital's second cruise berth. If all that walking has worn you out, a breezy harbour ferry is just the ticket back to Pointe Seraphine if that's where you started, or reward your efforts with a seat on the balcony of Caribbean Pirates restaurant and drink a cold one whil you look out at the harbour.
Whether you're just in town for the day or on a longer vacation, TT recommends a walk around Castries city centre - but remember to keep your eyes peeled and camera to the ready because there's lots more to see than we can mention!
Castries Market - an unmissable landmark
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, with murals by Dunstan St Omer